Monday, March 31, 2008

the noble eightfold path



"The search for a spiritual path is born out of suffering. It does not start with lights and ecstasy, but with the hard tacks of pain, disappointment and confusion. However, for suffering to give birth to a genuine spiritual search, it must amount to more than something passively received from without. It has to trigger an inner realization, a perception which pierces through the facile complacency of our usual encounter with the world to glimpse the insecurity perpetually gaping underfoot. When this insight dawns, even if only momentarily, it can precipitate a profound personal crisis. It overturns accustomed goals and values, mocks our routine preoccupations, leaves old enjoyments stubbornly unsatisfying.

At first such changes generally are not welcome. We try to deny our vision and to smother our doubts; we struggle to drive away the discontent with new pursuits. But the flame of inquiry, once lit, continues to burn, and if we do not let ourselves be swept away by superficial readjustments or slouch back into a patched up version of our natural optimisim, eventually the original glimmering of insight will again glare up, again confront us with out essential plight. It is precisely at that point, with all escape routes blocked, that we are ready to seek a way to bring our disquietude to an end. No longer can we continue to drift complacently through life, driven blindly by our hunger for sense pleasures and by the pressure of prevailing social norms. A deeper reality beckons us; we have heard the call of a more stable, more authentic happiness, and until we arrive at our destination we cannot rest content. "

Bhikkhu Bodhi, The Noble Eightfold Path - Way to the End of Suffering

Picture by: WisDoc@Flickr

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Karen Armstrong: Charter for Compassion




As she accepts her 2008 TED Prize, author and scholar Karen Armstrong talks about how the Abrahamic religions -- Islam, Judaism, Christianity -- have been diverted from the moral purpose they share to foster compassion. But Armstrong has seen a yearning to change this fact. People want to be religious, she says; we should act to help make religion a force for harmony. She asks the TED community to help her build a Charter for Compassion -- to help restore the Golden Rule as the central global religious doctrine.

Religious thinker Karen Armstrong has written more than 20 books on faith and the major religions, studying what Islam, Judaism and Christianity have in common, and how our faiths shaped world history and drive current events.

A former nun, Armstrong has written two books about this experience: Through the Narrow Gate, about her seven years in the convent, and The Spiral Staircase, about her subsequent spiritual awakening, when she developed her iconoclastic take on the major monotheistic religions -- and on the strains of fundamentalism common to all. She is a powerful voice for ecumenical understanding.

Armstrong's TED Prize wish asks us to help her assemble a Council on Compassion, where religious leaders can work together for peace.


Listen to the talk: Karen Armstrong - Charter for Compassion TED 2008 Prize

Books by Karen Armstrong:
Karen Armstrong

Monday, March 24, 2008

Chinese intellectuals: Give Tibet freedom of speech

Isabelle Duerme - AHN News Writer

Beijing, China (AHN) - Several Chinese intellectuals and lawmakers recently sent an open letter to the government insisting that Tibet be given freedom of speech and religion.

Signed by 29 of China's most prominent scholars and lawyers, the petition criticized the "propaganda" of the Chinese media, which has filtered outgoing footage and news articles regarding the recent Tibetan protest crackdowns.

"As the Chinese government is committed to integrating into the international community, we maintain that it should display a style of governing that conforms the standards of modern civilization," read the letter. It also urged for the government and the citizens to "stop the violent suppression" of Tibet, and insisted that the outbreak of protests indicated "serious mistakes in the work that has been done with regard to Tibet."

The petition's signers, including writers Wang Lixiong, Liu Xiaobo, Yu Jie, and other intellectuals, also accused the Chinese media of "stirring up inter-ethnic animosity and aggravating an already tense situation" that was detrimental to the goal of safeguarding national unity, according to India's Rediff News.

Issues regarding the exiled Tibetan leader the Dalai Lama were also mentioned, with the signers proclaiming support for the spiritual leader's teachings of non-violence.

"We support the Dalai Lama's appeal for peace," said the letter "and hope that the ethnic conflict can be dealt with according to the principles of goodwill, peace, and non-violence."

Related reports:
New York Times
Telegraph

Burma: Monks have no right to vote



Burma's 400,000 Buddhist monks and nuns have been categorised along with the country’s convicted criminals and mentally ill so that they are barred from voting in the upcoming national referendum on the regime's draft of a new constitution, writes Edward Loxton for The First Post. Representatives of the country’s Christian and Hindu communities are also excluded from casting ballots in the referendum, due to be held in May.

The exclusion clause is contained in new legislation signed by junta leader General Than Shwe. The legislation also threatens imprisonment or heavy fines for anybody who publicly opposes the referendum or interferes with its planning. Any such public criticism of the referendum – including the distribution of critical posters and pamphlets - is punishable by up to three years' jail.

The Buddhist Channel

For full article, CLICK HERE

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Jill Bolte Taylor: Powerful stroke of insight



Brain researcher Jill Bolte Taylor studied her own stroke as it happened -- and has become a powerful voice for brain recovery.

One morning, a blood vessel in Jill Bolte Taylor's brain exploded. As a brain scientist, she realized she had a ringside seat to her own stroke. She watched as her brain functions shut down one by one: motion, speech, memory, self-awareness ...

Amazed to find herself alive, Taylor spent eight years recovering her ability to think, walk and talk. She has become a spokesperson for stroke recovery and for the possibility of coming back from brain injury stronger than before. In her case, although the stroke damaged the left side of her brain, her recovery unleashed a torrent of creative energy from her right.

From her home base in Indiana, she now travels the country on behalf of the Harvard Brain Bank as the "Singin' Scientist."
"How many brain scientists have been able to study the brain from the inside out? I've gotten as much out of this experience of losing my left mind as I have in my entire academic career."

Listen to Jill at TED: Jill Taylor Stroke of Insight

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Dalai Lama: Compassion as the Pillar of World Peace



According to Buddhist psychology, most of our troubles are due to our passionate desire for and attachment to things that we misapprehend as enduring entities. The pursuit of the objects of our desire and attachment involves the use of aggression and competitiveness as supposedly efficacious instruments. These mental processes easily translate into actions, breeding belligerence as an obvious effect. Such processes have been going on in the human mind since time immemorial, but their execution has become more effective under modern conditions. What can we do to control and regulate these 'poisons' - delusion, greed, and aggression? For it is these poisons that are behind almost every trouble in the world.

As one brought up in the Mahayana Buddhist tradition, I feel that love and compassion are the moral fabric of world peace. Let me first define what I mean by compassion. When you have pity or compassion for a very poor person, you are showing sympathy because he or she is poor; your compassion is based on altruistic considerations. On the other hand, love towards your wife, your husband, your children, or a close friend is usually based on attachment. When your attachment changes, your kindness also changes; it may disappear. This is not true love. Real love is not based on attachment, but on altruism. In this case your compassion will remain as a humane response to suffering as long as beings continue to suffer.

This type of compassion is what we must strive to cultivate in ourselves, and we must develop it from a limited amount to the limitless. Undiscriminating, spontaneous, and unlimited compassion for all sentient beings is obviously not the usual love that one has for friends or family, which is alloyed with ignorance, desire, and attachment. The kind of love we should advocate is this wider love that you can have even for someone who has done harm to you: your enemy.

The rationale for compassion is that every one of us wants to avoid suffering and gain happiness. This, in turn, is based on the valid feeling of '1', which determines the universal desire for happiness. Indeed, all beings are born with similar desires and should have an equal right to fulfill them. If I compare myself with others, who are countless, I feel that others are more important because I am just one person whereas others are many. Further, the Tibetan Buddhist tradition teaches us to view all sentient beings as our dear mothers and to show our gratitude by loving them all. For, according to Buddhist theory, we are born and reborn countless numbers of times, and it is conceivable that each being has been our parent at one time or another. In this way all beings in the universe share a family relationship.

Whether one believes in religion or not, there is no one who does not appreciate love and compassion. Right from the moment of our birth, we are under the care and kindness of our parents; later in life, when facing the sufferings of disease and old age, we are again dependent on the kindness of others. If at the beginning and end of our lives we depend upon others' kindness, why then in the middle should we not act kindly towards others?
The development of a kind heart (a feeling of closeness for all human beings) does not involve the religiosity we normally associate with conventional religious practice. It is not only for people who believe in religion, but is for everyone regardless of race, religion, or political affiliation. It is for anyone who considers himself or herself, above all, a member of the human family and who sees things from this larger and longer perspective. This is a powerful feeling that we should develop and apply; instead, we often neglect it, particularly in our prime years when we experience a false sense of security.

When we take into account a longer perspective, the fact that all wish to gain happiness and avoid suffering, and keep in mind our relative unimportance in relation to countless others, we can conclude that it is worthwhile to share our possessions with others. When you train in this sort of outlook, a true sense of compassion - a true sense of love and respect for others – becomes possible. Individual happiness ceases to be a conscious self-seeking effort; it becomes an automatic and far superior by-product of the whole process of loving and serving others.

Another result of spiritual development, most useful in day-to-day life, is that it gives a calmness and presence of mind. Our lives are in constant flux, bringing many difficulties. When faced with a calm and clear mind, problems can be successfully resolved. When, instead, we lose control over our minds through hatred, selfishness, jealousy, and anger, we lose our sense of judgement. Our minds are blinded and at those wild moments anything can happen, including war. Thus, the practice of compassion and wisdom is useful to all, especially to those responsible for running national affairs, in whose hands lie the power and opportunity to create the structure of world peace.

The Dalai Lama @ Dalai Lama's Official Website




ITV's report of 18th january 2008, containing dramatic footage shot undercover in Tibet and sourced by Free Tibet Campaign.

Also includes interview with the Dalai Lama.

For more information please visit Free Tibet

Tibetan protests turn violent



Protests led by Buddhist monks against Chinese rule in Tibet turned violent Friday, with shops and vehicles torched and gunshots echoing through the streets of the ancient capital, Lhasa. (March 14)

Reported by the Associated Press

Other Reports:
AFP: Tibetan govt-in-exile demands UN intervention
Reuters: Australia joins call for restraint, Asia silent
BBC: Deaths reported in Tibet protests
BBC: Chinese media silent on Tibet

Other news sources on Tibet:
Phayul: Independent Tibetan News
Save Tibet: International Campaign for Tibet


Tibet: The Story of a Tragedy

Friday, March 14, 2008

Tibet Unrests: Monks beaten up by police



Eyewitness: Monk 'kicked to floor'

With tension rising in Tibet following a series of anti-China protests, the BBC spoke to an eyewitness who saw police on Wednesday beating monks at one of three monasteries which have been sealed. He wishes to be identified only as John.

We knew something was happening because there were more road checks as we got into Lhasa. Cars were being stopped and police were writing the licence plates down. We tried to stop at a shrine outside Lhasa but were told to keep moving. Then we heard around Wednesday lunchtime that Drepung monastery was closed. We didn't know why. That afternoon we went to Sera monastery to see the debating. It's famous - the monks debate points of philosophy and people come to see it. Just when it was about to start, around three o'clock, we started to hear rounds of applause coming out of a courtyard in the heart of the temple. We thought the debate was starting but then suddenly the clapping reached a crescendo - kind of a hooting.
Then the gate of the debating compound opened and this stream of maroon humanity poured out, several hundred monks. It was impossible to count but I think there were at least 300. We thought it was part of the tradition but when you looked at the expression on their faces, it was a very serious business. They were pumping their hands in the air as they ran out of the temple.

Plain-clothes police

The minute that happened we saw the police - two or three who were inside the compound - suddenly speaking into their radios. They started going after the monks, and plain-clothes police - I don't know this for sure but that's what I think they were - started to emerged from nowhere. There were four or five in uniform but another 10 or 15 in regular clothing. They were grabbing monks, kicking and beating them. One monk was kicked in the stomach right in front of us and then beaten on the ground. The monks were not attacking the soldiers, there was no melee. They were heading out in a stream, it was a very clear path, and the police were attacking them at the sides. It was gratuitous violence. The Tibetan lay-people started rushing to get out of the temple. Tibetan grandmothers were grabbing young kids and getting them out. We were left behind when the monks left the temple. About 20 minutes later we felt as if we could leave. Continue reading

Picture and News Report by BBC

More Latest Updates:

AFP - The Dalai Lama said Friday he was "deeply concerned" over the situation in Tibet and appealed to China to "stop using force" after security forces used gunfire to quell the biggest protests against Chinese rule in two decades.

REUTERS: EU urges China to show restraint in China

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Free Tibet Protests

BBC Report:



Tibetans protest at San Francisco





BEIJING (AP) — Chinese police used tear gas to disperse hundreds of Buddhist monks who held a second day of rare protests near Tibet's capital, U.S. government-funded Radio Free Asia reported Wednesday.
Security personnel surrounded about 500 monks Tuesday as they marched near a police station in Lhasa, a witness told the radio station's Tibetan service.
"There were probably a couple of thousand armed police ... wearing different uniforms. Police fired tear gas into the crowd," the unidentified witness said.
The demonstrators, on their way to demand the release of other monks detained in protests Monday, shouted "We want an independent Tibet" and "Free our people or we won't go back," other unidentified witnesses said.
The report could not immediately be independently confirmed.
A woman who answered the phone at the public security bureau in Lhasa denied knowledge of the incident. At the local government office, a man who identified himself as Bianba said he was aware of an incident but gave no details.
On Monday, the anniversary of a failed 1959 uprising against China's 57-year rule over Tibet, several hundred Buddhist monks staged two major protests in Lhasa in a bold, public challenge to Beijing's authority.
Monks shouted "Free Tibet" as they marched until police dragged them apart and arrested some, an eyewitness told the advocacy group, Free Tibet Campaign.
RFA also reported that gunshots were heard overnight from the direction of a Lhasa monastery, which had been blocked off by police.
Tibet's regional government head, Champa Phuntsok, said authorities briefly detained some monks and released them after they were questioned and "counseled."
Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang told a news conference that "some ignorant monks in Lhasa, abetted by a small handful of people, did some illegal things that can challenge the social stability."
Meanwhile, several hundred Tibetan exiles defied police orders and resumed a march to Tibet from the north Indian town of Dharmsala, where their spiritual leader the Dalai Lama presides over a Tibetan government-in-exile.
The march was to protest the Beijing Olympics. Indian police said it violated an agreement between New Delhi and the government-in-exile.
Neither the exile government nor the Dalai Lama has authorized the march.

Source: Associated Press: Police fire tear gas at Tibetan monks

More reports:
1. International Herald Tribune: Chinese police fire tear gas at Tibetan Buddhist monk protesters
2. Phayul: China closes Everest on Tibet side to climbing expeditions
3. Phayul: Tibetan Youth Congress Women Members storm Chinese Embassy



Picture by: Associated Press

Monday, March 10, 2008

but out of love



Once upon a time there lived a father and a son. Both were very gifted, both witty, particularly the father...
On one rare occasion, when the father looking upon his son saw that he was deeply troubled, he stood before him and said: poor child, you go about in silent despair. (But he never questioned more closely, alas he could not, for he himself was in silent despair.) Otherwise, they never exchanged a word on the subject. Both father and son were, perhaps two of the most melancholy men in the history of man.

And the father believed that he was the cause of the son's melancholy, and the son believed that he was the cause of the father's melancholy, and so they never discussed it... And what is the meaning of this? The point precisely is that he made me unhappy - but out of love. His error did not consist in lack of love but in mistaking a child for an old man.

Kierkegaard
The Journals of Soren Kierkegaard


Painting by: dark hylian@Flickr

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

peace



Being happy also means being peaceful, but quite often people don't really want to direct their attention to that. There is the connotation of "not interesting" about it, or "not enough happening." Obviously there would be no proliferations (papaƱca) or excitement. Peace is thought of as an absolute in this world, from a political, social and personal angle.

Yet peace is very hard to find anywhere. One of the reasons must be, not only that it's difficult to attain, but also that very few people work for such an achievement. It seems as if it were a negation of life, of one's own supremacy. Only those who practice a spiritual discipline would care to direct their minds towards peace.

A natural tendency is to cultivate one's own superiority which also often falls into the other extreme, one's own inferiority. When one has one's own superiority in mind, it's impossible to find peace. The only thing that one can find is a power game, "Anything you can do, I can do better." Or, at times, when it's quite obvious that this isn't so then "anything you can do I can't do as well." There are moments of truth in everyone's life, when one sees quite clearly that one can't do everything as well as the next person, whether it's sweeping a path or writing a book.

This kind of stance, which is very common, is the opposite of peacefulness. A display of either one's own abilities or the lack of them, will produce restlessness rather than peace. There's always the reaching out, the craving for a result in the form of other people's admittance of one's own superiority or their denial of it. When they deny it, there is warfare. When they admit it, there is victory.

Victory over other people has as its underlying cause a battle. In war there is never a winner, there are only losers. No matter who signs the peace-treaty first, both sides lose. The same applies to this kind of attitude. There are only losers, even though one may have a momentary victory, having been accepted as the one who knows better, or is stronger or cleverer. Battle and peace do not go well together.

One wonders in the end, does anybody really want peace? Nobody seems to have it. Is anybody really trying to get it? One does get in life what one strongly determines. It is important to inquire into our innermost heart whether peace is really what we want. The inquiry into one's heart is a difficult thing to do. Most people have a steel door of thick dimensions which is covering the opening of their heart. They can't get in to find out what's going on inside. But everyone needs to try to get in as far as possible and check one's priorities.

In moments of turmoil, when one is either not getting the supremacy one wants or one feels really inferior, then all one desires is peace. Let it all subside again and neither the superiority nor the inferiority is very distinct, then what happens? Is it really peace one wants? Or does one want to be somebody special, somebody important or lovable?

- Ayya Khema
Sister Khema was born in Germany, educated in Scotland and China, and later became a United States citizen. She now lives at Wat Buddha Dhamma Forest Monastery near Sydney Australia, which was established in 1978 on land purchased and donated by her. In 1979 she ordained as a Nun in Sri Lanka, and in 1982 she established the International Buddhist Women's Centre near Colombo. She spends most of her time teaching meditation course in different parts of the world. Rains Retreat is spent in Sri Lanka.

Picture by: I love the light @ Flickr