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Wednesday, November 30, 2011

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton Visits Burma.

Every minute of every day, while we sit in the relative comfort of our homes, Buddhist monks in Burma are being tortured in prisons. And when they aren't being beaten, they are huddled in dirty, dark and disease ridden cells. All this they endure because they wouldn't sit by and watch the people of Burma be treated like garbage by the dictatorial regime. Their courage was driven, in part, by the deep compassion developed from practicing the Dharma. They are the conscience of the world standing up and saying, "enough!!"


The monks have gotten the most attention in the international news, but a lesser known campaign of ethnic cleansing is occurring in remote, ethnic areas. The remoteness of some of these regions is a curse for some ethnic minorities because less people know they are even there, let alone being killed, tortured and raped. If revered monks in Burma aren't treated well, then no one is safe. But, thanks to concerned citizens around the world, attention continues to grow about the plight of Burma (Myanmar).

The U.S. Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, is currently visiting Burma, so it is vital that we keep up the pressure to be the voice of the voiceless in a country with a proud, Buddhist tradition. Please, take a few minutes and send an email to Secretary Clinton's blog about your support for Burma, it's people and their revered monks (click on this sentence to be redirect to her page). You might not feel that one person's email can make a difference but I have been involved in the Burma issue for several years now and I've seen a change.

At first, most people had no idea where Burma or Myanmar was on the globe, and the U.S. government showed little interest in the affairs in the Southeast Asian country. Today, after years of awareness and relentless calls for action, one of America's highest ranking leaders is in Burma to spread the message of concerned citizens to the military dictatorship, loud and clear. So, please, let your conscience be heard!! Click on this sentence to reach the secretary's email form and thank her for her action. Let her know that you are following the issue and urge her to keep up the pressure!! We would all hope our fellow humans would do the same for us if we were in a time of need, so let us stand up for our brothers and sisters in Burma

~I bow to the Buddha within all things~

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Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Generation X Inheriting American Buddhism.

PHOTO CREDIT: Buddha Statue in Thailand by chok photo
From, "The Buddhist Channel": Buddhism in America is at a crossroads. The best-known Buddhist leaders, mostly white converts who emerged from the counterculture and protest movements of the Vietnam era, are nearing retirement or dying. Charlotte Joko Beck, a pioneer of Zen practice in America, passed away in June.

The next generation of teachers is pushing in new directions, shaped by the do-it-yourself ethos of the Internet age and a desire to make Buddhism more accessible. Unsettled elders worry that the changes could go too far and lose touch with tradition.

James: I understand the concern of the elders, but I had to chuckle a bit at the irony of their concerns, considering one of the core teachings of Buddhism is that change is inevitable, even drastic change. Younger Buddhists might have tattoos and spend more time meeting up with other Buddhists online, but the core teachings remain fairly unchanged. It's not like the "Hippie Generation" that many elders of Buddhism in America today emerged from wasn't considered radical and perhaps even dangerous by some of their Asian teachers. Yet, the "Hippie Buddhists" didn't cause the downfall of Buddhism in America. So, if Buddhism in America could survive the "hippie generation's" experiments with the Dharma and sex, drugs and rock n' roll, then it can surely survive the Internet Age.

Monkhood is a timeless calling. So long as suffering endures, there will always be those who seek to relieve it by deepening their Dharma practice through monasticism, regardless of their generation's predilections. Karma has a pull that is stronger than the internet, and when a person is called to take up monasticism, no amount of change will stop them. When I look upon the monastics of my tradition, Zen as taught by Thich Nhat Hanh, I am inspired to see so many faces from my generation. And, with Buddhism growing in America, there are likely to be plenty of teachers to come. It's an exciting time, so rather than fear change, let us embrace it and learn to adapt that change for another generation of Buddhists on this marvelous planet.

-JRU

~I bow to the Buddha within all beings in the Universe~

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Friday, November 18, 2011

iLivelihood: Steve Jobs and Right Livelihood.


It is true that the inventor of the iPhone, Steve Jobs, was a genius and a true visionary. His inventions revolutionized modern society, which rightfully gives him a place among legends such as Thomas Edison and Henry Ford. It is also true that he dabbled in Zen Buddhism but I feel it goes too far when Lama Surya Das describes Steve Jobs as exemplifying the Buddhist teaching of "Right Livelihood."

Right Livelihood is one of numerous teachings by Buddha on how to live a life with less suffering for yourself, and others. One of those is "Right Livelihood" which (in brief) advises working in a job that does not promote the suffering of others. Unfortunately, Steve Jobs oversaw a multinational corporation that employed factories that did not treat their employees very well. In 2006, Apple was criticized for the working conditions in a factory that made iPods and Nanos.

The workers in that factory (Foxconn) were made to work 15 hour days until 11:30 at night and could not live with their families but instead had to live in on-site dormitories. In return for such harsh labor they were only paid US$50 a month. It might be a decent wage in China, but if Jobs was a Buddhist who truly cared about Right Livelihood, he would have ensured better conditions, and wages. Especially when you consider how much those finished products cost and how much money they brought in for Apple and Steve Jobs. According to the article, workers are "lucky if they make two percent of the profit from an iPod."

In response to the revelation of such working conditions, you'd think a Buddhist example of "Right Livelihood" would immediately put a stop to them. Sadly, no. As late as this year, Apple was still using the Foxconn factories to build iPads, and the conditions haven't changed. The working conditions are so terrible that 14 workers at Foxconn factories committed suicide in a 16 month period!! It became such a problem that Foxconn had to install giant nets around the tall factory building to prevent workers from leaping to their death. Supposedly workers could only work 36 hours of overtime but one record showed a worker having to work 98 stressful hours of overtime. It was also routine for less productive workers to be humiliated in front of their colleagues and all employees were banned from talking.

Of course, such working conditions don't tarnish everything that Steve Jobs accomplished, but in light of them, let's not claim Steve Jobs was more than he turned out to be. He was a flawed being like all of us, and we do not need to make him a near-deified being to appreciate his genius.

~I bow to the Buddha within you all~

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Thursday, November 10, 2011

The Dalai Lama: Buddhism's Teddy Bear.

When my world-weary eyes fall upon the aura of the Dalai Lama, it has the same effect as a light dose of the anti-anxiety medication I take. It is so powerfully calming and soothing to meditate upon his image that I can't imagine the energy that must warm the space when in his presence. Yet, truly he seems to regard everyone with the same reverence as we regard him.


It's always a dicey endeavor to speak of someone as "enlightened" because it's simply a word, whereas the pure state of enlightenment appears to be indescribable. However, his face smiles with such genuine happiness and radiant compassion that it's hard not to see him as more than a "simple monk" as he so humbly refers to himself.

I have a picture of his glowing face above my beside table and every morning when I look at that picture, I instantly smile. I find it hard not to beam a grin when gazing upon him. He's has all the innocent delight of a child, combined with the intelligence of a professor emeritus and the warmth of your favorite grand-father!!

But, I must admit, being someone who likes to hug people, I always look at a picture of him and just want to hug him like a child would embrace a stuffed animal. He looks like someone who would give good hugs!! I bet he'd be o.k. with a respectful embrace, and probably he'd laugh the whole time with that infectious chuckle he's known the world over for having. I'd laugh back, being a good-humored person myself. What a happy thought -- two spokes of the same wheel embracing, smiling at each other and simply taking joy that we are apart of the great wheel of consciousness, together, as it twirls through the mists of time.

That's partly why I think the Dalai Lama laughs, the humor of it all!! That, and I think he's extremely content with life and is thrilled by even the smallest of insects or humblest of human beings. I've heard that when you meet him, you feel as though he is as happy to meet you as any of the other millions of people he meets, and I think that speaks to his absolute love of people. He has mastered the practice of being present. I think, in his life, the moment in which he finds himself breathing, is truly, the only moment. And, you get the idea that it is also, always, the best moment of his life and that allows for his genuine energy to wrap you in its warmth.

I wasn't going to post anything today but then when going through some saved pictures, I came across this one of the Dalai Lama and felt inspired to share my admiration for such a great energy. The world is truly a better place with him apart of it. I bow to him with deep respect, admiration and honor. His presence and wisdom is a gift that will enlighten generations of people. May he always know of the love this world has for him.

And may you all know how much I appreciate your willingness to read my blog. I am far from perfect but that's why we're all here in this life, and may I say, I am grateful to have my life blessed with being in touch with such great people as you all. I truly am humbled by your kindness and you always make me think. I have the best readers in the blogosphere. Stay healthy. Smile and know that you are appreciated--and loved. Be well.

~may all beings know peace~

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