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December 17, 2007

96 Monks Freed, and Eastern Russia Deforested

The Burmese junta has released 96 monks from the September protests -- maybe some of them will find a way to tell the story of their months in captivity. And the headline says it all: "Rapping Monks, Nuns Hit Catwalk". This one comes courtesy of The Worst Horse and was also noticed by Urban Monk. What's Wal-Mart up to now? Killing Amur (Siberian) tigers, apparently. More »
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December 13, 2007

Not Giving Up on Burma

Well, you gotta hand it to Washington. Our government, which has given up on combatting (or even admitting) human-influenced climate change, is not giving up on Burma, at least rhetorically (It helps that Iran seems to be off the table for now.) Congress is finally pushing a bill through the gridlock that will cut off some finances for the junta. About time! And Bush promises more sanctions. On another note Danny Fisher points out we can sign a petition to tell the world we don't support the Bush administration's obstruction vis a vis the Bali talks. More »
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December 12, 2007

The Bodhidharma Stupa and the Damaged Bodhi Tree

A very cool movie by Andy Ferguson on the burial site of Bodhidharma is up on YouTube. The site has only recently been rediscovered and, even more recently, been refurbished. This will become a major pilgrimage site for Zen practitioners in the years to come. Thanks to the ZenFrog for pointing it out. Visit South Mountain Tours for more info on how to get there. More »
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December 11, 2007

Burma, International Bad Boy, and the Dalai Lama Rocks Italy

The world (plus Laura Bush, whatever planet she's on) is running out of patience with Myanmar's generals, says U.N sec-gen Ban Ki Moon. It seems Burma's leaders (as well as a certain U.S. president) don't much care what the U.N. says: U.N. special envoy Ibrahim Gambari has been awaiting permission from the Burmese government to visit Burma to continue efforts to broker negotiations between the military leadership and the opposition. Gambari has been in Burma twice since the violent September crackdown on peaceful pro-democracy demonstrators. The U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva also condemned Burma again. More »
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December 11, 2007

Eat Local?

Despite Europe's interest in eating local foods to reduce food miles, "Europeans are eating — and importing — more food from outside the E.U. than ever before," according to DotEarth, a New York Times blog. In May the Times of London reported: Scottish prawns are being hand-shelled in China, Atlantic haddock caught off Scotland is being prepared in Poland and Welsh cockles are being sent to Holland to be put in jars before going on sale in Britain. Eating local is simply not possible in a world of 6.7 billion people (and counting) says Andrew Revkin, who writes the blog. So what to do? Find alternative, less-polluting fuel sources. More »
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December 10, 2007

BOOKS: Why is There Something Rather Than Nothing?

Polish philosopher Leszek Kolakowski's Why is There Something Rather Than Nothing?: 23 Questions From Great Philosophers was supposed to be longer. Or rather, it is longer in the original Polish: the English-language version (or at least the American version) drops seven philosophers, leaving twenty-three thinkers and their questions. The questions span the whole range of philosophical concern: What is the human spirit? How is knowledge possible? What is evil? What is the source of truth? Many questions are variations on what we can know and how we can be certain of anything (i.e. epistemology.) More »
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December 07, 2007

Game Over

The junta is firmly back in control, and international "efforts" to bring change to Burma has failed, according to the New York Times, and it's hard to argue. The junta toyed with the NLD and waited out the international indignation, all the while being enabled by ASEAN. And the crackdown was bloodier than reported (of course) according to Human Rights Watch. Now, back to business. Rubies, anyone? More »
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December 06, 2007

The American Nightmare

An ex-monk, Thanh Thach of Cambodia, was delivering pizza in Richmond, California on November 26th when he was gunned down by unknown assailants. He leaves a wife, Eng Heng, owner of a nail salon in San Anselmo, California and a U.S. citizen since the mid-90s, and three sons. His story reads like the dark side of the American dream, the ferocious struggle to get by in this country: Thach, who earned his U.S. citizenship in September, had recently lost his job as a mail handler at the U.S. Postal Service center in West Oakland and had been delivering pizzas for about a month. He had earned his manicurist license. How much is said in those quiet sentences. HOW TO HELP Pizza Hut has established a Thanh Thach memorial fund. More »
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December 06, 2007

Compassionate Gift-Giving and Dharma Combat

Joan Duncan Oliver wrote a piece for Tricycle about compassionate gift-giving that might help with some tricky decisions this holiday season. Singapore - City - Zen links to an amazing article on alternet.org, Dress for Excess: The Cost of Our Clothing Addiction. (S-C-Z often has great environmental links.) Here's some brief passages from the Alternet article: The numbers are astonishing. Apparel is easily the second-biggest consumer sector after food. We're spending $282 billion on new clothes annually, up from $162 billion in 1992, based on U.S. Census figures. . . More »
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December 05, 2007

Sharon Salzberg and Burma

This morning, insight meditation teacher and author Sharon Salzberg appeared with Tricycle editor James Shaheen on a show called "Be Happy, Dammit!" on Sirius radio at Lime 114 in a conversation with host Karen Salmansohn, bestselling author many books on happiness. For more on Karen, see notsalmon.com. Here's a programming schedule for the channel -- Be Happy, Dammit! airs weekdays at 8 AM East Coast time. Sharon is of course well known in the Buddhist community. More »
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December 04, 2007

Burma and Bodhi Day

More bloody confrontations unavoidable, says a Burmese monk, now in exile. (The Guardian Weekly out of the U.K. reported on November 16th (using reportage from Le Monde) that monks in Pakokku said, "If prices keep going up there will be more rallies. We didn't like the army entering the monasteries." They also reported a while ago that international outrage was fading fast over Burma. Ask Pamela Gayle White! The translator, writer, and teacher of Tibetan Buddhism is available for your questions on the tricycle website until December 21st. More »
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December 04, 2007

Is this how you feel?

This cartoon from our friend Roberto Guerra more or less sums it up: And here's a short clip of some beautiful chanting from the annual 24 Hour Nembutsu of the Amida Trust, from Pure Land Etchings. Here's a brief "Theory of Nembutsu" if you'd like to know more. The term roughly means Buddha in Mind, or Mindfulness of the Buddha, and derives, I think, from the Sanskrit Namo Amitabha Buddha. Comments clarifying this would be most welcome! - Philip Ryan, Web Editor More »
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December 04, 2007

OCD, China, and Shakespeare in Arizona

Reading about perfectionism / OCD in the New York Times. A counselor at U.C. Davis treating perfectionists gives them this advice: Leave work on time. Don’t arrive early. Take all the breaks allowed. Leave the desk a mess. Allow yourself a set number of tries to finish a job; then turn in what you have. David Brooks, in another part of the paper, talks about China being a radical meritocracy (no one leaves work on time there): When you talk to Americans, you find that they have all these weird notions about Chinese communism. You try to tell them that China isn’t a communist country anymore. It’s got a different system: meritocratic paternalism. You joke: Imagine the Ivy League taking over the shell of the Communist Party and deciding not to change the name. More »
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December 03, 2007

Burma's Protesters to be Put on Trial

BURMA: Aung Sann Suu Kyi and her National League for Democracy will not be involved in drafting Burma's new constitution, according to a spokesman for the junta. The junta also dismissed the September protests as "trivial." But the protesters will nevertheless be put on trial, in a complete mockery of due process. Ecologists are complaining about China's dams in Burma. More »
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December 03, 2007

BOOKS: Nonviolence by Mark Kurlansky, and Gandhi on Nonviolence edited by Thomas Merton

NONVIOLENCE is published by the Modern Library/Random House; GANDHI ON NONVIOLENCE, edited by Thomas Merton, is soon to be reissued by New Directions Press. More »
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November 30, 2007

Maggin Monastery Shut Down by Burmese Junta

More bad news from Burma: While Aung San Suu Kyi meets again with the representatives of the junta delegated to keep her busy, Maggin monastery, supposedly linked to the protests, is shut down. The abbot of Maggin, Sayadaw U Indaka, has been arrested and is held in an undisclosed location. Maggin Monastery, located in Rangoon, is a sanctuary for HIV / AIDS patients from rural areas seeking treatment in the big city. "Closing a monastery is unprecedented in recent history," said a Burmese journalist who visited the monastery to confirm the closure. "Authorities have seen Maggin monastery as a camp of political activists. More »
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November 29, 2007

Religious Market Share

In its December 2007 issue (p. 26 or so), National Geographic reports on World Religions (with helpful and colorful diagrams.) The world breaks down this way: 33% Christian, 21% Muslim, 14% Nonbelievers, 13% Hindus, 12% Other, 6% Buddhist, and a small amount of Jews, some fraction of 1%. The data comes from 2005, courtesy of the World Christian Database (Center for the Study of Global Christianity at the Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary) and there is nothing about number or methods. It doesn't really matter -- Americans are mostly interested in the Muslim figures in studies like this. The Nonbelievers figure is probably skewed by Communist countries, which all rank very high in Nonbelievers, with the exception of Laos -- and frankly I'm very skeptical as to what their data is on Laos anyway. This is all about Market Share. More »
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November 28, 2007

Arrests Continue in Burma

Sad but apparently true: Amnesty International has condemned the continuing arrests of political activists inside Burma despite what it says was the government's pledge to stop. The London-based rights group on Tuesday published details of the arrest of several activists since early November. Amnesty says Burmese Prime Minister Thein Sein made a commitment to Ibrahim Gambari to halt the arrests when the U.N. special envoy met with him earlier this month. Thein Sein is not to be confused with the junta's supremo, Than Shwe, also known as the Bulldog. Also, Burmese refugees settle in the Washingon, D.C. area. No word on which candidate they're leaning for -- oh, wait. They'll never be given citizenship in post-9/11 America. More »
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November 28, 2007

Resacralizing the Holidays: Holy Day Mindfulness

This is a guest post by Lama Surya Das (that was supposed to be published before Thanksgiving.) As the holydays start coming upon us, fast and furious, I like to turn back to spiritual readings and teachings to refresh and remind me what it's all about. Of course, having been called the 'Ocean of Questions,' I like to start with questions and then live mindfully into them. So first my HolyDay questions: What is this really all about? Why are we here? What are we doing? And what is important and really matters? Aren't these all part of life's big questions, anyway? More »
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November 27, 2007

Protests at Bodh Gaya, Korean Idyll, and Tibet House Auction

Danny Fisher alerts us to the protests at Bodh Gaya -- protests against the Myanamar junta, that is. There is a strong Burmese presence in Bodh Gaya, Burma being not so far away. (Since the monks mentioned are wearing yellow, not red, they are more likely to be Sri Lankan, perhaps, than Burmese.) Beautiful account (plus photos!) of a visit to Korea on the always entertaining Dreaming of Danzan Ravjaa. Our friends at Tibet House are teaming up with Christie's for an auction on December 5th. What's up for grabs? Works by Donald Baechler, Lynn Davis and Annie Leibovitz, exotic trips and a guitar autographed by Dave Matthews. More »