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Thursday, December 27, 2012

We Are Recycled Consciousness.


We are recycled consciousness expressing itself in infinite forms. Science tells us that we are social creatures. We need others to survive in this world of suffering. Buddhism explains this bond as interconnection and co-arising. We are all one. To quote the Heart Sutra, "form is emptiness and emptiness is form." Thich Nhat Hanh uses the example of waves in the ocean.

We are all apart of a great, infinite, ocean of consciousness. In other words, we all share a similar human consciousness that interconnects us. As individuals, we are the wave that arises from the wider ocean of consciousness. We are both the wave and the ocean. We are both individuals, and a collective consciousness. This is the Buddhist belief of co-arising. To quote Buddha, "All things appear and disappear because of the concurrence of causes and conditions. Nothing ever exists entirely alone; everything is in relation to everything else."

In each new birth, our karma determines the particular form of our wave rising from the greater ocean of consciousness.

~i bow to the buddha within all beings~

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Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Buddhism for Returning Veterans of War


 UPDATE: According to Claire Michalewicz, with "Shambhala Sunspace" the British military is not sending 4,000 of its soldiers to Bodh Gaya, as was reported in "The Daily Mail" news publication.  "It’s completely untrue,” an army spokeswoman told me, explaining that the Ministry of Defence had no official plans to send troops to Bodh Gaya, the religious site in India where Gautama Buddha is said to have achieved enlightenment. A Buddhist army chaplain is arranging a pilgrimage there for up to 20 soldiers next year, but they’ll be paying for the trip themselves.
By Giridhar Jha, MAIL TODAY,
December 10, 2012 Patna, India 
The British Army will send about 4,000 of its troops, who are followers of Buddhism, in a group of 100-150 people to spend a week at Bodh Gaya and Sarnath to seek peace after their prolonged involvement in the war zones in different countries such as Afghanistan and Iraq. They will all meditate under the famous tree at Bodh Gaya, where Lord Buddha had attained enlightenment in 6th century B.C.
JAMES: War is hell, as they say. There are never any winners. All lose something when war is waged, even the survivors. Physically, they might have survived and kept their limbs but mentally they have been traumatized and scarred for life. Modern medicine has never been better at fixing broken bodies but the mind is harder to heal. A lot of mentally traumatized people find that there are gaps in the kind of psychiatric care available. Yes, medications help but they aren't a cure-all.

This is where spirituality can make the difference. Buddha was often described as "the great physician" since his teachings can bring such mental relief from suffering. The Buddha diagnosed the sickness of human suffering through a four-part experiment called the "Four Noble Truths." He then diagnosed the remedy as regular meditation following Dr. Buddha's "Eight-fold Path" to realize the cure (enlightenment). Thus, in many ways, Buddha was one of humanity's first psychiatrists.

I haven't been to war, thankfully, but I do struggle with my own mental illnesses (schizoaffective disorder and PTSD). I can't say it enough, meditation is another medication in my regiment. And, the side-effects are all positive unlike the medications I need. Still, the best success I've found in dealing with my psychiatric issues is the trisection of three things: mediation, medication and therapy.

It is no surprise then, that a lot of veterans of war find relief in Buddhism, so I think it's perfect that these British soldiers are visiting Bodh Gaya for some mental rehabilitation. Too often we focus on the physical wounds and not, treat the mental wounds of war. Thus, the silent epidemic of U.S. veterans of war committing suicide. The tragedy is compounded by a society tainted by the poison of delusion. The delusion of believing that psychiatric disorders are simply the behavioral "weaknesses" of "weak people" rather than true diseases. Why commit to such denial? Our collective egos would rather blame the victim, or, deny the problem exists, than enact the changes to our way of living, and thinking, needed to combat the epidemic of suicide, and other psychiatric crises.

In years past, the testosterone-fueled pride, within the military, saw psychiatric trauma as "weakness". So, It warms my heart to know that the British military is embracing the demand for mental healing, within their ranks. I rejoice that they are helping these wounded heroes find the healing they deserve. It is my sincerest hope, and wish, that these wounded heroes can benefit from the solace and healing that is at the heart of Buddhism.

PHOTO: Thomas Dyer, the first Buddhist chaplain in the United States military.

~i bow to the buddha within all~

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Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Sandy Hook Elementary Massacre: A Buddhist's Response.

As the horrible mass shooting of children in Connecticut echoes around the world, millions are trying to fathom such senseless violence. Of course, the initial reaction is to ban assault weapons in America for the average citizen, which I support. No one needs a machine gun to hunt for food. In places like Europe that have strict gun control laws, you just don't see the kind of mass shootings and rampant violence that you do in America. Sure, there are a smattering of examples but they are few and far between:
The FBI's Uniform Crime Reports for 2009 list 10,224 homicides [in U.S.] that involved a gun [...] Mamoru Suzuki of Japan's National Research Institute of Police Science e-mailed us that there were seven gun murders in Japan during 2009. For the United Kingdom and Germany, we had to extrapolate, taking firearm murder rates per 1,000 people, then, using population statistics, calculate the number of firearm murders. The data, from a United Nations survey of crime trends, cover 1998 to 2000, the most recent available for firearms deaths. We found that the United Kingdom had 63 firearm murders, and Germany had 381. Experts we consulted said the figures sounded about right.
I think, however, it is bigger than just guns. The United States has one of the most stressed populations in the world, which stems, in large part, from the worship of greed. The worship of money is one of the major poisons to our peace of mind that Buddha warned against. It breeds class resentment having to work longer hours for less pay because of greedy bosses. It fuels anger, which never leads to anything beneficial. It also creates stress for families, while at the same time government is cutting health care benefits that include mental health care.

Other countries invest in their workers, so that they can focus more time with their families and each other; such a policy reduces stress and makes for happier people, happier workers. And that means a less violent society. They have a better social safety net to catch and help the most needy individuals deal with mental trauma, that if left untreated, can lead to disastrous results.

I am a firm believer in meditation, and I think it would greatly help Americans reduce stress. I know it does because it helps me, and I suffer from a psychiatric disorder. It's a wonderful way to deal with anger, as well. Perhaps if we taught a secular version of meditation to our kids in school, they'd have some tools to help them deal with the stress and complicated emotions of youth, without having to resort to violence. If our police officers knew how to meditate then perhaps they'd be better able to handle the stress of such a job. Imagine a less stressful job-place if companies did morning meditations for about 10 minutes each day before work!! Perhaps it would prevent people from being over-worked until they mentally snap and show up with a gun to work.

The Buddhist teaching of oneness is also helpful in preventing violence. If we can realize that we are one with all beings then compassion for others is easier to realize. It's harder to hurt (either verbally or physically) someone that you see as apart of you. If can learn to see one another as apart of us, rather than as competitors, then patience is easier to achieve, which helps reduce the chances of conflict arising.

Then there is the Buddhist idea of attachment. When we attach to the idea of ourselves being separate and apart from others, it breeds selfishness and disdain for people not like ourselves. Attachment leads to an unending cycle of "wants" which propel us to justify anything in the name of trying to satisfy the "hungry ghost" of the ego. In turn, we resent people who have what we want, and that poison can eat away at our sense of morality until we blame others for our perceived lack of happiness. And, just like in war, once the violence begins it breeds further violence from retaliations and so on.

All of these issues, and more, must be apart of the solution. No one issue can solve the epidemic of violence in American society. Tighter gun laws are needed, yes, but we need a holistic approach encompassing numerous reforms in vast and diverse areas of modern life. We need to teach our children not to bully fellow students. Bullying in schools leads to rage, depression and isolation. That kind of harassment can easily lead them to commit violence either against themselves or others. We can no longer pretend that such problems don't affect us. As Buddha proved, interconnection demands we pay attention to the troubles of others. By ignoring them, we might delude ourselves but sooner or later we will suffer the consequences, too.

~i bow to the Buddha within all beings~

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