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December 08, 2008

Recession Hurts Recycling Efforts

Recycling has suffered with the recession. Here's more bad news: Just months after riding an incredible high, the recycling market has tanked almost in lockstep with the global economic meltdown. As consumer demand for autos, appliances and new homes dropped, so did the steel and pulp mills' demand for scrap, paper and other recyclables. Cardboard that sold for about $135 a ton in September is now going for $35 a ton. Plastic bottles have fallen from 25 cents to 2 cents a pound. Aluminum cans dropped nearly half to about 40 cents a pound, and scrap metal tumbled from $525 a gross ton to about $100. More here. More »
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December 08, 2008

The Dalai Lama meets with Sarkozy. Cue Rhetoric from Beijing

French President Nicolas Sarkozy meets with His Holiness the Dalai Lama. (And works on a GNH index along the lines of Bhutan's.) Beijing fumes. ("Unwise." "Gross interference.") Will China boycott next year's vintages? More »
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December 08, 2008

Burma: Ban Ki-Moon and Cellphones

Ban Ki-Moon will visit Burma again but won't say when. (The UN must be feeling the pinch as much as the rest of the world, but they do say airfare prices are dropping soon): Human rights groups say there are more than two thousand prisoners of conscience in Burmese jails. Mr. More »
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December 08, 2008

Very Serious Business

As Alex notes below, happiness is contagious. And so, too, may be Bhutan's Gross National Happiness (GNH) economic model, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. For decades now the Bhutanese government has been keeping its people's well-being foremost in mind when formulating economic policy, and lately, Western economists have been showing up to have a closer look. More »
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December 07, 2008

Nitty-Gritty Dharma

Inquiring Mind's 25th anniversary issue is themed—buddhistically enough—"Sickness, Old Age, Death and the Path of Practice." It's been out for a while now and it's a great read. In it Ajahn Sumedho pays a pretty harrowing visit to a Thai hospital to contemplate autopsies, but "after the aversion and proliferating tendencies stopped," he writes, I really began to observe the decaying process. Strangely enough, I found it quite beautiful—the way nature disposes of things. My judgments of beauty had been created on a conventional level, but in the here and now—being with the aversion and the disgust—I didn’t feel repelled at all by the process of decay. It was quite marvelous to watch how life consumes and takes away. More »
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December 05, 2008

Sangha Spotlight

Our Spring 2008 issue featured a story by Travis Duncan about the Air Force Academy's Vast Refuge Dharma Center—the first space on an American military base dedicated solely to meditation. But Air Force cadets aren't the only military men and women with an interest in Buddhism. It turns out that the US Naval Academy Buddhist Club offers weekly meditation classes in Annapolis, Maryland. As managing editor Alexandra Kaloyanides notes below, nirvanic pursuit can be viewed as something of a selfless task—and it seems that navel-gazing has found a natural home at the service-oriented Naval academy. For anyone interested in attending, the club meets on Sunday mornings from 10-11 am in the All Faiths Chapel in Mitscher Hall (with Kelsang Dachog) and on Tuesday evenings from 19:15-20:00 (7:15-8:00 pm) in room 107 of Luce Hall (with Don Avery). More »
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December 05, 2008

Navel-gazing as social work?

The archaic argument that arhants are selfish for focusing on their own liberation just got even weaker. A study published today in the British Journal BJM suggests that happiness is contagious, with its 20-year research showing that a neighbor's joy increases a person's chance of being happy by 34 percent. James H. Fowler, a political scientist at UC San Diego and a co-author of the study, told the New York Times that "if your friend's friend becomes happy, that has a bigger impact on you being happy than putting an extra $5,000 in your pocket." While the authors of the study are advising spreading the joy around, Fowler noted "We are not giving you the advice to start smiling at everyone you meet in New York. More »
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December 05, 2008

Matthieu Ricard

Molecular-biologist-turned-Tibetan-monk Matthieu Ricard is widely admired for his many talents, among them photography. But  Ricard's life seems best defined by his humanitarian work and devotion to the dharma. More »
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December 04, 2008

Intentional Chocolate

A holiday gift idea for your favorite sentient being with a sweet tooth: Intentional Chocolate. Earlier this fall, we received a variety pack—Love Truffles, Intentional Hot Dark Chocolate, and Dark Intentional Chocolate Pistoles—from the folks at Deer Park Buddhist Center in Oregon, Wisconsin. There, Tibetan monk and University of Wisconsin professor Geshe Lhundub Sopa blesses the chocolates with his students. According to the company's website, Intentional Chocolate has been scientifically proven to decrease stress, increase calmness, and lessen fatigue in those who consume it by up to 200%. And that's not all: More »
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December 04, 2008

Dalai Lama addresses EU Parliament

Danny Fisher points us to the Dalai Lama's address to the European parliament. Text here. More »
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December 04, 2008

Meredith Monk nominated for Grammy

Buddhist artist Meredith Monk and her vocal ensemble have been nominated for a Grammy for Best Small Ensemble Performance for their album Impermanence (ECM USA). The New York Times' Steven Smith wrote this about Monk's work: The music conveyed a dramatic arc that encompassed grief and confusion, joy conveyed through rollicking pratfalls and giddy dances, and a quiet ending of stark, powerful eloquence. More »
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December 04, 2008

Thai King a No-Show; Methane Capture in the Netherlands

In the midst of extremely difficult times in Thailand, the king failed to give his traditional birthday speech. The king’s absence was disconcerting to many Thais, who had hoped his words would help reconcile the increasingly dangerous political and social divide emerging in the country. The king, whose moral influence overrides the temporal power of politicians and generals, has intervened in the past at critical moments to avert bloodshed. “I’m frightened because everybody is waiting for his speech,” said Sujittra Chanchaicharoengul,30, a writer for a woman’s magazine. “I was shocked when I heard this. I didn’t want to believe it, because normally, no matter what, he will come as our esteemed king and the spirit of the people. More »
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December 04, 2008

Another 9/11? Let's hope not.

Although the media insists on comparing last week's terrorist assaults in Mumbai to 9/11, India's government has (so far) thankfully resisted pressure to react with the misinformed and excessive force that has characterized the U.S.'s post-9/11 war efforts. In an Op-Ed piece for today's New York Times, the Indian-Bengali author Amitav Ghosh explains that the Mumbai invasion is closer to the 2004 Madrid train bombings than it is to the 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center and makes a wise and sensitive argument for a patient response. More »
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December 03, 2008

White Buddhists vs. Asian Buddhists

Arunlikhati lays into a Buddhadharma article that talks about the future of Buddhism but mentions only white Buddhists. A Monk Amok also piles on, while in the comments, Marcus laughs off the idea that white Buddhists are "oppressing" Asian Buddhists. There's no doubt there is a disconnect between the Asian and non-Asian Buddhist communities in the West, but this seems less about Buddhism (or Buddhists) than about basic social divisions, and the article, or the teaser that is online at any rate, does not pretend to cover the entire scope of Buddhism in America but rather a specific thread. More »
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December 03, 2008

Thailand: avoiding chaos and/or stifling democracy?

Thailand has avoided a slide into chaos, says ASEAN head Surin Pitsuwan. But Gideon Rachman says all is not well and that the protests were profoundly undemocratic: Do not be fooled by the fact that the group occupying the airport call themselves the “People’s Alliance for Democracy“. Their intent is clearly anti-democratic. They have just brought down an elected government. More »
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December 03, 2008

Zen in the Land of 10,000 Lakes

Steve Hagen's Dharma Field Zen Center in Minneapolis is housed in a former church. Steve told me a few years ago it caused a bit of a stir in the neighborhood when the Zen group brought down the steeple but all was calm when I visited a few summers back. I'd gone there to meet Steve and to visit Martine and Stephen Batchelor, who were at Dharma Field leading meditations and giving talks on the life of the Buddha. More »
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December 03, 2008

Ikeda interview

Tricycle's interview with Daisaku Ikeda, founder of the Soka Gakkai International, seems to be getting serious attention in Europe, at least within the SGI community. Bernd Gast has translated the interview into German of his own accord, and we have already received two requests (granted) for rights to French translation. Look out for one of these on Yann Patin de Saulcourt's SGI website and send a heads-up to your friends across the pond. More »
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December 03, 2008

Bombay

The occasionally unhinged Christopher Hitchens (he's apparently recently quit smoking so he's even more irascible than ever) reminds us all that calling Bombay "Mumbai" is Hindu chauvanism and ought not to be indulged by the rest of the world: When Salman Rushdie wrote, in The Moor's Last Sigh in 1995, that "those who hated India, those who sought to ruin it, would need to ruin Bombay," he was alluding to the Hindu chauvinists who had tried to exert their own monopoly in the city and who had forcibly renamed it—after a Hindu goddess—Mumbai. More »
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December 02, 2008

Turmoil in Thailand

The government has fallen (but won't be going without a fight) and the airports are open. More »
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December 01, 2008

Sharon Salzberg, Slumdog Millionaire & Mother India

Last night I had the pleasure of taking Sharon Salzberg to see Danny Boyle's Slumdog Millionaire. It's an odd mix of poverty, cruelty, deprivation and high-stakes game-show  drama that culminates in Bollywood-style celebration. Go figure, but it worked. We were both pretty exhilarated—and winded—by the end of it. Over dinner the conversation drifted back to India, where Sharon spent her formative Buddhist years, a place she still considers her spiritual home. I've just received an email from Sharon tipping me off to her latest on the Huffington Post—her thoughts on India and the recent tragedy in Mumbai. You can read "Mother India" here. More »