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May 21, 2008

Daniel A. Bell on "China's Class Divide"

An op-ed by Daniel A. Bell in today's New York Times seeks to dispel myths about young students in China--and addresses the government's moral obligation to help those in need: A few days later, I was due to lecture on John Rawls’s theory of justice. By then, the huge toll of the earthquake had become apparent and the national mood had turned grim. Before the class, four students came to my office, raising doubts about the relevance of the “abstract” theories I was teaching and urging me to use more concrete examples. So I tried hard to think of an example that the students could grapple with. Finally I came up with a good one (or so I thought). According to Rawls, the state should give first consideration to the worst-off members of the community. But which “community” matters? Do the state’s obligations extend outside national boundaries? More »
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May 20, 2008

One Answer to Carbon Woes: Blowin' in the Wind

An article in Salon points out, "For under 2 cents a day per household, Americans could get 300 gigawatts of wind by 2030. That would: Reduce carbon dioxide emissions from electricity generation by 25 percent in 2030. Reduce natural gas use by 11 percent. Reduce cumulative water consumption associated with electricity generation by 4 trillion gallons by 2030. Support roughly 500,000 jobs in the U.S." All we need is an administration that will let it happen. More »
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May 20, 2008

The Biological Boon Behind Incense

A new study reveals one reason why incense and spiritualism go together like zendos and zafus. Beyond the symbolic tradition of burning incense lies a biological benefit: it can help ease anxiety and depression. When scientists administered incensole acetate, a compound found in incense, to mice, the compound affected them in "brain areas known to be involved in emotions as well as in nerve circuits that are affected by current anxiety and depression drugs." Adds Gerald Weissmann, M.D., Editor-in-Chief of The FASEB Journal, "This study also provides a biological explanation for millennia-old spiritual practices that have persisted across time, distance, culture, language, and religion--burning incense really does make you feel warm and tingly all over!" Read all about it over in Science Daily. More »
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May 20, 2008

A Buddhist reponse to Cyclone Nargis

From NPR: Alex Chadwick talks with Ashin Thitzana, a Burmese monk in the Los Angeles-area, for a Buddhist interpretation of the Myanmar cyclone tragedy. More »
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May 19, 2008

"Where are the monks?"

"Before September, there were over 30,000 monks in Rangoon alone. Now there are 6,000. Where are the monks? That is the question." - Ashin Nayaka, visiting scholar at Columbia University and a founder of the Buddhist Missionary Society in Jackson Heights, in today's New York metro. The article recommends visiting http://www.burmesemonks.org/ for more information; unfortunately, the story is not available online. More »
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May 16, 2008

News in Brief

The junta in Burma has raised its estimated death toll to 78,000, with 56,000 missing. [CNN] Harvard Professor (and former Obama aide) Samantha Power and Washington Post Editorial Page Editor Fred Hiatt talk about Burma and the moral and political complexities of intervention. [NPR] In China, at least 5 million people are left homeless in the aftermath of the largest earthquake the country has seen in 58 years. The country continues to struggle to recover the injured and dead while grappling with aftershocks and landslides. [Times Online] The 17th Karmapa, Ugyen Trinley Dorje, makes his first visit to the United States. More »
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May 16, 2008

"Sorry," CNN tells China

From the New York Times: CNN apologized to China after the government strongly complained about remarks made on April 9 by the CNN commentator Jack Cafferty. During a broadcast that came after riots in Tibet, Mr. Cafferty said China’s leaders were “basically the same bunch of goons and thugs they’ve been for the last 50 years.” China demanded an apology, and angry Chinese accused CNN of biased news coverage. An earlier apology was rejected. But recently China’s Foreign Ministry highlighted a second apology, saying it came in a letter sent by the CNN president, Jim Walton, to China’s ambassador to the United States. More »
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May 16, 2008

One-Liners from Lama Surya Das

Some pithy Words of Wisdom from Lama Surya Das: That which we call "I" is just impermanent, ownerless karma rolling along. Don't take it personally. * Reality is not all it's cracked up to be. * I'm enlightened enough for now. * Don't forget to medicate the ferrets. More »
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May 15, 2008

Two Buddhists, Fifteen Feet

Also in today's NYTimes: a feature on Michael Roach and Christie McNally, two Buddhist teachers who consider themselves (celibate) spiritual partners. Roach, 55, who ordained as a monk in 1983, and McNally, 35, live in a yurt, say that they are never more than fifteen feet apart and "admit to a hands-on physical relationship that they describe as intense but chaste." Okie dokie. More »
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May 15, 2008

News on China and Burma

Heartbreaking updates on China and Burma in today's New York Times. In China, the Times notes, many of the dead appear to be children, "in a country where most families are allowed to have only one." Meanwhile, farmers in Burma fear they will miss the fall harvest, having lost seeds, livestock, rice stock, and draft animals in the cyclone. The deputy country director for the World Food Program estimates that at least 50,000 tons of rice are needed for the next six months, and 50,000 more will be necessary if farmers are not able to plant within the next few weeks. More »
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May 15, 2008

Kristof on Amdo

Nicholas Kristof on violence against monks in Amdo: At Labrang Monastery in Xiahe, almost 10,000 feet high in the mountains, more than 220 Buddhist monks were arrested and beaten, local Tibetans said. The great majority have been released, but some are still hospitalized because of injuries. Some monks are hiding in the mountains, and they are all terrified. “I was beaten for two hours with sticks, and kicked all over,” said a monk who was released after one night of imprisonment. Last month, the Chinese authorities ushered a group of journalists here on a tightly scripted tour to show that Labrang was calm — and then 15 monks rushed up to the group. More »
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May 14, 2008

Aid Stolen in Burma

It's a growing problem: The Burmese military continues to steal international aid packages sent to aid victims of cyclone Nargis. An estimated 1.5 million Burmese face -- (UPDATE: 2.5 million) -- disease and starvation and little aid is reaching them. And the death toll continues to rise in China. A Buddhist man woman who converted to Islam in Malaysia can go back to being Buddhist, the courts say. More »
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May 13, 2008

Words for Buddhist Livin'

Three quotations from Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche, from Ocean of Dharma: 365 Teachings on Living Life with Courage and Compassion. The Lion's Roar The lion's roar is the fearless proclamation that any state of mind, including the emotions, is a workable situation, a reminder in the practice of meditation. We realize that chaotic situations must not be rejected. Nor should we regard them as regressive, as a return to confusion. We must respect whatever happens in our state of mind. Chaos should be regarded as extremely good news. More »
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May 13, 2008

Tibetan Tectonics

The twin disasters continue to unfold. The storm is over in Burma but the humanitarian nightmare continues. And the constitutional referendum went ahead despite being "blatantly rigged." Meanwhile ABC says "Tibetan tectonics triggered China quake." The violent quake that shook China's Sichuan province this week is linked to a shift of the Tibetan plateau to the north and east, researchers say. Hmm. And some inside China didn't take kindly to the cheery spectacle of the Olympic torch jogging along as if nothing were wrong. More »
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May 13, 2008

David Brooks on "neural Buddhism"

David Brooks discusses the "militant materialism of some modern scientists" then says: Over the past several years, the momentum has shifted away from hard-core materialism. The brain seems less like a cold machine. It does not operate like a computer. Instead, meaning, belief and consciousness seem to emerge mysteriously from idiosyncratic networks of neural firings. Those squishy things called emotions play a gigantic role in all forms of thinking. Love is vital to brain development. Researchers now spend a lot of time trying to understand universal moral intuitions. Genes are not merely selfish, it appears. Instead, people seem to have deep instincts for fairness, empathy and attachment. Scientists have more respect for elevated spiritual states. More »
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May 13, 2008

Rescuers Struggle to Reach Quake Survivors

There are as many 12,000 dead in China after the quake, plus hundreds of thousands injured and homeless, and there may be more quakes to come in the region. Those suffering here are not the ones who ordered troops into Lhasa or tanks into Tienanmen Square, but even if they were, in a previous life, whether you take that literally or not, each one of them was your mother, and in yet another life, your child. More »
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May 12, 2008

China Quake

Terrible death and suffering in Sichuan Province. More »
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May 12, 2008

An Open Appeal on Behalf of the People of Burma by Jack Kornfield

Dear Dharma Friends, I want to ask you to consider help for the people of Burma. As you know the blessings of many of our Buddhist teachings have come from the tradition and generosity of the people of Burma. Now the devastating cyclone Nargis has plunged an already impoverished nation into chaos. The most effective was to help that I know of is The Foundation for the People of Burma (FPB), a U.S. registered charity I support. The Foundation already has 70 staff and volunteers on the ground and working to relieve suffering in sites across Burma right now, while most foreign aid workers are still waiting at the border for visas. Because FPB has worked in Burma for many years, it has been able to quickly mobilize its Burmese staff and partner networks to address emergency needs in target areas. More »
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May 12, 2008

Burma help

Hal Nathan, who launched the Foundation for the People of Burma in 1999, was in northern Burma when the cyclone struck. You could say he found himself in the right place at the right time. His non-political charitable organization is devoted to providing humanitarian aid of all sorts to the Burmese people. According to Nathan, what gives his group a leg up in efficiently delivering desperately needed aid is the infrastructure his organization has built over the years. "We can distribute goods and services through the monasteries and temples and other community centers, and have good relations with people on the ground," he told me this afternoon. More »
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May 12, 2008

Lynda Barry in the Times

Not to brag or anything, but I think The New York Times may have a bit of a crush on us. Hot on the heels of columnist Wendy Johnson's profile last week comes an article about artist/author Lynda Barry, whose drawings of meditating monkeys, along with an original essay, are featured in our Summer 2008 issue. More »