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August 31, 2008

Please Vote

When my friend Gyano first came here from Australia years ago, somehow an election came up in conversation, and we had one of those weird discussions where we weren't understanding one another at all. Puzzled, she finally turned to me and said, "But isn't voting compulsory?" In Australia you receive a stiff fine if you don't vote...she couldn't believe that people here actually didn't vote. Now that she's been here a while, she probably sitll can't believe it, but more clearly sees the apathy and cynicism that pervade, keeping people from the ballot box. Since we're not required to vote and have to do so from the force of our own conviction, we need to stay in touch with how important it is to participate. Whomever you may vote for, please vote! More »
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August 31, 2008

I Have a Dream

I went to college in 1968. Witin a year or so, a fellow in one of my classses left town for a while and went down south to march for civil rights. I can't remember his name, but I remember what he looked like so well, a big guy with red hair, and shining eyes. When he came back, he had been beaten and was scared and his eyes weren't so shiny -- he seemed uncertain that his efforts and his caring and his trying and his suffering would make any difference at all. If he's still alive, i hope he was at Mile High Stadium in Denver last Thursday, or was watching it on tv. 45 years after Dr. Martin Luther King's "I have a dream" speech, tens of thousands of people (including me) wept as Barack Obama accepted the Democratic party's nomination. I thought of my college acquaintance, and all those people who fought and sometimes died so that America would do the right thing. I can only thank you. More »
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August 29, 2008

Dalai Lama in Indian hospital; said to be stable, no cause for alarm

He went in complaining of abdominal pains. All His Holiness needs is "a good rest", say doctors. Meindert Gorter, a critic of the ban on devotion to Dorje Shugden -- and therefore not a fan of the Dalai Lama -- ponders the DL's return to Tibet: So, back in Tibet, the only role left for him would be a religious one. He could be the humble monk he has always claimed to be, but does he really have it in him? Or is he harbouring ambitions to become the religious leader he never was, in spite of all the naive parroting of him being a ‘temporal and spiritual leader’? Why else can he be so zealously devoted to uniting the lineages? More »
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August 28, 2008

Saliva Relics

An old Buddha head (from a statue) was dug up in Pakistan. No, it wasn't cut off by the Taliban, but rather dates way way back, maybe all the way to Bactrian Greek times when the first Budda statues were made, since a coin from that era was also found in the vicinity. And this exhibition of Buddha relics in Malaysia includes saliva relics. Excellent. And nine Buddhist leaders including Bob Thurman speak out on issues of the day. Buddhist leaders don't have to be calm and polite all the time, and they're always engaged. More »
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August 27, 2008

Burma Items from Danny Fisher

Several items on Burma from Danny Fisher: UN special envoy Ibrahim Gambari is returning from his sixth visit to Burma. The Washington Post dryly notes: It is clear now that U.N. More »
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August 27, 2008

Getting What You Want

In his teaching of the First Noble Truth, the Buddha asks, “What now is the Noble Truth of suffering?” Answering his own question he cites the forms that human suffering takes, naming such things as sickness, old age, and death along with the sorrow pain, grief, and despair that accompany human decay and loss. “Not getting what you want,” the Buddha says, “is suffering.” What he doesn’t say at the time is that getting what you want is also suffering. Wanting is generally thought of as wanting something in particular, a specific object or outcome, like wanting a new car or a bigger house, a different job or mate or hair color or personality. Some “wanters” think bigger than others, wanting an entirely different life from the one they’re currently living. Their dissatisfactions are comprehensive and they yearn for a life with more freedom, interest, excitement, adventure, respect, or fame than they’re accustomed to getting. But while wanters always want something specific, I’ve observed that wanting is more a state of mind than it is an attraction to a discrete object. A person with a “wanting mind” is perpetually on the lookout for something to want. It’s a habit of preferring almost anything other than what one already has, a chronic dissatisfaction with one’s circumstance, a persistently distressed mood. A wanting mind is a mind with a predilection toward need. If wanting is your thing, then it’s easy to see how getting what you want won’t relieve the suffering of not getting what you want. Let’s say that you want to write a novel, not just any novel but a really good novel. You tell yourself that if you could just do that, you’d be satisfied. Suppose then you get what you want. You write just the very novel you had in mind. But since wanting is of your very nature, your satisfaction in having written the novel you’d so desired will be short lived, and your wanting will simply transfer itself to a new object of desire. There’s no satisfaction in having written a novel unless it gets published. And then of course it must get good reviews and sell well. The obvious point here is that wanting and dissatisfaction go hand in hand. And they go hand in hand because wanting is an expression of dissatisfaction. It’s not the lack of the thing wanted but the wanting itself that constitutes the suffering. More »
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August 27, 2008

Two from the Buddhist Blog

Two great posts from the Buddhist Blog: Homosexuality and the Sangha, and a review of the latest from Master Sheng Yen. More »
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August 27, 2008

The Dalai Lama is exhausted

The Dalai Lama canceled an upcoming trip around Latin America due to exhaustion. The Olympics were a stressful time for anyone concerned with Tibet. Tibetan exiles are still protesting in Nepal -- very brave, considering the brutal crackdowns there recently and the newly elected Maoist Prime Minister. Nicholas Kristof discusses Tibet after the Olympics in the Times. More »
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August 27, 2008

Buddhist Festival on Wutai Mountain

There was a Buddhist festival on Wutai mountain in north China recently. Wutai Mountain is one of the four holiest mountains in China for Buddhists. More on Wutai Mountain here. More »
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August 27, 2008

Buddhists Protest Christian Government Bias in Korea

Protesters call on the government to resign in Bangkok. They call the current leader, Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej, a puppet of former P.M. Thaksin Shinawatra. There's more displeasure with the government in Korea, where Buddhists accuse President Lee Myung-bak of Christian bias. Mr. More »
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August 27, 2008

Breakfast this morning

I had breakfast with the Massachusetts delegation, and Al Franken was one of the guest speakers (along with joe Kennedy and Michael Dukakis.) During Al Franken's often very funny speech, someone's cell phone rang, and he said "I hope you need a liver." The people at my table were puzzled, but I got it right away:"He's saying he hopes they are on the transplant list, because otherwise there is no excuse for their cell phones being on." He went on to say,"I once chided someone when their cellphone went off during a talk, and they then told me they were waiting for a liver so they could have a transplant." He'd certainly lighten up the Senate. More »
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August 27, 2008

the Passage of time

I turned 56 recently. I was trying to send a fedex the other day, and for the first time ever,the helpful clerk told me that if I was 55 or older, i could get a 10% discount. gulp. My first discount based on age. When Ted Kennedy took the stage last night at the Democratic National Convention, I, like so many, saw the journey of my life flash in front of me...his brother John's inauguration and assassination, his brother Robert's assassination, the personal tragedies, the long tenure in the Senate, and now his bout with cancer. To see him on that stage, with a big chunk of his hair not yet grown back from the brain surgery, his voice so firm and filled with life, was amazing. The span of my life seems to fit so completely within the span of his. And it is so dreamlike: where did the time go? What makes a lifetime? I so admired his commitment in coming, and his expressing his passion and dedication. More »
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August 25, 2008

Jazz Cats, Hip to Breath

About a month ago, NPR's "Take Five: A Weekly Jazz Sampler" offered up tracks by five overlooked jazz greats. Among them was Bennie Maupin's "Past Is Past," from his 1974 album The Jewel in the Lotus. As the title of the album suggests, Maupin's music possesses a quiet, distinctly Buddhist glow, tracing emptiness to form and back again. With Herbie Hancock on piano, Buster Williams on bass, Billy Hart on drums, and of course, Maupin himself, a wind player who brings new meaning to following the breath. More »
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August 25, 2008

More is Always on the Way

I was on the bus to work the other day, when a taxi passed by bearing the slogan: ‘More is always on the way’. It turned out to be an advert for holidays to Turkey. More is always on the way? This could almost be the signature of the present consumer culture. In the present time, more is always regarded as desirable because we can never have enough. More »
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August 24, 2008

En Route to the Convention

I've never been to a political convention before -- a new friend offered me a guest pass to this current democratic convention in denver, and I quickly said yes. I've often watched them on tv, with great interest...I even like the roll calls, with each state proclaiming its glory, "The commonwealth of Massachusetts, home of Gardner, chair capitol of the world..." I've enjoyed that note of belonging, of pride, even while recognizing it can go in many directions: it can be divisive, caught in the vanity of "us" and "them", the path of separation and the tragedy of creating and then disdaining the "other." Or perhaps we can have that pride yet hold it lightly, and not get caught up in labels and designations as our core identity. Perhaps we can move away from tribalism and egoism and hatred of the "other" through practicing inclusion and empathy and paying attention to all. It will be a very interesting few days. More »
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August 20, 2008

Olympic protesters to be re-educated

Two elderly women in China were just sentenced to a year of re-education. Their crime? Protesting at the the Olympics. The heads of the Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism convened to ask for an apology from the government for religious discrimination. Paul Ekman says right after the Olympics will be the perfect time for the Dalai Lama and Beijing to sit down for some good faith discussions. What a nice thought. Indeed it seems the current Dalai Lama has a repsonsibility to do all he can vis a vis Beijing in his lifetime because after he is gone, the opportunity will have passed. More »
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August 19, 2008

Dharma Seed

Dharma Seed, a New Hampshire based non-profit that has been making the spoken teachings of Theravada Buddhism available to speakers of many different languages since the 1980s, has recently started converting its content from tapes and CDs to free audio files, available on their website at http://www.dharmaseed.org/. Listeners may download the talks or listen to them as streaming audio files online. After listening to a recent talk, “Five Guidelines for Practicing with Conflict” by Donald Rothberg, a member of the Executive faculty at Saybrook Graduate School in San Francisco and the Teacher’s Council of Spirit Rock Meditation Center of Woodacre, California, I immediately wanted more. At the recommendation of a Dharma Seed member, I’m turning next to Guy Armstrong, an insight meditation practitioner for over thirty-years and another member of Spirit Rock’s Teacher’s Council. Discover and share your own at http://www.dharmaseed.org/ And read more about "Five Guidelines for Practicing with Conflict:" More »
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August 19, 2008

Where are the protesters?

The New York Times reports on the lack of protesters in Beijing's designated protest zones: Ten days into the Games, the government has yet to permit a single demonstration in any of the three official protest zones. According to a report Monday by Xinhua, the official news agency, 77 applications have been received since Aug. 1, from 149 people. All but three of those applications, however, were withdrawn after the authorities satisfactorily addressed the petitioners’ concerns, Xinhua said. Two of the remaining requests were turned down because the applicants failed to provide adequate information, and the last was rejected after the authorities determined it violated China’s laws on demonstrations. More »
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August 18, 2008

Eat Less Beef II: Convenience

Yes, the ethanol-corn debate is boring. So grass makes better ethanol than corn. Yawn! We're saturated with this stuff. But read on for some eyebrow-raising numbers (maybe). Foreign Affairs, in an article updated in May 2008, pronounces: In 2008, 30 percent of the U.S. corn crop will be used for ethanol. Meanwhile the Nebraska Corn Board, on an undated page, says: Livestock continues to be the corn grower’s most stable and important customer, consuming about 45 percent of U.S. More »
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August 18, 2008

Cabbage Sutra

Sharon Salzberg's Cabbage Sutra, now on Huffington Post. More »