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Saturday, November 29, 2008

A Poem to be Read Upon Scattering My Ashes.

Do not stand at my grave and weep,
I am not there, I do not sleep.

I am a thousand winds that blow.
I am the diamond glint on snow.
I am the sunlight on ripened grain.
I am the gentle autumn rain.

When you wake in the morning hush,
I am the swift, uplifting rush
Of quiet birds in circling flight.
I am the soft starlight at night.

Do not stand at my grave and weep.
I am not there, I do not sleep.
Do not stand at my grave and cry.
I am not there, I did not die!

Mary Frye (1932)

James: I have long ago decided to have my body cremated when I die so that my ashes can be scattered into the soil, the air, the water and into a fire as a final act of giving before being reborn anew. I have always found cemeteries to be odd places--not scary necessarily but just strange in that we section off parts of towns where we collect dead bodies dressed in sumptuous clothing lying in a fancy box.

Even in death we try to cling the body and status by demanding the most ornate coffin, headstone, mausoleum and even dressed in our finest suit or dress as if we are off to a ritzy party. It is somewhat humorous that we try and keep the body preserved in coffins to keep the elements from decomposing it when those elements already exist in those very bodies and have since our birth!!! They are apart of who we are--we can not escape that. We wouldn't exist without those elements.

~Peace to all beings~

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Friday, November 28, 2008

Black Friday Earns Its Name.

(PHOTO: Crowds push through doorway on Black Friday to buy products on sale)

As man of you know yesterday was Thanksgiving Day in America, which is a day when friends and family come together to celebrate all the things that they are thankful for during the past year. It has also become an orgy of eating as much food as can possibly eaten. I myself find it odd to be thankful for having food to eat and then engorge yourself on more food than necessary when a good portion of that food could have been donated to homeless shelters.

Well given America's great lust for buying and owning "things" the day after Thanksgiving (today) has turned into what people call "Black Friday." Black is the term used to describe when a company/business makes a profit, (red being losing money) and Friday being the day after Thanksgiving, which is the busiest shopping day of the year. There are often great deals on this day with retailers offering many products at much lower prices. This often creates long lines of people who are looking to buy up these discounted products and people often wait over-night for the stores to open. It's considered the official start of the Christmas/Chanukkah shopping season.

Black is also a traditional color of mourning the death of friends and family.

This year there was one store where the crowd was so large and built up pressing on the doors that the store clerk was trampled and killed by the stampeding crowd racing to snatch up the discounted items!! AND a pregnant woman was injured so bad that she miscarried her child!!

(UPDATE: Two people were killed by gunshots at a Toys R Us toy store in California. Two teen-age girls were seen fighting over something in the electronics area of the store when a third person who accompanied one of the girls fired a gun).

There is no better example of the kind of suffering that is created through greed then these tragic story. So much of the stuff we buy ends up tossed in the trash bin after a few months of enjoyment of these products before moving on to the next gadget. We have literally become a throw away society, which now apparently includes life. We are willing to put the lives of others in danger for just the possibility of "happiness" through money and gadgets.

But it's not about denying myself of all gadgets and "things" but rather finding that glorious middle-way, which allows enjoying some of what the world has to offer yet with moderation. I, nor anyone else I know needs something so bad that I will line up at 3a.m. with a rowdy, pushy, selfish crowd of people willing to jostle, shove and apparently trample others to buy up the store. It is extremely sad that the Christmas gift giving tradition once being a way to remember and learn to give to others as those who gave gifts to Jesus upon his supposed birth did has turned into this animalistic tradition of mayhem and greed.

I try my best to be happy with what I have and to be responsible in what I buy and how I buy it. I find it sickeningly ironic to push someone out of the way and fight over products and position in line to bring some happiness to your child, friend or brother. It's making someone else suffer so that you can bring just the possibility of a little happiness to someone else. Is it really worth it? Not to me. I prefer people wanting to buy me something to donate to a charity in my name.

~Peace to all beings~

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Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Josef Fritzl, Buddhism and Angulimal.

Incest monster Josef Fritzl says he's turned to Buddhism - and wants doctors to help cure him so he can be reunited with his wife Rosemarie. Fritzl spends much of his 23 hours a day in his cell studying the peaceful Far Eastern philosophy and is considering formally changing his religion in prison.

Speaking through his lawyer Rudolf Mayer, Fritzl said that he has found a lot of comfort in reading Buddhist literature and finds the religion "fascinating". Fritzl first discovered Buddhism on a family holiday in Thailand but has only started studying the religion in depth while behind bars.

Fritzl's facing the rest of his life in jail after imprisoning his daughter Elisabeth as a sex slave in a home-made cell under the family home in Amstetten, Austria. She was locked up for 24 years where she gave birth to seven of his children. An eighth child was miscarried.

James: Clearly Mr. Fritzl is extremely mentally disturbed and needs to be imprisoned to protect innocent people from his horrific impulses. However, as a Buddhist who stands against killing human beings I stand against the death penalty for even this deranged man. It's hard to find any good in a human being such as this Fritzl but he is afterall a fellow sentient being and as I am a believer in karma I feel that his punishment has already but laid out by his actions, which will extend probably into several lifetimes.

I've never done anything nearly as horrible and disgusting as this man but I do know something about how Buddhism can heal and bring about personal change and growth. I use to be a very bitter, angry nihilist who wasn't taking medication for my severe mental illness and at my lowest wanted to blow up the entire world with nuclear weapons. Living in a psychoticly deluded state of mind I thought such a destruction would be doing everyone a service because of all the suffering. This was of course before I discovered Buddhism and now I'm as peaceful as I have ever been in my life and I literally don't hurt a fly.

I hope that Mr. Fritzl will benefit from the greatness that Buddha and the Dharma have to offer. I hope that none of my readers assume that this man has no more value to this world because of his horrific crimes. If so consider the example of the seriel killer Angulimal and Buddha:

Angulimal means a man who wears a garland of human fingers. He had taken a vow that he would kill one thousand people; from each single person he would take one finger so that he could remember how many he had killed and he will make a garland of all those fingers. In his garland of fingers he had nine hundred and ninety-nine fingers--only one was missing. And that one was missing because his road was closed; nobody was coming that way. But Gautama Buddha entered that closed road.

The guards said to Buddha, "Don't unnecessarily take the risk." And do you know what Buddha said to them? Buddha said, "If I don't go then who will go? Only two things are possible: either I will change him, and I cannot miss this challenge; or I will provide him with one finger so that his desire is fulfilled. A very beautiful man of such immense charisma was coming towards him [Angulimal]. Who could this man be?
He had never heard of Gautama Buddha, but even this hard heart of Angulimal started feeling a certain softness towards the man. He was looking so beautiful, coming towards him. It was early morning... a cool breeze, and the sun was rising... and the birds were singing and the flowers had opened; and Buddha was coming closer and closer.

Finally Angulimal, with his naked sword in his hand, shouted, "Stop!" Gautama Buddha was just a few feet away, and Angulimal said, "Don't take another step because then the responsibility will not be mine. Perhaps you don't know who I am!"
Buddha said, "Do you know who you are?" Angulimal said, "This is not the point. Neither is it the place nor the time to discuss such things. Your life is in danger!" Buddha said, "I think otherwise--your life is in danger." That man said, "I used to think I was mad--you are really mad! And you go on moving closer. Then don't say that I killed an innocent man. You look so innocent and so beautiful that I want you to go back. I will find somebody else. I can wait; there is no hurry. If I can manage nine hundred and ninety-nine... it is only a question of one more, but don't force me to kill you."

Buddha came very close, and Angulimal's hands were trembling. The man was so beautiful, so innocent, so childlike. He had already fallen in love. He had killed so many people... He had never felt this weakness; he had never known what love is. For the first time he was full of love. So there was a contradiction: the hand was holding the sword to kill the person, and his heart was saying, "Put the sword back in the sheath."
Buddha said, "I am ready, but why is your hand shaking?--you are such a great warrior, even kings are afraid of you, and I am just a poor beggar. Except the begging bowl, I don't have anything. You can kill me, and I will feel immensely satisfied that at least my death fulfills somebody's desire; my life has been useful, my death has also been useful.

But before you cut my head I have a small desire, and I think you will grant me a small desire before killing me."
Before death, even the hardest enemy is willing to fulfill any desire. Angulimal said, "What do you want?" Buddha said, "I want you just to cut from the tree a branch which is full of flowers. I will never see these flowers again; I want to see those flowers closely, feel their fragrance and their beauty in this morning sun, their glory." So Angulimal cut with his sword a whole branch full of flowers. And before he could give it to Buddha, Buddha said, "This was only half the desire; the other half is, please put the branch back on the tree." Angulimal said, "I was thinking from the very beginning that you are crazy. Now this is the craziest desire. How can I put this branch back?"

Buddha said, "If you cannot create, you have no right to destroy. If you cannot give life, you don't have the right to give death to any living thing."
A moment of silence and a moment of transformation... the sword fell down from his hands. Angulimal fell down at the feet of Gautam Buddha, and he said, "I don't know who you are, but whoever you are, take me to the same space in which you are; initiate me." By that time the followers of Gautam Buddha had come closer and closer. They were all around and when he fell at Buddha's feet they immediately came close. Somebody raised the question, "Don't initiate this man, he is a murderer!"

Buddha said again, "If I don't initiate him, who will initiate him? And I love the man, I love his courage. And I can see tremendous possibility in him: a single man fighting against the whole world. I want this kind of people, who can stand against the whole world. Up to now he was standing against the world with a sword; now he will stand against the world with a consciousness, which is far sharper than any sword. I told you that murder was going to happen, but it was not certain who was going to be murdered--either I was going to be murdered, or Angulimal. Now you can see Angulimal is murdered. And who I am to judge?"

James: I don't want nor have the right to deny someone looking for help the Dharma and I truly hope that this man will find relief and clarity from Buddhism and begin to make ammends for his horrific crimes.

~Peace to all beings~

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Sunday, November 23, 2008

Nothing Lasts Forever.

Body impermanent like spring mist;
mind insubstantial like empty sky;
thoughts unestablished like breezes in space.
Think about these three points over and over.

-Adept Godrakpa, "Hermit of Go Cliffs"

James: I've been meditating over these verses for awhile now and the essence that I feel from these lines is one of liberation from the chains that keep me anchored in the deep bedrock of the ego-self. Reminding myself of the impermanance of the body emphasizes that the disease schizoffective disorder, which clouds my brain at times is merely a guest in the present moment of this birth/life.
A spring mist can dangerouslly cloud ones path and confuse a hiker climbing a mountain, which could cause him/her to fall off a cliff. However, if the hiker patiently sits still and is mindful of his/her surroudings then soon pockets of sky will appear again and the route becomes clearer. It's the same when dealing with a mental disorder.

Because forcing my way through cloudy "misty" states of mind that come with schizoaffective disorder makes things worse and leads to decisions that are inherent with danger. Living with a mental disorder gives a person plenty of chances to accept that the mind isn't the ally that we often believe it to be. The power of the mind to control my life is stripped in accepting that the thoughts the mind produces are usually nothing more than projections on a movie screen.

The mind can only be trusted to protect itself.


~Peace to all beings~

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Friday, November 21, 2008

Sarah Palin and the Slaughtered Turkey.

Alaska Governor Sara Palin sitting with a dead bear carcass. Killing an animal to use the dead body for decoration is disrespecting life in you want my opinion.

On Thursday, Alaska Governor Sarah Palin appeared in Wasilla in order to pardon a local turkey in anticipation of Thanksgiving. This proved to be a slightly absurd but ultimately unremarkable event. But what came next was positively surreal. After the pardon Palin proceeded to do an interview with a local TV station while the turkeys were being SLAUGHTERED in the background!! Seemingly oblivious to the gruesomeness going on over her shoulder, she carries on talking for over three minutes. Watch the video below to see for yourself. Be warned, it's kind of gruesome.
James: Yes it's gruesome but it should be gruesome because we're talking about slaughtering another living being. People should be able to stand watching the animal that they are about to eat on Thanksgiving be killed. If you want to eat meat then I think you should be prepared to kill the animal yourself because someone has to do that for you for every scrap of meat that you eat. If you don't think that you can do it like I didn't then you might want to become a vegetarian.

This ironically occurred while yesterday a hidden video caught workers at a turkey farm throwing the animals against the floor, kicking them and abusing them in other ways. I hardly even remember what Palin said during this video with the brutality occuring in the background.

A reporter asked Palin if she was okay with the backdrop. The Alaskan Governor answered, "no worries." As the bird's head was removed, the man looked over his shoulder at the governor and reporters and flashed a toothy grin.


I understand people having to eat meat because their survival depends upon it but now many of us can survive and live well without meat. In closing, I leave you with the words of the great Mahatma Gandhi: The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.

---End of Transmission---

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Thursday, November 20, 2008

Anti-Conversion Bill in Sri Lanka.

An anti-conversion law titled, "Prevention of Forcible Conversion Bill," is being considered in Sri Lanka's parliament. It is a bill that I generally disapprove of because I believe in the freedom of religion and while I don't personally like proselytism I think it should be included in a country's freedom of religion rights. In a country, which is 70% Buddhist (Sri Lanka) I do not understand how Christianity is such a threat that it needs to basically be outlawed.

In addition, the structure of "Buddhism" itself can be yet another attachment. Without practice and mindfulness a Buddha statue is nothing but another chunk of wood or stone and temples become glorified houses. I'm not saying that such things aren't beneficial and needed but that Buddhism will evolve how it will and if it disappears in a free world then so be it.

Besides, some say that Buddha himself said that one day Buddhism will no longer be taught in this world. Even if I am the last "Buddhist" on Earth I worry not for the Dharma as it will always be reborn in one form or another either here and/or on other planets. And if not then I am confident that it will have served its purpose. I have faith that karma and change will take the course that it must.

Now. That said I do agree with a limited version of this bill if it simply bans using humanitarian aid, education and health care as a tool to force people to listen to sermons/scriptures and be converted. If these services can not be donated without stipulations then I consider that using unethical behavior. It is taking advantage of the needy to forward your religious ideology instead of giving because it's the right thing to do--period. After all my years of reading the Bible and practicing Christianity I do not believe that Jesus would condition help to proselytism or conversion. It is pure manipulation usually of those whom are vulnerable both spiritually and otherwise. It is not right for religions (whether Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Muslim, etc.) to use peoples' suffering to advance the interests of their belief system.

Also, I wonder if these Christian organizations will now stand up for the freedom of non-Christians here in America to be free of Christian influence in government such as prayer in school, nativity scenes on government property, etc. As a Buddhist I stand up for them to have the right to proselytize in America and abroad but they need to back off a bit on some of the demands that they are placing upon the American government and other secular based governments. There is no reason that religions can not exist together nor is their any reason that religious people and non-religious people can not exist together. I reject extremism on either side of the spiritual spectrum. Whether it is fundamental Christianity (or fundamentalist Buddhism) or militant atheism.

~Peace to all beings~

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Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Mike Huckabee: Gay Marriage Not a Civil Rights Issue.

Former presidential candidate and extremist Christian Mike Huckabee claimed on the American t.v. show, "The View" that gay marriage is not a civil rights issue. Yet surely he wouldn't say keeping blacks from marrying whites wasn't a civil rights issue?

Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee was on The View Tuesday talking about same-sex marriage and declaring that gay rights are not civil rights because gays have not had violence inflicted upon them like Blacks have.

HuckabeeSaid: "People who are homosexuals should have every right in terms of their civil rights, to be employed, to do anything they want. But that's not really the issue. I know you talked about it and I think you got into it a little bit early on. But when we're talking about a redefinition of an institution, that's different than individual civil rights. We're never going to convince each other...But here is the difference. Bull Connor was hosing people down in the streets of Alabama. John Lewis got his skull cracked on the Selma bridge."

James: So in other words gays need to be beaten and killed more often before we will grant them the right to marry??? As for marriage between a man and a women being an institution I'd remind him that segregation was an institution too and yet we ended that "separate but equal" discrimination. Civil unions are "separate but equal" too. And gays haven't faced violence? Clearly he doesn't remember Matthew Shepard who was a gay American university student who lived in the American state of Wyoming and was beaten to death by two homophobes. I live only about an hour away in northern Colorado from where he was killed. They tortured him and crushed his skull with the butt of a gun before tying him to a fence post out in the country side to die. The beating was so severe that the only areas on Shepard's face that were not covered in blood were those where his tears had washed the blood stains away. All because he was gay. Is that not violent enough for you Mike?

And what about the Holocaust, which saw at least 15,000 homosexuals slaughtered along with millions of Jews. Was that not enough violence for you Mike? Or maybe the assassination of gay San Fransisco city supervisor Harvey Milk wasn't violent enough? And what about, The death of Julio Rivera in New York City on July 2, 1990 by two men who beat him with a hammer and stabbed him with a knife because he was gay. Then there was the case of the rape and later murder of Brandon Teena, a transsexual man (1972 – 1993). The events leading to Mr. Teena's death were depicted in the movie Boys Don't Cry. Click here to read more cases of violence against homosexuals. Homosexuals have been around since man first walked the Earth and have faced horrific violence, intimidation and discrimination for eons so it is highly ignorant to say that gays haven't faced similar violence as African-Americans have here in America.

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Saturday, November 15, 2008

Ram Bahadur Bamjan. The "Buddha Boy" Re-Emerges From Forest.

So the Buddha boy has re-emerged from the forest to greet his followers before returning back to the forest for more meditation. I have been skeptical from the beginning that he is the reincarnation of Buddha because from what I know Siddhartha Gautama had broken free of the cycle of birth and death by being transformed by mahaparinirvana:

"Being Buddha means the last birth and the highest level that can be achieved. There can be no reincarnation of Buddha, even though Buddhists believe in life after death," said Rakesh, a Buddhist scholar in Katmandu who goes by only one name.

James: I'm not saying that he isn't a very spiritual being but I am suspicious that this could all be a scam of some kind to take peoples' money in the form of "donations." I also wonder how he can even be compared to Buddha when he hasn't said much of anything in the form of teachings. I keep thinking that this sounds like the beginning of a cult headed by a charlatan wanting to be called a Buddha and followed and adored by people. That said, Buddhism at first was probably seen as a cult and Buddha seen by some as a charlatan but the revelations of Buddha have well stood the test of time and investigation over thousands of years.

I guess some see him as Maitreya (the "next Buddha") who will restore the "pure Dharma" to Earth but there are two requirements before Maitreya could arrive on Earth. First: 1). The Dharma will no longer be taught, which is clearly not evident now as Buddhism is growing faster than maybe since its arrival into greater Asia with converts in the west such as in America, Europe and Australia. And with the invention of the internet the teachings of ordained Dharma teachers are more widely available than perhaps at any time in the history of Buddhism.

The other requirement that needs to occur before Maitreya will arrive is that Buddhism must be completely forgotten, which is clearly not the case right now on Earth. There are also events that must take place such as oceans shrinking in size, which isn't happening. In fact, because of global warming the oceans are rising. Thus, I think it can be safe to assume that "Buddha boy" is not Maitreya.

There is something about this Buddha boy, his "handlers" and "followers" seems very suspicious to me. I'm also curious about the monks seen in the above picture. They seem to wear the robes of Tibetan Buddhist monks and so I'd be curious to hear what their teachers and senior monks think of Buddha boy. I'm curious and will continue to follow this story and see what happens next.

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Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Epicurus and Buddhism.

"Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent. Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent. Is he both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil? Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God?"-Epicurus.

James: This is the quote that introduced me to the ancient philosopher Epicurus who has since become one of my favorites. So I began to study Epicurus and found that he had much in common with Buddhism and its non-theistic nature.

What I was most interested in was that he believed and taught "that events in the world are ultimately based on the motions and interactions of atoms moving in empty space." This sounds very similar to the pivotal Buddhist belief of interdependence or dependent co-arising, which says that nothing exists separate from anything else. All is interconnected in a web of cause and effect.

This includes sharing the belief that something can not come from nothing and therefore the Universe must be endless yet because of his belief in a shifting, interconnected web of atoms that same Universe can not be unchanging. It was his belief that the Universe is eternal but only in the sense that it goes through cycles of birth and death along the way. Yet another shade of thinking, which can be found in Buddhist philosophy. As well as a theory that can be found is still found in modern day science via the cyclic theory of the Universe.

He was also dedicated to over-coming pain and fear, which is not unlike the dedication that we Buddhists seek to over-come what we would call suffering in general. He taught that curbing desires are important if one wants to avoid that pain and fear, which is another teaching shared in Buddhism. This included going into the detail as to how desires cause suffering such as mentioning indulging too much on foods because it leads to pain that one might not be able to afford such delicacies in the future. The idea of short term happiness doesn't bring long term happiness.

He did believe that some pleasure is important, which has led some to believe he was a hedonist but he was more of a believer in the middle path of moderation. True he was no Buddhist monk following every precept. However, most argue that his ultimate definition of pleasure was actually tranquility, which is more akin to the Buddhist definition of enlightenment. This is because tranquility is defined as a state, which is free from stress and emotion; an untroubled state free from disturbances; a peaceful state. Enlightenment being (using a very basic definition) a nirvanic state of being freed from desire (emotions) and suffering (stress).

Epicureanism was often seen in ancient Greece as being a godless philosophy but while Epicurus denied being godless he also believed that if there were any gods that they most likely were ambivilant at best toward human beings. Thus they would not pursue punishing or rewarding us in this or any other life. In other words the idea being that a belief in a god or gods isn't important to man's day to day actions. In comparison Buddhists also usually do not concern themselves with a god as it is seen as irrelevant to realizing that the human condition is repleat with suffering and that praying to a god does not end our suffering. When we are honest with ourselves we realize that we are the only ones who can end our suffering.

Some Buddhists believe that there are gods living in a god realm but that they are like the gods of Epicureanism where they do not have power over human beings. These gods in Buddhism are subject to the same suffering as we human beings. According to these Buddhists being a god is a distraction where one is more concerned with pleasure and self adoration than certainly concerning oneself with human beings, meditation and over-coming the cycle of suffering. The problem is that even for these gods their pleasures and good karma run out eventually.

Epicureanism certainly does not mesh with Buddhism completely but Epicurus did teach many similar ideas. I wanted to do this post because I enjoy discovering how western and eastern philosophy and thought can be connected. We focus too often on how different we are and sometimes I wonder if that becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. The connections and shared ideals are there if we really want to see them and embrace each others cultures.

~Peace to all beings~

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Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Thoughts on Gay Marriage.

The term "traditional marriage" is a modern invention because there has been no such thing as a simple, codified form of marriage throughout history, religion and geography. Besides the examples given in the video, back in Biblical days traditional marriage meant marrying more than one wife. It also meant and still does in some parts of the world that women are chattel and basically auctioned off to the would be husband who has the most goats.

It meant in the medieval period to marry out of status and hope of improving that status rather than out of love. Yet love from another being is what we all yearn for and hope to achieve in this life. Even monks who don't marry express love for the Dharma and the Sangha as well as for the laity. Their marriage is again, not "traditional" but their marriage to the three jewels is no less important and fulfilling.

How twisted have some religious veins become that some people are using them to deny people basic happiness and love in a world that is so full of suffering. Why would we want to cause even more suffering by denying people the right to marry the person that they want to share their life with? Shouldn't we be applauding people who want to commit to honor and cherish each other in this world of hatred, isolation and division? Without love for each other I ask, "What chance do we have as a species?"

~Peace to all beings~

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Sunday, November 09, 2008

Non-Theism, Buddhism and God.

Nontheism (a.k.a. non-theism) is defined as the Oxford English Dictionary as: "... not having or involving a belief in God, especially as a being who reveals himself to humanity." The author Pema Chödrön, when writing about Buddhism, states:

"The difference between theism and nontheism is not whether one does or does not believe in God. ... Theism is a deep-seated conviction that there's some hand to hold. ... Non-theism is relaxing with the ambiguity and uncertainty of the present moment without reaching for anything to protect ourselves. ... Nontheism is finally realizing there is no babysitter you can count on."
James: I am of the belief that any sense of a "god" is merely an impersonal force that is made up of all things living and not living, which makes up what we define as the "Universe" experiencing itself in myriad and changing forms. Buddha reportedly said that the Universe is, "So large that is has no exterior, and so small that it has no interior."

I personally believe that sometimes a belief in a Creator God can be more of a hindrance and impediment than not. This is because the belief in this "God" often becomes the center of a person's life instead of the center being life itself. It means another attachment, which leads to obsession that says that one's life is basically meaningless without someone to give you purpose. This kind of obsession and subservience can lead some believers into living their life in a constant state of fear, guilt, shame, anger and resentment. Buddhists experience the same emotions but don't see it as punishment of who they are but rather a choice, which leads to a logical effect.

It means that you're in a constant state of worry because life doesn't just unfold as it will but instead is dependent upon the confusing whims and actions of this "God." It gives one a feeling that we have control over our lives but when our prayers don't work (because there is no "God" in my view) then we assume that we must be bad people for that can be the only reason that "God" would not answer our prayers. In Buddhism as there is no "God" or "Satan" then suffering and happiness just happen as a natural state of cause and effect. There is no mystery anymore and no fear as to why bad things happen to good people except to say that such is this existence.

---End of Transmission---

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Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Obama, Buddhism and Taxes.

With great respect and admiration of John McCain I am elated that Senator Barack Obama will be the next President of the United States of America. Of course mainly this comes from my political views but I do want to speak of his ability to unite America and the world.

Barack Obama seems uniquely positioned to be a political leader able to unite people of all races, religions and citizens of the world. He may not know of the Buddhist teaching of interdependence but that is exactly what he has cultivated. He has been able to inspire people from all over America and the world with many different political views that we have more in common than not and that we have a responsibility to help each other. He has reminded us that the division of the past 8 years has caused a lot of suffering both here in America and in the world.

In reality he reminds us that we are dependent upon each other if we want to increase happiness, success and peace in this world. He reminds us that we aren't America being the world but America being apart of the world again. In many ways his election surpasses politics and speaks to a greater hope and vision for America and the world. It is a historic moment that despite your politics you can't help but rejoice for what it means to overcoming our differences and barriers in regards to race. We took one step further in America last night in realizing the true oneness of all beings that is our reality.

His domestic vision is nothing short of an understanding of the interdependence of suchness. In other words if certain Americans have been financially successful in this country it is not simply because of a person's hard work. It is greatly dependent upon the efforts of others that have helped position them into the place where they reap great success. Perhaps they were born into a wealthy family that enabled them to go to university and earn a degree, which helped them earn a lot of money. Or perhaps a certain teacher inspired them to be interested in learning and If it wasn't for them they probably would not be in the position that they are in. Just the very fact of being born in America where opportunity abounds requires sharing of ones good fortune.

Maybe their karma has given them great opportunities such as being born with a gift for a profession that is highly valued in society. However, it is that very same karma, which demands that they give back to others through (for example) paying more taxes so that others might be able to better care for their family. Or so that even more people will be able to afford the health care that all beings deserve. How can we stand by and watch people suffer from sickness when we perhaps can afford to pay a little more in taxes to ease the suffering of sickness for our fellow beings? Yes karma blesses us but if we greedily do not want to share our fair share of that good karma with others then that good karma will undoubtedly disappear away from our next birth.

If one is took look mindfully at money we can not help but realize that in reality it is not ours--nothing is ours. There is nothing that we can say that we did independent of others. In some way we are all effected for better or worse by others. This is not to say that I believe in a communist society because I don't but it does say that to whom much is given, much is required. We only need look at the sharing of resources that occurs in monasteries to understand how sharing a certain amount of wealth is a value greatly shared by Buddhism. Especially if we believe that Buddha and monks are our examples of how to improve our karma to achieve liberation from samsara.

Being in a higher income bracket and therefore paying more in taxes is also a way to guard against the power of the ego-self. Money often causes more problems then not as it is an attempt to rid ourselves of suffering through things that do not last nor grant lasting happiness. The ego-self then says, well we're not happy because we don't have enough money, we need more!! How often do see the rich celebrities of the world suffer greatly despite their mountains of money? They become hungry ghosts. In the end money is nothing more than another attachment and I personally find that I get more happiness from giving money to the needy than buying another t.v.

~Peace to all beings~

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Sunday, November 02, 2008

Non-Violence is the Right Choice--It Works.

New York, USA -- Nonviolent resistance is not only the morally superior choice. It is also twice as effective as the violent variety. That's the startling and reassuring discovery by Maria Stephan and Erica Chenoweth, who analyzed an astonishing 323 resistance campaigns from 1900 to 2006. "Our findings show that major nonviolent campaigns have achieved success 53 percent of the time, compared with 26 percent for violent resistance campaigns," the authors note in the journal International Security. (The study is available as a PDF file at http://www.nonviolent-conflict.org).

"First, a campaign's commitment to nonviolent methods enhances its domestic and international legitimacy and encourages more broad-based participation in the resistance, which translates into increased pressure being brought to bear on the target," they state. "Second, whereas governments easily justify violent counterattacks against armed insurgents, regime violence against nonviolent movements is more likely to backfire against the regime."

James: I think that one of the reasons that Buddhism and Buddhists are so peaceful, nonviolent (with some exceptions of course) and less likely to engage in violence and aggressive intimidating divisive talk that often breeds tension and conflict between religions is because of Buddhisms lack of a belief in a god. This helps neuter the defensiveness and aggression that often comes with religions that claim to be the sole religious truth and the fight that often ensues of "my god is superior to your god." It divides people to the point of seeing those who don't believe in your god and absolute truth as inferior and evil, which can divide families as well as turn brothers, friends and fellow human beings into enemies and set them against each other.

It can and often does very breeds intolerance rather than acceptance. It often leads to an attitude of superiority, which can also easily escalate to violent conflicts such as in the crusades, the inquisitions, the purge of pagans and Islamic jihadism/terrorism. This is not to say that all members of these certain religions act in such ways and agree with such aggressiveness.

As for nonviolence in general I think that it is more effective because it appeals to everyone's internal desire to avoid suffering and most people (except perhaps the most deranged) suffer greatly when they employ violent behavior, thought and speech. This can be seen throughout history when eventually the rank and file members of a violent organization/military either desert or turn on the leaders to end the bloodshed, oppression and overall suffering.

Nonviolence comes from a place of strength and violence a place of weakness therefore nonviolence can usually be sustained for a longer period of time. It is not unlike a strong oak tree that bends in the strongest wind but doesn't break for its roots are deep in the soil of interdependence. This a weird analogy but the word fascism is derived from the Italian word fascio, which means "bundle" or "union", and from the Latin word fasces. [12] The fasces, which consisted of a bundle of rods often tied around an axe.

The idea being that one twig on its own is weak and can easily be broken by force but when many weak twigs are tied together in a thick bundle not even the strongest hands can tear them apart. When a population unites together in a literal manifestation of interconnection their numbers and willpower will overwhelm and outlast the strongest, largest army. The general population of a country is almost always greater than the numbers of a military and unlike a military every citizen can participate in a nonviolent movement including the old, sick and young. Especially when the global population adds to the numbers. I'll end this post with one of my favorite quotes from Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. who explains why a seemingly weak strategy of nonviolence is so powerful:

Nonviolence is a powerful weapon and just weapon, which cuts without wounding and ennobles the man who wields it. It is a sword that heals.-Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

~Peace to all beings~

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