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Saturday, April 24, 2010

What is the Dalai Lama's Favorite Sport?

(The Dalai Lama seen sitting in the stands of Gillette Stadium, which is where the New England Patriots American football team plays home games. Taken before a public talk about Buddhism. He is wearing a hat with the team logo on it. PHOTO CREDIT: Reuters).

The Dalai Lama isn't much of a sports fan but CLICK HERE to find out what his favorite sport might be. I liked how he said he played this one particular sport despite not knowing the rules!! Awesome!! Who needs the competition in sports?!! What a great lesson he gave us with his self-deprecating style and humor that you can have just as much fun playing a sport in a non-competitive way.

He saying just do it to enjoy it!! Don't be so serious about getting it "perfect" and not making any mistakes. Now, if only we could teach that to the ego-driven professional athletes, and parents at their kids' sporting events who take the game more seriously than the kids!! Sometimes leading to fights amongst parents of players from the opposing team!! I'm not saying all competition is negative but it can easily lead to a lot of unnecessary suffering.

But I digress. The Dalai Lama is such a joy to behold and I adore his childlike innocence and his infecteous laughter and giggling. He is so disarming and I can't help but be uplifted by his essence. He is deeply inspiring, and listening to him and his common sense Buddhism always reinvigorates my dedication to my Dharma practice. He is a true treasure to the world.


~Peace to all beings~

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Thursday, April 22, 2010

Spring Rain Meditation and Haiku.

crackling night sky
illuminating soaked leaves
man silently sits

-By James R. Ure

James: The clouds have been crashing up against each other since last night. Swollen with water they are showering a budding expanse of green. The entrancing sound of the methodical rain quiets the noise of the bustling city and centers the mind upon the present moment. It is a beautiful call to slow down, breath deeply, open awareness and absorb the moment. Opening the window to hear the rush of water falling from the heavens is the original call to meditation. It is nature's Dharma bell gently bringing our attention in line with the rhythm of nature, which is nothing short of Buddha Nature. Meditating while it rains is a very special experience, which relaxes tense muscles and frayed nerves. It is a soothing balm to the heated mind of suffering.

So, I stepped out onto the drenched patio to silently watch the rainfall and focused my attention on one tiny area of the porch edge where water was dripping from the roof. As I took in the surroundings with my senses the rich, relaxing smell of damp Earth filled my lungs and eased my tense body. As my attention grew I noticed that in the middle of the constant rushing of water cascading off my roof there was one spot that dripped off rhythm from the other spots. So, I timed it and discovered to my joy it splattered every five seconds. A smile exploded across my face as I meditated for a few moments on the order of all things. It made me feel small in a good way--It reminded me that I'm apart of a bigger plan unfolding exactly as it should whether I'm aware of it or not.

~Peace to all beings~

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Wednesday, April 21, 2010

"You Don't Know Jack." The Real Jack Kevorkian.

As someone who supports a terminal patient's, "right to die "(euthanasia) I am really interested in a new movie out about the famous Dr. Jack Kavorkian. It will soon be aired in America on the HBO cable channel on April 24th. Dr. Kevorkian is a champion of the rights of people to die with dignity. He is known world wide for personally assisting many terminally ill people kill themselves:

In each of the above mentioned cases, the individuals themselves allegedly took the final action which resulted in their own deaths. Kevorkian allegedly assisted only by attaching the individual to a euthanasia device that he had made. The individual then pushed a button which released the drugs or chemicals that would end his or her own life. Two deaths were assisted by means of a device which delivered the euthanizing drugs mechanically through an IV. Kevorkian called it a "Thanatron" (death machine). Other people were assisted by a device which employed a gas mask fed by a canister of carbon monoxide which was called "Mercitron" (mercy machine). This became necessary because Kevorkian's medical license had been revoked after the first two deaths, and he could no longer have legal access to the substances required for the "Thanatron".
Handsome B. Wonderful: Here is the trailer for the movie, "You Don't Know Jack:"

Handsome B. Wonderful
: Why is that we not only allow for our beloved pets to die peaceful by lethal injection but see it as merciful action, yet we won't allow humans to die the same way? That's backwards, inhumane and unnecessary. Why should terminally ill people have to slowly and painfully waste away in a hospital bed as the family helplessly watches? I don't care if people find it morally offensive and "sinful" because death is a very personal issue.

Yes, suffering is inevitable as well as death but what about unecessary suffering? At what point does allowing the continuance of physical suffering become cruel? At what point does it become the merciful and compassionate thing to help people pass into their next life peacefully if they consent to such an action? If we are to embrace death as we are taught in Buddhism then why should we Buddhists oppose a terminally ill patient's right to die? If a person is barely alive anyway and just in constant anguish then I think forcing someone to stay alive at that point is cruel. Some say that Buddha died from poisoned mushrooms and that he knew it before he ate them, so couldn't one argue that he was engaging in voluntary euthanasia?

What lessons can be learned in slowly watching yourself (or a loved one) die from cancer as you bleed from every orifice on your body or in spending months wracked in pain throughout your core? You might say that the terrible suffering teaches that suffering is inevitable but I think a person would get that lesson right quick after a few days of their body slowly and excruciatingly painfully turning on them. So, then what do they do after that point? They suffering needlessly. Or, you might answer that modern drugs allow the patient to be quite comfortable during the dying process but I would argue then, "Isn't that already a form of voluntary euthanasia?" Those pain drugs numb people out so much that they might as well be dead because they basically just put them into a chemically induced coma.

If doctors are going to decide to drug a person up so that they are basically unconscious most of the time then what is the point of that?? What can the family learn from such a situation besides the unnecessary suffering of their loved one? I would think that the loved one's and family and friends would learn more by knowing ahead of time when the person was going to die and that way everyone could spend precious time with their loved one and exchange love and sincere feelings knowing that these would be their last days/hours/minutes with them. It would also allow everyone to arrange to be present upon the passing of the terminally ill person so that no one would have to go through unnecessary suffering by knowing that they missed the last minutes of their loved one's life.

And what about in the Jataka stories (stories of the Buddha's previous lives) where, as a Bodhisattva, the Buddha slits his own throat so that starving tiger cubs may feed off his blood? (The Hungry Tigress).

There was also the case of Vietnamese Buddhist monks in the 1960s who set themselves alight in protest against anti-Buddhist policies.

In the end religious arguments shouldn't matter because we don't make laws based on religious beliefs. As long as the action is taken willingly and by consent from a psychologist that they are in a frame of mind to make that decision then I think it should be legal. We have freedom of religion in this country, so I won't tell you what to believe as long as you afford me the same respect. If you are terminally ill, I shouldn't be able to force you to be injected with a lethal drug if you don't wish but that also means that you shouldn't be able to force me not to be able to die that way. As Dr. Kevorkian says, "Dying is not a crime."

(Some of this post was put together with quotes from a previous post on this issue).

---End of Transmission---

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Petition to Save Lumbini, the Birthplace of Buddha.

Lumbini is said to be the location of the birthplace of Buddha, which is located in present day Nepal. The importance of Lumbini is not only marking the region where Siddhartha was born but with his birth it is also where Buddhism itself was born. However, the site has fallen into disarray and ruin, unlike it's more famous pilgrimage site of Bodh Gaya where Buddha was said to have awoken from delusion and realized full enlightenment.

In recognition of its religious significance, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) designated Lumbini as a World Heritage Site in 1997. Today, environmental pollution from heavy industry (cement and steel plants) that have located in the Lumbini region of Nepal is degrading air and ground water quality and local agriculture. It is likely impacting human health as well. A campaign has been underway for some years now to stop this desecration of Lumbini's sacred space. As the collective voice of Lumbini's friends around the world, LEPA [Lumbini Environmental Protection Alliance] is writing to humbly request your support in an international effort to protect and safeguard Nepal's Lumbini from the growing impacts of environmental pollution.

This petition is an appeal to Nepal's Ministry of Industry’s Industrial Promotion Board (IPB) to:

(1) create an industry-free zone around Lumbini,
(2) freeze the establishment of new industries outside of this industry-free area, and
(3) strictly monitor existing industrial firms.

The document requests that the Ministry of Environment of the Government of Nepal undertake a continuous, professional industrial pollution monitoring and assessment program of the industries and environment in the Lumbini Road Industrial Corridor, with certain provisions as noted therein.
Impact on Archaeology in Lumbini Area:
Air polluting substances (particulate matter, carbon dioxide, nitrogen oxides and other pollutants) emitted by the factories in Gonaha VDC 6 – 8 and Kamhariya 3 - 6 are likely to damage the Lumbini Ashoka pillar with its inscription and the archaeological remains at the World Heritage Site Lumbini and other archaeological sites. Historic stone structures in Europe, notably the Cathedral of Seville, Spain, have been damaged by air pollution in a manner similar to what is occurring at the ruins of the great Maya cities in Mesoamerica. This is what we will experience shortly.
TPJ: Obviously we all know that everything crumbles, dies and disappears forever but I think it is beneficial to Buddhists and non-Buddhists alike to maintain historical sites for as long as possible. They are an inspiration to many and help the local economies via tourism. They remind us where we have come from and allow us to better connect with our roots, beliefs and common human heritage. I encourage you to sign this petition if you care about history, humanity, Buddhism, Asian culture, etc. It only takes a few minutes. Please sign the petition by clicking on this sentence. Special thanks to Zen Cohen for bringing this to my attention. Thanks everyone!!

PHOTO CREDIT #1: Ashokan pillar at Lumbini by Buddhism Pilgrimage Site. They have some other great Lumbini photos at their site. I recommend you visit it. The pillar says, "King Piyadasi (Ashoka), beloved of devas, in the 20 year of the coronation, himself made a royal visit, Buddha Sakyamuni having been born here, a stone railing was built and a stone pillar erected to the Bhagavan having been born here, Lumbini village was taxed reduced and entitled to the eight part (only)".

PHOTO CREDIT #2: Garden at Lumbini.

~Peace to all beings~

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Saturday, April 17, 2010

Budding Tree Haiku.

swollen bud erupts
crowning gnarled branches
cat circles below

-Photo and haiku by James R. Ure-

~Peace to all beings~

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Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Gaze Upon the Buddha Statue and See Your True Self.

A common misconception that people have about Buddhists is that we worship the Buddha because we bow before his statue. Buddha wasn't a god but a human being just like the rest of us who found a way to transcend the suffering of this world. Initially he resisted sharing his path to others because he didn't think anyone would want to face their inner suffering as he had. However, having developed into an infinitely compassionate being he shared it with those who came to him and 2,500 years later we people are still coming to him. We are his heirs.

To be an heir of the Buddha simply means that we have seen the futility of the greed, hatred and delusion of the world and seek to awaken ourselves from the cycle of suffering as he has. So, in this regard when we bow to a Buddha statue or one another we are acknowledging the Buddha nature of ourselves and others. Tibetan Buddhist Dzogchen teacher Lama Surya Das explains it this way:

As a longtime meditator and student of Buddhism, when I myself see a Buddha statue, I intuitively sense that I'm looking in a mirror at my highest, deepest, truest, and most authentic best self. It is not merely something to imitate -- in dress, shape, or hairstyle -- but something to emulate in terms of seeking what the Buddha himself sought and found, in order to find it in myself along with recognizing that in others, and then acting accordingly. The Buddha is actually an archetype representing enlightenment, an icon symbolizing inner wisdom, a pointer towards the possibility of a level of spiritual awakening embodying the fullest actualized potential of human beings.
So, we are bowing to the Buddha within us, which emphasizes that yes, we too can awaken to the same freedom that Buddha experienced. It is an act of hope that strengthens intention--intention to free ourselves once and for all from the thrashings of the mind. It reminds us of who we really are and after some time, just gazing upon his image has helped me remember that this identity I cling to isn't my true nature. So, when I'm feeling depressed and self-hatred arises I gaze upon him and contemplate that, "If I have the same potential of Buddha then I must be a good person." It doesn't always help but sometimes it's a nice swift kick to the head that jars loose the grip of my mind.

We also bow to show respect for the path he laid out for us to follow. Buddha's path is like bread crumbs left in a deep, dark, frightening forest to help find our way out and into an open field of awareness that shows us where the stumbling blocks lie. In the dark fog of delusion our mind makes up all sorts of things and we can't see where we are going and before we know it we're deep down in a hole of immense and crippling suffering. Haven't you suffered enough? Wake up and embrace your Buddha nature.

PHOTO CREDIT: From the Public Broad Casting documentary, "The Buddha."

~Peace to all beings~

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Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Nyogen Roshi: Everything is Contained Right Where You Sit.

~Peace to all beings~

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Monday, April 12, 2010

Sexual Abuse Isn't Just a Catholic Issue.

I may be wrong on this but it seems rare to hear of a sexual abuse scandal in the Buddhist world but there has been one brewing for some time now in the American Zen circle:

"This article, among other revelations, presents a face of Zen not ordinarily visible to the general public. That is, how well known Zen rōshis and leading Zen figures spoke and acted; or failed to speak and act, in the face of deeply troubling allegations and really severe problems. Thereby, the article also points to the underlying interests of these rōshis.

The letter makes it clear that the teachers have heard first hand reports of Eido Shimano's activities directly from a number of the women involved. The repetitive nature of the allegations over a three decade period during which these alleged transgressions occurred without any formal public investigation or adequate resolution was so great that it motivated eight prominent Zen leaders from across America to sign the document, in the name of the greater North American Zen Maha-Sangha."
James: These are some of the allegations that really seem to show the Roshi as having acted highly inappropriately. If true, (and they seem true) he has also defaced and mocked the American Zen tradition. As well as Buddhism in general:

Over the past three decades, we have interviewed many former students of Shimano Roshi. Their stories are consistent: trust placed in an apparently wise and compassionate teacher, only to have that trust manipulated in the form of his sexual misconduct and abuse. Some of these students elected to continue their practice with us; most of them wanted nothing further to do with Zen Buddhism.

James: This is extremely serious. This trusted monk was supposed to show people how to liberate themselves from suffering--not increase their suffering!! What an appalling perversion of Buddhism!! And he allegedly did it multiple times over DECADES!! He not only allegedly abused them but he has also lead people astray from the path, which is a very egregious action in Buddhism. And if other Zen teachers knew of these transgressions and did nothing about it are just as culpable in my view. A lot of Buddhists believe it is rare to find the path of the Buddha and to lead people astray from it is to hold the enlightenment of fledgling beings in the palm of your hand and then tossing that into a deep, dark and muddy hole. The karma that such a false leader incurs must be enormous.
There is a saying in a Jataka which can be summarized as follows: “When a herd of cattle is traveling, if the leading bull strays, the whole herd goes astray. So it is with the people. If the appointed leader practices adhamma or unrighteousness, the multitude will also practise it. The whole nation will suffer if that one fails to abide by the Dhamma. When a herd of cattle is traveling, if the leading bull keeps to the proper course, the whole herd will do the same. So it is with the people. If the appointed leader abides by the Dhamma, the multitude will do likewise. The whole nation will be content if the leader upholds the Dhamma. This Buddhist saying is quite clear. The behavior of the leader is of great consequence to the masses as they will inevitably follow his example."
James: The Vinaya, which is a body of rules of monastics states, "Like a person, whose head is cut off, is unable to live with that mutilated body, a bhikkhu having associated with sex becomes a non-samana and non-sakyan-son (i.e. loses his monkhood and the membership among the Buddha’s sangha)." It might be tempting by some to ignore this uncomfortable issue but if we truly believe the essence of Buddha's message was to help others over-come suffering then we owe it to these victims, and even the Roshi himself to address this completely. It is so sad that this drove some people away from Buddhism but regardless, I hope that they find the peace and relief from suffering that they deserve.

~Peace to all beings~

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Sunday, April 11, 2010

Is our Universe inside a Wormhole?

A long time ago, in a universe much larger than our own, a giant star collapsed. Its implosion crammed so much mass and energy together that it created a wormhole to another universe. And inside this wormhole, our own universe was born. It may seem fantastic, but a theoretical physicist claims that such a scenario could help answer some of the most perplexing questions in cosmology.

A number of facets about our universe don't make sense. One is gravity. Scientists can't construct a mathematical formula that unites gravity with the three other basic forces of nature: the strong and weak nuclear forces and electromagnetism. Another problem is dark energy, the mysterious phenomenon that seems to be expanding our universe at an accelerating rate, even though gravity should be contracting it or at least slowing the expansion.

These conundrums may be a result of stopping the search for the riddle of the cosmos at the big bang, says Nikodem Poplawski of Indiana University in Bloomington. The big bang theory holds that our universe began as a single point—or singularity—about 13.7 billion years ago that has been expanding outward ever since. Perhaps, Poplawski argues, we need to consider that something existed before the big bang that gave rise to it. Such a scenario could address the quandaries about gravity and the expanding universe. If another universe existed before our own, gravity could be traced back to a point where it did unite with the nuclear forces and electromagnetism. And if our universe is now expanding toward the other end of the wormhole, this movement—rather than the elusive dark energy—could account for our expanding universe.

James: This reopens the door I feel to the "Cyclic Model" of the Universe, which basically states that our Universe (just like everything else) is impermanent and will be reborn again and again through a series of expansions and collapses.

The other implication I considered in regards to this theory is that perhaps rebirth of our karmic energy could occur through smaller, similar wormholes or channels toward a new incarnation. "Lorentzian traversable wormholes [not yet fully proven] would allow travel from one part of the universe to another part of that same universe very quickly or would allow travel from one universe to another."

And that new form could be in a whole other world at the opposite end of the Universe, which would explain why the population on Earth is growing. Because if other life isn't possible somewhere else in our Universe or within a parallel one then how do you explain the growing population on Earth? Some of the expansion of human lives could also involve the billions of insects.

Obviously this is mostly conjecture on my part and some of it has still yet to be proven. It really doesn't have too much to do with living in the present moment but being an intellectual I can't resist but see how science might marry up with Buddhist cosmology and thought. In doing research for this post I came across a very concrete and scientific explanation of rebirth by Bhikkhu Pesala:

Light a candle with a match, or visualise doing it. Hold the wick directly above the lighted match, but not actually touching the flame. Watch carefully. The wick will begin to smoke, and will then burst into flame. Does the flame jump from the match to the candle? Is the candle flame the same as the flame on the match, or is it a different one? If we describe the process scientifically we will say that the heat from the flame on the match vaporised some paraffin wax from the candle, and the paraffin vapour ignited, producing a new flame. The two flames are separate and burn from different fuels, but are causally related.

Likewise, kamma done in one existence is like the heat. The candle is like the physical basis provided by the parents. The candle flame is like the newly born being that arises dependent upon previous causes and present supporting conditions. One important difference between rebirth and the two flames is that the last conscious moment of the previous existence ceases totally, then rebirth consciousness arises immediately afterwards. No mental or physical phenomena “transmigrate” or pass between the two existences. Rebirth is simple a process of cause and effect.
James: The compact potential energy within the match is like the energy of our consciousness and when the flame from the match dies out the transfer is complete and the match is tossed as our worthless carcass would be. The flame that was the match and the flame in the new form (body/being/form) of the candle are neither different from each other nor the same.

~Peace to all beings~

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Thursday, April 08, 2010

Does Tiger Woods Practice Booty-ism or Buddhism?

Today is the day that Tiger Woods finally turns back to golf but of course the media won't stop talking about the scandal, so I figured I might as well take another crack at it myself. I'm not interested in the sexual escapades as that's his business. I try not to get involved with other peoples' sex lives. No, I'm talking about the Buddhist issue, which I guess in this instance sort of relates to the sexual issue but that's not my main point. My main point is about the use of Buddhist terms in relation to pop culture. Well, anyway, today someone thought it would be funny to fly a plane over the golf course with a banner that read, "Tiger, are you sure you didn't mean Booty-ism?"

Booty-ism of course being a mangling of the term "Buddhism." Booty, for all you none American English speakers is what some Americans use as slang for the butt. It's used in American street slang in the context of a "Booty call." That is a term referring to when one someone calls a "friend" on the telephone to meet up for sex. So, they're trying to be clever in making his religion, Buddhism sound similar to a sex term because of his past struggles with infidelity.

I'm not really offended over this one but the reason I am writing about it is to show how for all our intelligence, skills, education and rearing we humans are very childish. As I read on the great, "The Worst Horse," blog it's very sad that someone actually paid money to pay for that banner. This is the same kind of behavior I had to put up with in school with a last name like, "Ure." It's pronounced phonetically as, "Yewur" but the kids use to call me "Urine" as in the bodily fluid. Haha--very funny. I figured they were just jealous because I have a unique name with only three letters.

The point is that there are times to defend Buddhism and how it's used in our societies but we (or at least I) need to pick our battles. Otherwise, if we get upset over every bit of misuse of something Buddhist related we'd all be in the mental ward. That said, I enjoy dissecting a good "Dharma Burger." Speaking of which, Tiger is said to be getting Buddhist sayings on his Blackberry and asking for privacy in his hotel room for meditating. So, it's great to see Tiger walking the path again. I wasn't interested in his foibles as much as the Buddhist angle to the story. I'm not perfect, I have my weaknesses, I'm not a moral guide exactly so I leave that up to him and his wife. I mean, come on. Is his sex life really any of our business anyway?

~Peace to all beings~

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Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Lisa Simpson is a "Freakin' Buddhist!!"

James: Looks like Lisa needs to meditate more, but don't we all!! Hehe. Actually, despite the serene nature that the media paints Buddhism to be, we do get angry sometimes too. Just because we dedicate our lives to over coming such impulses--we're not perfect. Perfectionism is a sure way to burn out on your practice. As one fellow blogger put it, "We can both accept ourselves and want to change." When ever I find myself being self-critical of my practice I ask myself, "Would you be this critical toward someone else in your position?" And, invariably my answer is, "No, of course not."

So, we need to be more loving toward ourselves as much as toward others. It seems that sometimes it's easier to love others than ourselves. In the end, I see perfectionism as forgetting the Buddha's teaching of the middle-path. If we expect ourselves to be "perfect" in our practice then we're leaning too far toward aestheticism because perfectionism, like aestheticism, is unforgiving, not so compassionate and demands too much.

~Peace to all beings~

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