23 Aug, 04:13PM in sunny Singapore!

Recent Posts by Aik TC

Subscribe to Recent Posts by Aik TC

  • Moderator
    Aik TC's Avatar
    1,511 posts since Jun '10
    • Vision and Routine

      Bhikkhu Bodhi SUMMER 2010 tricycle

      Why you need both to strike a balance

      All human activity can be viewed as an interplay between two contrary but equally essential factors—vision and repetitive routine. Vision is the creative element in activity, whose presence ensures that over and above the settled conditions pressing down upon us from the past we still enjoy a margin of openness to the future, a freedom to discern more meaningful ends and to discover more efficient ways to achieve them. Repetitive routine, in contrast, provides the conservative element in activity. It is the principle that accounts for the persistence of the past in the present, and it enables the successful achievements of the present to be preserved intact and faithfully transmitted to the future.

      Although they pull in opposite directions—the one toward change, the other toward stability—vision and routine mesh in a variety of ways, and every course of action can be found to participate to some extent in both. For any particular action to be both meaningful and effective, the attainment of a healthy balance between the two is necessary. When one factor prevails at the expense of the other, the consequences are often undesirable. If we are bound to a repetitive cycle of work that deprives us of our freedom to inquire and understand things for ourselves, we soon stagnate, crippled by the chains of routine. If we are spurred to action by elevating ideals but lack the discipline to implement them, we may eventually find ourselves wallowing in idle dreams or exhausting our energies on frivolous pursuits. It is only when accustomed routines are infused by vision that they become springboards to discovery rather than deadening ruts. And it is only when inspired vision gives birth to a course of repeatable actions that we can bring our ideals down from the ethereal sphere of imagination to the somber realm of fact. It took a flash of genius for Michelangelo to behold the figure of David invisible in a shapeless block of stone, but it required years of training, and countless blows with hammer and chisel, to work the miracle that would leave us a masterpiece of art.

      These reflections concerning the relationship between vision and routine are equally applicable to the practice of the Buddhist path. Like all other human activities, the treading of the way to the cessation of suffering requires that the intelligent grasp of new disclosures of truth be fused with the patient and stabilizing discipline of repetition. The factor of vision enters the path under the heading of right view—as the understanding of the undistorted truths concerning our lives and as the continued penetration of those same truths through deepening contemplation and reflection. The factor of repetition enters the path as the onerous task imposed by the practice itself: the need to undertake specific modes of training and to cultivate them diligently in the prescribed sequence until they yield their fruit. The course of spiritual growth along the Buddhist path might in fact be conceived as an alternating succession of stages in which, during one phase, the element of vision predominates, and during the next the element of routine. It is a flash of vision that opens our inner eye to the essential meaning of the dharma, gradual training that makes our insight secure, and again the urge for still more vision that propels the practice forward to its culmination in final knowledge.

      Though the emphasis may alternate from phase to phase, ultimate success in the development of the path always hinges upon balancing vision with routine in such a way that each can make its optimal contribution. However, because our minds are keyed to fix upon the new and distinctive, in our practice we are prone to place a one-sided emphasis on vision at the expense of repetitive routine. Thus we are elated by expectations concerning the stages of the path far beyond our reach, while at the same time we tend to neglect the lower stages—dull and drab, but far more urgent and immediate—lying just beneath our feet. To adopt this attitude, however, is to forget the crucial fact that vision always operates upon a groundwork of previously established routine and must in turn give rise to new patterns of routine adequate to the attainment of its intended aim. If we are to close the gap between ideal and actuality—between the envisaged aim of striving and the lived experience of our everyday lives—it is necessary for us to pay greater heed to the task of repetition. Every wholesome thought, every pure intention, every effort to train the mind represents a potential for growth along the Noble Eightfold Path. But to be converted from a mere potential into an active power leading to the end of suffering, the fleeting, wholesome thought formations must be repeated, fostered, and cultivated, made into enduring qualities of our being. Feeble in their individuality, when their forces are consolidated by repetition they acquire a strength that is invincible.

       

      The key to development along the Buddhist path is repetitive routine guided by inspirational vision. It is the insight into final freedom—the peace and purity of a liberated mind—that uplifts us and impels us to overcome our limits. But it is by repetition—the methodical cultivation of wholesome practices—that we cover the distance separating us from the goal and draw ever closer to awakening.

  • Moderator
    Aik TC's Avatar
    1,511 posts since Jun '10
    • Can Buddhist Practices Help Us Overcome The Biological Pull Of Dissatisfaction?

      August 07, 2017 Terry Gross wbur

      "There's a kind of a bridge between cognitive therapy and Buddhist practice in evolutionary psychology," says author Robert Wright.

      Are human beings hard-wired to be perpetually dissatisfied? Author Robert Wright, who teaches about the interface of evolutionary biology and religion, thinks so.

      Wright points out that evolution rewards people for seeking out pleasure rather than pain, which helps ensure that human beings are frequently unsatisfied: "We are condemned to always want things to be a little different, always want a little more," he says. "We're not designed by natural selection to be happy."

      But all is not lost. In his new book, Why Buddhism is True, Wright makes the case that some Buddhist practices can help humans overcome the biological pull towards dissatisfaction.

      "I think of mindfulness meditation as almost a rebellion against natural selection," he says. "Natural selection is the process that created us. It gave us our values. It sets our agenda, and Buddhism says, 'We don't have to play this game.' "

      Interview Highlights

      On how natural selection is at odds with the Buddhist notion that pleasure is fleeting

      This was in the Buddha's first sermon after his enlightenment is that a big source of our suffering is that we crave things, we want things, but then the gratification tends not to last. So we find ourselves in a state of almost perennial dissatisfaction. And, in fact, people may have heard that Buddhism says that life is full of suffering, and it's true that suffering is the translation of the word dukkha. It's a respectable translation, but a lot of people think that that word would be just as well translated as "unsatisfactoryness."

      Certainly when you think about the logic of natural selection, it makes sense that we would be like this. Natural selection built us to do some things, a series of things that help us get genes into the next generation. Those include eating food so we stay alive, having sex — things like that.

      If it were the case that any of these things brought permanent gratification, then we would quit doing them, right? I mean, you would eat, you'd feel blissed out, you'd never eat again. You'd have sex, you'd, like, lie there basking in the afterglow, never have sex again. Well, obviously that's not a prescription for getting genes into the next generation. So natural selection seems to have built animals in general to be recurrently dissatisfied. And this seems to be a central feature of life — and it's central to the Buddhist diagnosis of what the problem is.

      On how to approach physical pain with mindfulness

      A basic principle of mindfulness meditation is to not run away from feelings that you normally run away from. By "run away from" I mean you're averse to them. Like, if you feel anxiety or physical pain, you want it to go away. You want to do something that makes it go away. And the idea of mindfulness meditation is that you actually sit there — kind of observe the feeling, experience the feeling — and ironically, that can give you a kind of critical distance from it, a kind of detachment from it. So not running away from the pain or the emotional distress, or whatever, can, through meditative practice, disempower the pain or the distress.

      On how Buddhist meditation can counteract the biological pull towards dissatisfaction

      What I can say about meditation is that it attacks the levers that natural selection kind of uses to control us, at a very fundamental level. ... By our nature we just seek good feelings and avoid bad feelings, that's just our nature. Buddhism diagnosed this as kind of a problem and remarkably came up with a technique that allows you to actually disempower those levers, to no longer respond to the fundamental incentive structure of trying to avoid painful feelings and try to always seek the thing that promises to be gratifying. That's an amazing thing — that it can work.

      On how cognitive behavioral therapy and Buddhism work together

      Cognitive Behavioral Therapy works by kind of interrogating people about the logic behind things like fears and anxieties, like, Is there really much of a chance of you projectile vomiting while speaking to a crowd? You've never done it before. ... So there's a suspicion there about the logic behind feelings.

       

      Well, in Buddhism there's a suspicion of the logic behind feelings more broadly, I would say. But as a practical matter, Buddhism works at the level of feeling. They don't interrogate the logic explicitly, but you deal with the feeling itself in a way that disempowers it. And there's a kind of bridge between cognitive therapy and Buddhist practice in evolutionary psychology; because evolutionary psychology explains that, indeed, a lot of the feelings we have are not worth following, for various reasons. They may have literally been designed to mislead us to begin with by natural selection. ... We live in an environment so different from the environment that natural selection designed us for that we have these counterproductive feelings, like fear of public speaking. So evolutionary psychology gives a back story, explaining why it is that we so often are misled by feelings ... and then Buddhist meditation tells us what to do about that.

  • Moderator
    Aik TC's Avatar
    1,511 posts since Jun '10
    • From Buddhist Monk to Merrill Lynch Chairman, the story of Michael Dobbs-Higginson

      BD Dipananda Buddhistdoor Global | 2017-08-04 |

      Michael Dobbs-Higginson, ordained as a lay Buddhist monk in Japan at age 22 and erstwhile Merrill Lynch chairman, shares his unique life story in his new memoir A Raindrop in the Ocean: The Life of a Global Adventurer. The most fundamental period of his life was his stay at a Buddhist monastery on a mountain in Japan, where he battled hardship to find untapped reserves of resilience that would last him a lifetime.

      His personal doctrine, the result of a lifetime of learning, is based on Buddhist principles with a sprinkling of Western morality added to the mix. It is his way of securing balance—not happiness—and has aided him in maintaining a relaxed and confident demeanor thoughout.

      “I don’t look for happiness; that is a Walt Disney construct,” Dobbs-Higginson said in a recent interview. “The search for happiness is a very ephemeral one. If you and the world around you are in balance, you are naturally peaceful. Peacefulness is one thing, but happiness is trite.” (The Telegraph)

      His auto-biography tells the story of how Dobbs-Higginson was raised in colonial Rhodesia (a territory that corresponds to modern-day Zimbabwe) and went on to roam the world as a teenager. It includes tales of bed-hopping, drug-smuggling, and shady business deals, written as if by a master storyteller, while sharing a religious philosophy based on Japanese Buddhism.

      Dobbs-Higginson was ordained as a lay Buddhist monk in 1963, at the age of 22, at Shino-In, the headquarters of the Shingon school of Japanese Buddhism on Mount Koya. He was the first Westerner to be accepted into the 1,200-year-old Buddhist tradition. Now 75, Dobbs-Higginson is calmly facing his greatest challenge yet; the downhill battle against a terminal illness.

      After studying medicine in Dublin, logging in Canada, and teaching surfing in Hawaii, Dobbs-Higginson describes how he moved back to Japan, where he set up several businesses before being chased out of the country by ruthless Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) operatives, after refusing to participate in their operations. He then realtes how he went on to become the chairman of Merrill Lynch Asia-Pacific, and is still involved in various startups developing electric vehicles and drones for Asia, and an e-commerce platform for Africa.

      When asked how he reconciled his career as a banker with his monastic principles, he answered: “If I was joining the mafia to smuggle drugs, that would be a moral question, but joining investment banking, I was actually doing some good. I felt that I was giving opportunity to people who might not otherwise have had it, and in those days we were not paid those grotesque sums.” (The Telegraph)

      His philosophy for life, he explains, is built up out of three parts: minimizing the ego, encouraging curiosity, and focusing on substance rather than form. This last notion came from his mother: “My mother was a sort of quasi-mystic, and very interested in comparative theology,” Dobbs-Higginson recounts. “And when I was about six or seven, about to leave for boarding school, she said: ‘I want to tell you something.

      “She said ‘you’ve got to understand that life is about form and substance. Most people focus on form, because that’s the easy part, and that’s usually driven by the ego. But substance is really what the person is made of; what their moral value systems are and who they really are—so focus on substance.’” (Citya.M. Newsletters)

       

      At 75, he still leads a full life, despite his illness, with three children, six grandchildren, and his wife Marie-Thérèse.

  • Moderator
    Aik TC's Avatar
    1,511 posts since Jun '10
    • ... and rights groups say may amount to crimes against humanity by the army. According to reports, the State Counsellor did not change her stance on the issue – she denies claims of ethnic cleansing on behalf of the security forces – even ...

  • Moderator
    Aik TC's Avatar
    1,511 posts since Jun '10
    •  

      I have read an article before where missionaries and volunteer workers from resource rich churches outside of Nepal manage to convert quite a lot of Tibetans soon after the last earthquake struck Nepal. All that is needed is to provide them with a few goats or a buffalo and the deal is done.

      I believe they know how to move very fast as is also the case in Cambodia soon after the collapse of the Khmer Rouge regime and in Sri Lanka after the tsunami struck Aceh in 2004. Very enterprising and certainly a very cheap way of increasing your followings.

      And now we have the Pope looking at Myanmar and Bangladesh this coming November.

      Edited by Aik TC 18 Aug `17, 7:19PM
  • Moderator
    Aik TC's Avatar
    1,511 posts since Jun '10
    • ... Rimal, a local Hindu priest, accepts this. “Untouchability is a weakness in Hinduism … these things need to be changed,” he says. But in the battle for souls, Rimal feels Hinduism is losing out to a more powerful force. “...

  • Moderator
    Aik TC's Avatar
    1,511 posts since Jun '10
    •  

      Mindfulness Meets Maria, A Modern Blend Of Buddhism And Christianity

      Martín Reynoso WORLDCRUNCH 2017-07-25

      Like many in Argentina, psychiatrist Martín Reynoso was raised Catholic. But as time went on, his approach to the modern world began to involve meditation and mindfulness.

      BUENOS AIRES — I am a Buddho-Christian — thoroughly, and literally. I've kept my family's basic Christian casing, but found I needed more than that in this contemporary world. Thus, like so many people today, I embraced certain Buddhist principles. And I must say, I find them enormously helpful and enriching. This is why I say I have a Buddho-Christian mind. It has a powerful Christian base, but with certain secular principles of Buddhism that I embraced, little by little, in an effort to simply feel better.

      My basic Christian framework is fairly robust. My father was a seminarian who nearly became a priest (and luckily did not), had three nun sisters and a very devout dad who practiced the Catholic rites. Though both my father and mother, who was also very Catholic, I assimilated the Roman Apostolic religion in all its purity but without the rigidity or severity I noticed in some families in our neighborhood.

      The progression toward the Catholic sacraments and rituals were a leitmotiv of my childhood and youth, though I was fortunate not to be trapped in a hermetic or self-sufficient system that distanced me from friends and neighbors. Our neighborhood was a space where strict or dogmatic beliefs regularly lost ground to drinking, free speech and youthful irreverence in all its manifestations. Life gushed forth in so many forms and colors beyond anything the scriptures would stipulate as right or commendable. At times I even found this a little disturbing.

      I learned a lot from my friends, neighbors and immediate environment as I wound my way through the streets without strict hours or parental discipline. All this constituted the first blow to the structure of my Christian foundations. I had to negotiate between ethical values and the malleable rules of adaptation; between spotless good deeds for others and fierce competition between the generations; and between repressing the sexual impulse and seducing even more brazenly on the street. I understood that I must, slowly, soften my hard religious nucleus to be happy.

      I began saying as a young man what I had criticized in others as a teenager, namely that, "I believe in God but do not practice regularly." Mass on Sunday and habitual celebrations began to fade as I became a more rational, scientific man. That was the second step.

      Science and secularization

      Gradually science came to permeate all my life. As I took my distance from the Catholic religion (in the general context of secularization), I moved closer — and with some fervor — to the principles of the scientific vision of the world. Objectivity, and the need to explain and duly contrast everything, became a central component of my thinking.

      I grew more skeptical, not to mention more rigid. People can adopt certain airs of superiority when they begin expressing the scientific vision as nothing short of reality, without realizing that it is just one way of seeing and explaining. Causality was the main rule of my life at the time, and everything had to be explained on the basis of the most direct and rational vision of phenomena.

       It helped me begin a fuller life.

      At our psychology department, the dilemma was between physics, the scientific model, and psychological science. We spent much time trying to establish a more flexible conceptual framework with new methods and approximations in studying the complex "human creature." But then, a health problem led me to the next phase.

      Mindfulness and its principles

      I came to know mindfulness when I fell ill. While their use in science is detached from their ideological and religious origins, the principles of Buddhism shine through like a background that clarifies the vision we gradually build.

      Practicing meditation helped me start connecting with my body and fully live through it, cleanse it of tensions, and recognize those rigid thoughts of mine (some of Christian origin) and the dualist morality that generated guilt and sometimes pain in me. It helped me begin a fuller life.

      Concepts like impermanence, the illusions of the mind (which work like filters we do not perceive), the source of suffering and the compassionate way to work with that, and especially reeducating our mind with a simple but impeccable system, came to profoundly affect me, and I continue to try and integrate these with my original conception of the world and its events.

       

      I feel happy with this choice, though I still feel I have a long way to go before I adjust my life to these principles. Which is why I say I have a Buddho-Christian mind, like so many other people seeking their own wellbeing today. I do not so much see this as hybridization as an overriding integration of principles to attain the main objective of any human being: to be happy.

  • Moderator
    Aik TC's Avatar
    1,511 posts since Jun '10
    •  

      This is an excerpt of Jayarava's Raves definition of ‘Karma and Rebirth’ from BWB website which might be of some interest. Here is his definition on both subjects:

      My attempt at a non-controversial definition of Buddhist karma and rebirth is as follows: Karma is the Anglicised word for the process that links consequences (phala, vipāka) to actions (karman), as well as the actions themselves. Because karma does not immediately manifest as consequences, it accumulates over time. The main consequence of karma is rebirth (punarbhava), but karma may also manifest as sensation (vedanā). Rebirth is governed by a theory of how experiences arise, i.e. by dependent arising (pratītya-samutpāda). Enlightened people don't make new karma. When enlightened people die they are not reborn.

      The doctrine of karma is the Buddhist version of the just-world myth and like other versions is tied to an afterlife in which the injustice of this life is balanced out. This myth produces a cognitive bias, in the Wikipedia definition:

      "The just-world hypothesis or just-world fallacy is the cognitive bias (or assumption) that a person's actions are inherently inclined to bring morally fair and fitting consequences to that person, to the end of all noble actions being eventually rewarded and all evil actions eventually punished. In other words, the just-world hypothesis is the tendency to attribute consequences to—or expect consequences as the result of—a universal force that restores moral balance."

      If we replaced "just-world hypothesis" with "Buddhist karma" in this statement, we would have a serviceable definition of karma. All the major religions have a version of this myth. And yet the world clearly is not fair or just. Evil actions go unpunished and good actions go unrewarded. The idea that actions always have timely and appropriate consequences is debunked by lived experience. And this inevitably leads religions to link the myth of the just-world with the myth of the afterlife. Judgement and reward in the afterlife is how religions rationalise an unjust world.

      The doctrine of rebirth is the Buddhist version of the Myth of the Afterlife. This myth is correlated with the cognitive dissonance associated with the knowledge of our own inevitable death. Life "wants" to go on, self-conscious beings consciously want to live forever but come to understand that they die. In the tension of the irresistible force (life) meeting the immovable object (death), the afterlife is born and thrives.

      A seldom noticed feature of the Buddhism version of the afterlife is the bifurcation into a metaphysical narrative and a moral one. Buddhist metaphysicians have always stressed that the relation between us and our rebirths is governed by dependent arising (pratītyasamutpāda). This is first and foremost a description of how mental states arise, but is applied in all sort of other ways. Thus the one who acts is neither identical with or totally different from the one who experiences the consequences. The latter arises in dependence on the former. Buddhist moralists (often the same people in a different didactic mode) emphasise that actions have consequences for us. Many suttas and all jātakas explicitly relate how actions rebound on us in subsequent lives, or that what we now experience is the result of our actions in a past life.

      I conjecture that this moral version of the Buddhist afterlife is necessary because without a strong connection between action and consequence for the agent, morality is not possible. That this contradicts Buddhist metaphysics is not problematised in Buddhism teaching, it is simply that in switching from one mode to the other, Buddhists simply ignore the contradiction. I don't see this as a disputed teaching, since the ability to segue back and forth between metaphysical and moral discourses with respect to the afterlife seems to be universal.

      Pure Land Buddhism completely circumvented karma by introducing the concept of a living Buddha from another universe responding to our cries for help. Now karma doesn't matter because it can all be over-ridden by Amitābha who, simply because we call his name, ensures a good rebirth and subsequent liberation. The magic of the name is so powerful that it can overcome aeons of bad karma.

      Everything else about karma and rebirth seems to be complex and disputed. There are a number of main areas of contention related to karma and rebirth. The next section of this essay will set out these areas.

      Continues at the link: http://jayarava.blogspot.co.uk/search/label/Rebirth

       

      Any comments on what he have said? 

      Edited by Aik TC 16 Aug `17, 7:37PM
  • Moderator
    Aik TC's Avatar
    1,511 posts since Jun '10
    • Unmasking the Self

      Toni Packer SPRING 2013 tricycle

      Unmasking the Self

      Awareness cannot be taught, and when it is present it has no context. All contexts are created by thought and are therefore corruptible by thought. Awareness simply throws light on what is, without any separation whatsoever.

      Awareness, insight, enlightenment, wholeness—whatever words one may pick to label what cannot be caught in words—is not the effect of a cause. Activity does not destroy it and sitting does not create it. It isn’t a product of anything—no technique, method, environment, tradition, posture, activity, or nonactivity can create it. It is there, uncreated, freely functioning in wisdom and love, when self-centered conditioning is clearly revealed in all its grossness and subtleness and defused in the light of understanding.

      Can the inner noise be entirely left alone while attending? When the changing states of body-mind are simply left to themselves without any choice or judgment—left unreacted to by a controlling or repressive will—a new quietness emerges by itself.

      Sitting motionlessly quiet, for minutes or hours, regardless of length of time, is being in touch with the movements of the body—mind, gross and subtle, dull and clear, shallow and deep—without any opposition, resistance, grasping, or escape. It is being in intimate touch with the whole network of thoughts, sensations, feelings, and emotions without judging them good or bad, right or wrong—without wanting anything to continue or stop. It is an inward seeing without knowing, an open sensitivity to what is going on inside and out—flowing without grasping or accumulation. Stillness in the midst of motion and commotion is free of will, direction, and time. It is a complete letting be of what is from moment to moment.

       

      Sitting quietly, doing nothing, not knowing what is next and not concerned with what was or what may be next, a new mind is operating that is not connected with the conditioned past and yet perceives and understands the whole mechanism of conditioning. It is the unmasking of the self that is nothing but masks—images, memories of past experiences, fears, hopes, and the ceaseless demand to be something or become somebody. This new mind that is no-mind is free of duality—there is no doer in it and nothing to be done.

  • Moderator
    Aik TC's Avatar
    1,511 posts since Jun '10
    • Meditation Alone Is Not Enough

      Judy Lief May 6, 2016 tricycle

      The practice of mindfulness-awareness meditation does not take place in a vacuum.

      Meditation Alone Is Not Enough

      We all have preconceptions, we all have points of view. Not only do we have ideas, but we have opinions and countless judgments, especially about other people. We may hope to free ourselves from such a tangle, but usually what we find is that we just exchange one set of preconceptions for another. Is meditation enough?

      The practice of mindfulness-awareness meditation does not take place in a vacuum. It happens within a certain context and point of view. In the Buddhist tradition, meditation is often presented in the context of view, meditation, and action. Each of these three is essential, as a system of checks and balances.

      VIEW

      If we do not understand the view, the practice of meditation can be more of a trap than means of freeing ourselves from deception. Without an understanding of nontheism and the motivation to benefit others, meditation practice can degenerate into self-absorption and escapism. Rather than loosening our ego-clinging, it could further perpetuate our ignorance and grasping.

      Meditation practice is a way of loosening our solidity.

      Rather than connecting us to our world, it could draw us away from it. Meditation practice could even be a tool of aggression, a way of clearing the mind before going out to commit our next murder. Meditation in and of itself is no magical cure-all. Proper understanding and proper motivation are important. The view informs the practice.

      Likewise, meditation balances view. Meditation practice is a way of loosening our solidity. Without practice, even the most inspired view can become rigid ideology. The practice of meditation brings out the futility and limitations of holding any rigid view.

      We see the nature of our attachment to particular viewpoints, and the simplicity of letting such views dissolve. The irony is that the proper motivation and view are essential, and at the same time, it is also essential not to grasp any view.

      ACTION

      Action, the third component, is a balance to both view and meditation. Meditation does not matter that much if it has no effect on the rest of our life. Likewise, we could be filled with empty words that do not lead to any change whatsoever in our life or our relationship with others. We need to act on our understanding and our awareness.

      Action, like view and meditation, does not stand alone. Action without clarity of view is blundering and apt to cause more harm than good. And action without meditation tends to be speedy and complex, rather than spaciousness and simple. But if these three factors are in balance, clarity of view and meditative awareness permeate all our activities.

      In the Buddhist path we are bringing together our actions, our view, and our practice. It is a balance of awareness, insight, and action, working harmoniously together. In that way our energy is no longer divided or scattered, but we are fully present in whatever we do. That is what it means to be a genuine human being.

      In Buddhism, the point is not simply to be accomplished meditators but to change our whole approach to life. Meditation is not merely a useful technique or mental gymnastic, but part of a balanced system designed to change the way we go about things at the most fundamental level. In this context, it is a way of exposing and uprooting the core problems of grasping and ego-clinging that separate us from one another and cause endless pain.

      NOT JUST MEDITATION

      There are many varieties of meditation and many different contexts in which it occurs. Even within the Buddhist tradition, there are many varieties of meditation and many differences of opinion as to what meditation is all about. Yet, wherever it turns up, it is colored by one set of preconceptions or another. Nowadays, people pluck techniques such as meditation from their traditional contexts, mix and match practices from very different traditions, and apply them in new settings.

      The technique may be there, but there is no heart.

      Meditation practice is increasingly presented in a secular way, free of religious trappings. In the United States, this tends to place it in the general category of self-help techniques. As a result, meditation has been de-mystified for many people, who see it as one aspect of a healthy lifestyle, like working out or eating healthy food.

      Meditation is used as therapy, to calm people down, as healing (to lower blood pressure, for instance, or deal with pain), and even as a way to get ahead in business, or win at sports. It is gradually becoming part of the mainstream. This is not unlike what has happened to the practice of yoga, once viewed as a sophisticated system of spiritual training, and now offered regularly. The technique may be there, but there is no heart.

       

      There is a danger that the practice of meditation could be similarly reduced. The very technique designed to undermine the power of ego-fixation could become another feather in our ego-cap.

  • Moderator
    Aik TC's Avatar
    1,511 posts since Jun '10
    • To You-17 frank pieces of life advice from a Zen master

      Kodo Sawaki Roshi WINTER 2015 tricycle

      Kodo Sawaki Roshi [1880–1965], or “Homeless Kodo,” as he came to be known, was one of the most influential Soto Zen teachers of the 20th century. Born in 1880 and orphaned in early childhood, Sawaki ran away from his caretaker at the age of 16 to become a monk. Not long after he was ordained, he was drafted into the Imperial Japanese Army and served during the Russo-Japanese War of 1904–05. When the war concluded, he returned to his study of Zen, eventually taking responsibility of Antaiji Shichikurin Sanzen Dojo in 1949. Sawaki was by no means a conventional abbot, however, and instead of attending to administrative duties at the temple, he roamed around the country of Japan in order to teach zazen [meditation] to laypeople, an endeavor he dubbed the “Moving Monastery.” His efforts both earned him the appellation “Homeless” and established him as a pioneer of the repopularization of sitting practice within Japan.

      What follows is an abridged version of a collection of his sayings, called “To You,” which were compiled by Sawaki’s successor, Uchiyama Roshi. Unpublished in full, a selection can be found on Antaiji’s website, from which this text was taken. It has been translated from the Japanese original by Muho Noelke, the current abbot of Antaiji, and Reiho Haasch, a teacher in the lineage.

      Sawaki is especially known for his nomadic lifestyle and for emphasizing the importance of meditation over the study of texts or working with koans. If his words here are any indication, however, he must also be remembered for his charismatic and direct style of communication, which can sometimes border on the irreverent. Are you worried about your career? Fighting with your spouse?

      Complaining about how busy you are? Homeless Kodo has a piece of advice for you. We just can’t guarantee it’s the advice you’ll want to hear.

      1. To you who have just begun brooding over life

      In a part of Manchuria, the carts are pulled by huge dogs. The driver hangs a piece of meat in front of the dog’s nose, and the dog runs like crazy to try to get at it. But of course he can’t. He’s only thrown his meat after the cart has finally reached its destination. Then in a single gulp, he swallows it down.

      It’s exactly the same with people and their paychecks. Until the end of the month they run after the salary hanging in front of their noses. Once the salary is paid, they gulp it down, and they’re already off: running after the next payday. Nobody can see farther than the end of their nose.

      The question is: why are you straining your forehead so much?

      If you aren’t careful, you’ll spend your whole life doing nothing besides waiting for your ordinary-person hopes to someday be fulfilled.

      2. To you who can’t stop worrying about how others see you

      You can’t trade even a single fart with the next guy. Each and every one of us has to live out his own life. Don’t waste time thinking about who’s most talented.

      The eyes don’t say, “Sure we’re lower, but we see more.” The eyebrows don’t reply, “Sure we don’t see anything, but we are higher up.”

      The nose can’t replace the eyes, and the mouth can’t replace the ears.

      Everything has its own identity, which is unsurpassable in the whole universe.

      3. To you who are totally exhausted from fighting with your spouse

      The question isn’t who’s right. You’re simply seeing things from different points of view.

      It all begins when we say “I.” Everything that follows is illusion.

      Stop trying to be something special—just be what you are. Hold fire. Just sit!

      4. To you who think there’s something to being “in”

      You’re always hanging on to others. If somebody’s eating French fries, you want French fries too. If somebody’s sucking on a candy, you want a candy too. If somebody’s blowing on a pennywhistle, you scream, “Mommy, buy me a pennywhistle too!” And that doesn’t just go for children.

      When spring comes, you let spring turn your head. When autumn comes, you let autumn turn your head. Everyone is just waiting for something to turn their head. Some even make a living turning heads—they produce advertising.

      One at a time people are still bearable, but when they form cliques, they start to get stupid. They fall into group stupidity.

      We live in group stupidity and confuse this insanity with true experience. It is essential that you become transparent to yourself and wake up from this madness. Zazen means taking leave of the group and walking on your own two feet.

      5. To you whose life is about money, money, and more money

      Human happiness and unhappiness doesn’t only depend on money. If the balance in your savings account were a measure of your happiness, it would be a simple matter. Yet it really isn’t so.

      Don’t be so helpless that you start saying you need money to live. In this world you can lead a fine life without savings.

      Some think they’re important because they have money. Others think they’re important because they have “satori” [enlightenment]. But no matter how much you puff up your personal sack of flesh, you won’t make yourself into any- thing besides a devil.

      That which doesn’t belong to you fills the entire universe. Where personal thoughts come to an end is where the buddhadharma begins.

      6. To you who would like more money, love, status, and fame

      Stupidity means being preoccupied with your own body. Wisdom says, “I am what I am, no matter how things end up.”

      Once during the war [the Russo-Japanese War, 1904–05] I visited a coal mine. With the same outfit and headlamp as the miners, I got into the lift and down we went. At one point when we were going down it seemed to me as if suddenly we were going up again. But when I looked with the lamp at the wall of the shaft, I saw that we were still going down. In the beginning when we were accelerating downward, we could really feel that we were going downward. It was only when the velocity changed that it seemed to us as if we were going up again. In exactly the same way, when we think about our lives, we always go wrong when we mistake the fluctuating amounts for the sum.

      Losing is satori. Winning is illusion.

      Not coveting a single thing is the greatest gift you can give to the universe.

      7. To you who would like to leave your rivals in the dust

      We often wonder who here is really better. But aren’t we all made out of the same lump of clay?

      Everyone should sit firmly anchored in the place where there is no better and worse.

      Your whole life you’re completely out of your mind because you think it’s obvious that there is a “you” and “the others.” You put on an act to stand out in a crowd, but in reality there’s neither “you” nor “the others.”

      Buddhadharma means seamlessness. What seam runs between you and me? Sooner or later we all end up acting as if a seam separates friend and foe. When we get too used to this, we believe that this seam really exists.

      Poor and rich, important and unimportant—none of that exists. It’s only glitter on the waves.

      8. To you who are sobbing because somebody’s put one over on you

      All beings are mistaken: we see as happiness that which leads to unhappiness, and weep over an unhappiness which isn’t unhappiness at all. We all know the child whose tears suddenly turn into laughter when you give him a cookie. What we living beings call happiness isn’t much more than that.

      At some point you’ve got to slap yourself in the face and seriously ask yourself: is your personal gain or loss really worth this overwhelming joy and suffering?

      Sooner or later everyone starts thinking of nothing besides themselves. You say, “That was good!” But what was good? It was only good for you personally, that’s all.

      A person with big desires is easily fooled. Even the greatest con man can’t profit from a person with no desires.

      Buddhism means no self, nothing to gain.

      9. To you who are tumbling down the career ladder

      When you’re dead and you look back at your life, you’ll see that none of this mattered in the least.

      Fortune and misfortune, good and bad—not everything is how it looks to your eyes. It’s not how you think it is either. We’ve got to go beyond fortune and misfortune, good and bad.

      Suffering is nothing more than the suffering we create for ourselves.

      10. To you who are complaining all the time that you haven’t got any time

      Everybody complains that they’re so busy they haven’t got any time. But why are they so busy? It’s only their illusions that keep them busy. A person who practices zazen has time. When you practice zazen, you have more time than anyone else in the world.

      If you aren’t careful, you’ll start making a big fuss just to feed yourself. You’re constantly in a hurry, but why? Just to feed yourself. Chickens too are in a hurry when they peck at their food. But why? Only to be eaten by humans.

      How many illusions does a person create in their lifetime? It’s impossible to calculate. Day in, day out, “I want this, I want that . . .” Just a single stroll in the park is accompanied by incalculable illusions. So that’s what it means to be “busy.” “I want to be with you, I want to come home, I want to see you. . . .”

      People are constantly out of breath— from running so quickly after their illusions.

      11. To you who wish you could lead a happier life

      Rest awhile and everything will be fine. We simply need to take a short break. Being buddha means taking a short break from being a human. Being buddha doesn’t mean working your way up as a human.

      “What sort of person stands on the ground where there’s neither coming nor going?” Kyuho answered, “The stone sheep versus the stone tiger: sooner or later they’ll get tired of staring each other in the eyes.” The stone sheep won’t flinch. The stone tiger won’t jump out of hunger. That’s the point—encountering things beyond thinking.

      What do we have when we truly have a grip on things as they are? Beyond-thinking [hishiryo]. Beyond-thinking doesn’t allow itself to be thought. No matter if you think so or not: things are simply as they are.

      “All things are empty” means there’s nothing we can run into, because nothing is really happening. Nothing is ever happening, no matter what seems to be going on—that’s the natural condition. Illusion means losing this natural condition. Normally we don’t recognize this natural condition. Normally we cover it with something else, so it’s not natural anymore.

      The buddhadharma means the natural condition.

      To practice the way of Buddha means to completely live out this present moment—which is our whole life—here and now.

      12. To you who want to study a little Buddhism to improve yourself

      “Empty theories” is what we call it when bystanders play around with terminology. Playing around like that is good for nothing. Dive in with body and soul!

      You’ve got to die completely in order to be able to reflect on the buddhadharma. It isn’t enough to torture yourself and only die halfway.

      13. To you who say that Buddhism doesn’t have anything to do with you

      When you talk about Buddha, you’re thinking of something far away that’s got nothing to do with you, and that’s why you’re only running around in circles.

      Ordinary people and buddhas have the same form. Awakening and illusion have the same form.

      When we practice the buddhadharma, we are buddha. Or better yet, it is precisely because we are buddha already that we can practice the buddhadharma.

      You believe that Buddhism is a little different from everything else. But it’s not like that at all: Buddhism is each and every thing.

      14. To you who are wondering if your zazen has been good for something

      What’s zazen good for? Absolutely nothing! This “good for nothing” has got to sink into your flesh and bones until you’re truly practicing what’s good for nothing. Until then, your zazen really is good for nothing.

      You say you want to become a better person by doing zazen. Zazen isn’t about learning how to be a person. Zazen is to stop being a person.

      You say, “When I do zazen, I get disturbing thoughts!” Foolish! The fact is that it’s only in zazen that you’re aware of your disturbing thoughts at all. When you dance around with your disturbing thoughts, you don’t notice them at all. When a mosquito bites you during zazen, you notice it right away. But when you’re dancing and a flea bites your balls, you don’t notice it at all.

      Don’t whine. Don’t stare into space. Just sit!

      15. To you who are out of your mind trying so hard to attain peace of mind

      You lack peace of mind because you’re running after an idea of total peace of mind. That’s backwards. Be attentive to your mind in each moment, no matter how unpeaceful it might seem to be. Great peace of mind is realized only in the practice within this unpeaceful mind.

      When dissatisfaction is finally accepted as dissatisfaction, peace of mind reigns.

      16. To you who say that you have attained a better state of mind through zazen

      As long as you say zazen is a good thing, something isn’t quite right. Unstained zazen is absolutely nothing special. It isn’t even necessary to be grateful for it. . . . Don’t stain your zazen by saying that you’ve progressed, feel better, or have become more confident through zazen.

      We only say, “Things are going well!” when they’re going our way.

      We should simply leave the water of our original nature as it is. But instead we are constantly mucking about with our hands to find out how cold or warm it is. That’s why it gets cloudy.

      Zazen isn’t like a thermometer where the temperature slowly rises: “Just a little more . . . yeah . . . that’s it! Now I’ve got satori!” Zazen never becomes anything special, no matter how long you practice. If it becomes something special, you must have a screw loose somewhere.

      17. To you who are aiming at the ultimate way of life

      What’s the buddhadharma about? It’s about having every aspect of your daily life pulled by Buddha.

      The basis of all actions is to follow through to the end. If your mind is absent even just for a moment, you’re no different from a corpse.

      Practice means asking with your whole being the question “What can I do right now for the Buddha way?”

       

      It isn’t enough to hit the bull’s-eye once. Last year’s perfect marks are useless. You’ve got to hit the bull’s-eye right now.

  • Moderator
    Aik TC's Avatar
    1,511 posts since Jun '10
    • Contemplation of Feelings

      David Dale Holmes Buddhistdoor Global | 2017-08-11 |

      Venerable Nyanatiloka Mahathera cites the Word of the Buddha on the contemplation of feelings (Diga Nikaya 22):

      But how does the disciple dwell in contemplation of the feelings?

      In experiencing feelings, the disciple knows: “I have an agreeable feeling;” or: "I have a disagreeable feeling,” or: "I have an indifferent feeling;” or: “I have a worldly agreeable feeling,” or: “I have an unworldly agreeable feeling,” or: “I have a worldly disagreeable feeling,” or: “I have an unworldly disagreeable feeling,” or: “I have a worldly indifferent feeling,” or: “I have an unworldly indifferent feeling.”

      Thus he dwells in contemplation of the feelings, either with regard to his own person, or to other persons, or to both. He beholds how the feelings arise; beholds how they pass away; beholds the arising and passing away of the feelings. “Feelings are there:” this clear awareness is present in him, to the extent necessary for knowledge and mindfulness; and he lives independent, unattached to anything in the world. Thus does the disciple dwell in contemplation of the feelings. (Nyanatiloka 1967, 64–65)

      The word “feeling” here indicates how the mind is “disposed” when it encounters an object or experience. When a pleasant feeling arises, it may arouse greed and desire. An unpleasant feeling may arouse fear, hate, or aversion. Neutral feelings may arouse delusion.

      The secret to this meditation exercise is to look at experience and cut off the root of unwholesome volition when it begins to arise and interact in feeling. If we just let the mind play in an uncontrolled manner, the defilements will exert a role in coloring experience.

      If, however, through mindfulness, we watch an experience as it arises and as it passes away, we can catch unwanted kamma and defuse the attachment, aversion, or indifference. Through mindfulness we can turn the experience back into a bare mental event.

      The secret is to learn to let the flow of events arise and dissolve without being subjectively involved. When the unwholesome root of feeling loses its hold on events, events lose their illusory sense of permanence and become part of the impermanent flux of the stream of events. With subjective feeling thus suppressed in connection with observation, there is no sense of a permanent ego interacting with events. This is what non-involvement means. It is the detachment necessary for right mindfulness. (For more details see Bhikkhu Bodhi 1984, 45-46)

      Venerable Nyanatiloka comments :

      The disciple understands that the expression “I feel” has no validity except as a conventional expression . . .; he understands that, in the absolute sense (paramattha), there are only feelings, and that there is no ego, no experiencer (sic) of the feelings. (Nyanatiloka 1967, 65)

      Venerable Nyanaponika Mahathera in his Contemplation of Feeling explicates in more precise detail:

      Feeling (vedana) is understood as the bare sensation experienced as pleasant, unpleasant (painful), or neutral (indifferent). It is distinguished from emotion, a more complex phenomena which arises from the basic feeling but adds to it various overlays of an evaluative, volitional, and cognitive character. Feeling in the Buddhist sense is the second of the five aggregates constituting what is conventionally called “a person.” The specific factors operative in emotion belong to the aggregate of mental formations (sankhara-khandha) the fourth aggregate. . . .

      Feeling arises whenever there is the arising of three factors—sense-organ, object, and consciousness. The meeting of these three is called . . . sense-impression, contact, or impact (phassa). Sense-impression is a mental, not a physical event.

      It is six-fold, as being conditioned either by one of the five physical senses or by the mind. This six-fold sense-impression is the chief condition for the corresponding six kinds of feeling borne of contact through the five physical senses and of mind contact.

      In the formula of dependent origination (paticca-samuppada), this relationship is expressed by the line, “Sense-impression conditions feeling” (passa-paccaya-vedana). When emotions follow, they do so in accordance with the next link of dependent origination, “Feeling conditions craving.” (vedana-paccaya-tanha). . . .

      Feeling is one of those mental factors (cetasika) common to all types of consciousness. In other words, every conscious experience has a feeling tone, pleasant, painful, or neutral. . . .

      The subsequent emotional, practical, moral, or spiritual values attached to any particular feeling are determined by the associated mental factors belonging to the aggregate of mental formations. It is the quality of those other mental functions that makes the co-nascent feeling either good or bad, noble or low, kammic or non-kammic, mundane or supramundane.

      Since feeling in its primary state simply registers the impact of the object, in itself it is quite devoid of any emotional bias. Only when volitional evaluations are admitted will there appear emotions such as desire and love, aversion and hate, anxiety and fear, as well as distorting views.

      But these admixtures need not arise, as the emotions are not inseparable parts of the respective feelings. . . .

      This shows that it is . . . possible to stop at the bare feeling and that this can be done intentionally with the help of mindfulness and self-restraint. . . .

      Through actual experience, it can be confirmed that the ever-revolving round of dependent origination can be stopped at the stage of feeling, and that there is no inherent necessity for feeling to be followed by craving.

      Here we encounter feeling as a key factor on the path of liberation and we can see why, in the Buddhist tradition, the contemplation of feeling has always been highly regarded as an effective aid on the path.

      The contemplation of feeling is one or the Four Foundations of Mindfulness (satipatthana). As such it may be undertaken in the framework of that meditative practice, aiming at the growth of insight (vipassana).

      It is, however, essential that this contemplation should also be remembered and applied in daily life whenever feelings are prone to turn to unwholesome emotions. . . . There will be many such occasions, provided the mind is alert and calm enough to notice the feelings clearly at their primary stage.

      In the contemplation of feelings there should first be a mindful awareness of the feelings when they arise. One should clearly distinguish them as pleasant, unpleasant (painful), or neutral. There is no such thing as “mixed feelings.”

      Mindfulness should be maintained throughout the short duration of a specific feeling, down into its cessation. If the vanishing point of feelings is repeatedly seen with increasing clarity, it will become much easier to forestall the emotions, thoughts, and volitions which normally follow them so rapidly and so often become habitually associated with them.

       

      Pleasant feeling is habitually linked with enjoyment and desire; unpleasant feeling with aversion; neutral feeling with boredom and confusion—and also serving as a background for wrong views. But when bare attention is directed towards the arising and vanishing feelings, these polluting additives will be held at bay. (Nyanaponika 1983, 3–5)

  • Moderator
    Aik TC's Avatar
    1,511 posts since Jun '10
    •  

      “We are tolerant” said Pak Didik, and in the same breath set the conditions as to how you are allowed to show your reverence in your religion. The statue is assailed as an “uncivilized” affront on their religion.Just wonder when their religion has become so superior that believers of other Faiths have to abided by what their Faith teaches.

      If the statue is so offensive, just wondering, why they do not seem to be able to take the simple act of ignoring or looking at it. I suppose when one is a minority in a country, one just have to humble and be tolerant even when shit is thrown at your face. 

  • Moderator
    Aik TC's Avatar
    1,511 posts since Jun '10
    • In Indonesia, Chinese Deity Is Covered in Sheet After Muslims Protest

      RUSSELL GOLDMAN AUG. 10, 2017 New York Times

      HONG KONG — A 100-foot statue depicting a Chinese deity was covered with an enormous sheet this past weekend in East Java Province, Indonesia, after Muslims threatened to tear the colossus down amid mounting ethnic and religious tensions across the country.

      The Islamist campaign against the statue, a depiction of the third-century general Guan Yu, who is worshiped as a god in several Chinese religions, began online and soon spread to the gates of a Chinese Confucian temple in Tuban, near the Java Sea coast, where the figure was erected last month.

      On social media, Muslims assailed the statue as an “uncivilized” affront to Islam and the island’s “home people,” and a mob gathered this week outside the East Java legislature in the city of Surabaya to demand its destruction.

      Statues deemed un-Islamic have been destroyed or vandalized around Indonesia in recent years, and several Chinese temples have been set on fire. Covering the statue with a large white tarp was a stopgap measure proposed by the temple’s officials after a governmental religious body pushed them to find a solution.

      Indonesia is the world’s largest Muslim-majority nation, and ethnic Chinese — largely Christian, Buddhist or Confucian — make up less than 5 percent of the overall population. The recent anti-Chinese animus is driven in part by an increased influence of extremist Muslim ideology in the country’s politics, experts said.

       Anti-Chinese sentiment has become quite strong,” said Aan Anshori, a coordinator at the East Java Muslim Anti-Discrimination Network, which opposed covering the statue. “It’s quite worrying to think that these sentiments could be used by politicians in the future.”

      In recent years, Muslim extremists have pressed for the adoption of Islamic law, or Shariah, throughout Indonesia. A civil court found the Christian governor of the capital, Jakarta, guilty of blasphemy against Islam in May. Islamists falsely claimed that President Joko Widodo was a Chinese Christian during his 2014 campaign.

      Colossal statues of Guan Yu have been erected around the world. The Tuban statue, which took more than a year to build at a cost of about $188,000, is the largest of its type in Southeast Asia, according to Indonesia’s Museum of World Records.

      Adding to tensions between Chinese and Muslim Indonesians is a sense that as Beijing becomes more dominant in the region — exerting financial and military influence — ethnic Chinese will profit at the expense of Muslims.

      It is growing religious intolerance, making their own interpretation of the Quran and using that hostile interpretation against the Chinese temple,” said Andreas Harsono, the Indonesia director for Human Rights Watch. “They say that it is showing that China is dominating Indonesia.”

      Didik Muadi, a Muslim who organized the protests against the statue, said Muslims would destroy the figure themselves if the government did not intervene.

       

      Actually, we can allow them to build the statue, just not as high as it was and it should be in the temple, not outside,” Mr. Didik told the news site Tempo. “We are tolerant.”

  • Moderator
    Aik TC's Avatar
    1,511 posts since Jun '10
    • Secular Buddhism in North America

      Justin Whitaker Buddhistdoor Global | 2017-07-21 |

      As Buddhism has grown in popularity in North America, one aspect that has come to increasing prominence is its potential affinity for secularism. Books such as Stephen Batchelor’s Buddhism Without Beliefs: A Contemporary Guide to Awakening (Riverhead Books 1997), Confessions of a Buddhist Atheist (Spiegel & Grau 2011), and Secular Buddhism: Imagining the Dharma in an Uncertain World (Yale University Press 2017) have given shape to the meeting of Western curiosity and skepticism with Asian Buddhist traditions.

      Defining Secular Buddhism presents a number of challenges. Each of the terms “secular” and “Buddhism” lends itself to a variety of meanings depending on context. Secular, for instance, is defined by the Concise Oxford Dictionary primarily in the negative: “adj. not religious, sacred, or spiritual.” It continues by giving the origin in Christian Latin as meaning “the world.” Batchelor himself notes his own struggle with terms such as “spiritual,” “religious,” “secular,” “agnostic,” “skeptical,” and others in the preface to Secular Buddhism.

      However, not all types of Buddhism that have arisen in North America match well with secularism, as many have retained a markedly non-secular quality. Before disrobing, marrying Martine Fages, and settling in Devon, England, Batchelor spent 10 years as a monastic in the Tibetan and Korean Seon (Zen) traditions, which Batchelor refers to as “traditional Buddhism.”

      By “traditional Buddhism” I mean any school or doctrinal system that operates within the soteriological worldview of ancient India. Whether Theravāda or Mahayana in orientation, all such forms of Buddhism regard the ultimate goal of their practice to be the attainment of nirvana, that is, the complete cessation of the craving (tanhā) that drives the relentless cycle of birth, death, and rebirth. . . Despite their apparent differences, Theravāda, Zen, Shin, Nichiren, and Tibetan Buddhism share the same underlying soteriology, that of ancient India outlined above. (Secular Buddhism)

      In opposition to this, "secular Buddhism” refers to a Buddhism that rejects the supernatural, most prominently in doctrines such as rebirth, or many interpretations of karma, or beliefs in spirits or gods. Other aspects of Buddhism rejected by secular Buddhists include strong emphasis on ritual, belief in the power of amulets or relics, and notions of extraordinarily powerful teacher-student relationships. A tension arises here, as traditional Buddhists object that without these, one cannot be a “real Buddhist.” Batchelor responds:

      Each Buddhist tradition maintains that it alone possesses the “true” interpretation of the Dharma, whereas all the other schools either fall short of this truth or have succumbed to “wrong views.” Today, from a historical-critical perspective, these kinds of claims appear strident and hollow. For we recognize that every historical form of Buddhism is contingent upon the wide array of particular and unique circumstances out of which it arose. (Secular Buddhism)

      Is it possible for a “real” Buddhist to reject many of the beliefs of previous Buddhisms? Secular Buddhists think so.

      In a survey sent out to secular Buddhists, respondents defended their place under the umbrella of “Buddhism.” Jennifer Gentile, an atheist yoga instructor married to a Buddhist Zen priest, describes secular Buddhism as, “a guide for living ethically and morally, becoming more present without causing harm.” When asked about disadvantages, she responded, “I can’t imagine a disadvantage, other than some people might not understand what that means and be disrespectful or discriminatory.”

      Similarly, Tina Hamilton, a member of the board of directors of the Association of Mindfulness Meditation and Secular Buddhism, notes: “There have been numerous studies that show that meditation actually changes the brain in many positive ways. In my personal practice, I find that I’m less reactive, and able to think things through. I was diagnosed with ADHD as an adult, and have found that with meditation, I no longer need the medication to help me focus (no medication for 10 years now). Other things that I see secular Buddhism helping with is increasing compassion and equanimity.”

      Doug Smith, study director of the Secular Buddhist Association, defines secular Buddhism as: “Buddhism without speculative supernatural elements.” When asked about the benefit of this approach, he noted that, “We get the gains of Buddhist practice (wisdom, kindness, less stress) without the false or unscientific beliefs.” Gary Donnelly, a doctoral research student at Liverpool University in England, notes that secular Buddhism provides a “lack of hokum and regional superstition” and a “more realistic worldview.”

      Mark W. Gura, executive director of the Association of Mindfulness Meditation and Secular Buddhism (AMMSB) and vice president of the Atheist Alliance of America, suggests that “secular Buddhism is based on critical thinking, neuroscience, and the essence of Buddhist meditation and philosophy, without its supernatural elements. Its beliefs are held only on facts, while any other information is considered opinion or hypothesis.” To this, Gura adds that the AMMSB has recently become an official affiliate of the large American Atheists organization, which was founded in 1963. This, Gura holds, marks a “historical event for secular Buddhism” as it is the first time secular Buddhists “have been embraced by another large national atheist group.”

      Several respondents pointed to Batchelor’s books and videos as inspiration for their move into Buddhism, many coming from atheistic or secular backgrounds. Others actively practice with one or more traditional schools of Buddhism (Zen, Tibetan Buddhism, and Theravada were all mentioned several times), but do not hold many of the beliefs of those schools. Dr. Carol Creech, community health coordinator for the Health Education Learning Project in Dallas, Texas, has stated that, “I am a former Christian practicing Tibetan Buddhism with a near complete absence of literal belief in Tibetan sectarian practices, such as Dharma protectors. And thus ‘maybe’ a secular Buddhist.”

      However, Julie Brefczynski-Lewis, assistant professor of neuroscience at West Virginia University, says, “Sometimes there is a condescending attitude towards those with beliefs—I see that in Stephen Batchelor’s writings. This attitude, I fear could steer people away from more traditional approaches, or create a safe bubble so they never would venture into concepts like karma and rebirth, which can be tremendously beneficial (even if just taken as a provisional ‘raft’ to help one cross difficult waters, but with knowledge that it will someday be left behind).”

      Jennifer Hawkins, community director for the Secular Buddhist Association, who describes herself as a 32-year-old African-American, notes that her status as a minority has helped her establish greater dialogue with some traditional Buddhists. Her nuanced discussion of secular Buddhism suggested both hermeneutical and historical defenses of secular Buddhism. On the hermeneutical front, she suggests that secular Buddhists work to determine whether passages are to be interpreted literally or not: “It’s looking at these suttas and finding value—even if the original composer believed in yakshas and that one thing has turned out not to be true, does that somehow negate the whole value of a sutta? No.”

       

      On the historical side, echoing Batchelor, she states: “Buddhism changed as it entered each new land—and so it changes a little as it enters ‘the West.’ It is simply the natural process of change and not disrespect. Personally, I have a great deal of gratitude to Gotama Buddha for sharing what he found and to all of those who transmitted his ideas (and some of their own) through time so that it could reach me. Really looking closely at the suttas and at the history of Buddhism’s changes does not diminish that respect or gratitude—if anything, it adds to it.”

  • Moderator
    Aik TC's Avatar
    1,511 posts since Jun '10
    • Originally posted by Aik TC:

      Non-believers need to be tracked down, says minister

      8 August 2017 The Star Online RAHMAH GHAZALI

      KUALA LUMPUR: Non-believers in Malaysia should be “hunted down” as Malaysia has no place for atheism, says Datuk Seri Dr Shahidan Kassim (pic).

      The Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department said such groups go against the Federal Constitution, which states Islam is the official religion while others are free to practise their own faith.

      “Not once does it (the Constitution) mention atheism. This clearly shows that the group goes against the Constitution and basic rights,” he told the press in Parliament here on Tuesday.

      A group called Atheist Republic had a gathering of its Kuala Lumpur chapter recently, and a photo of the gathering has triggered outrage from some in the Muslim community after it was highlighted on social media.

      Shahidan said he would suggest to religious departments and muftis to intervene in the matter by identifying members of the group.

      “I suggest we track them down and identify each of them. After that, we have to bring them back to the right path,” he said.

      He said these people became atheists because they lacked religious understanding and knowledge.

      “That is why they are easily swayed by new age teachings,” he said.

      However, Shahidan said the group needs to be dealt with in a proper manner.

      “We can’t act in such a way where they could gain sympathy from other people. This would just make them more popular,” he said.

      It was reported that the Federal Government would investigate the local group, with the help of the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission as it involved the faith of Muslims.

       

      Atheist Republic has close to two million followers and supporters on Facebook, with hundreds of chapters worldwide including in Indonesia and the Philippines.

      I believe this Minister is making reference to the Malays themselves. He was mentioning something about this group of Atheists as going against the constitution and basic rights. Article 11 in the Malaysian constitution states that, ‘every person has the right to profess and practice his own religion’. Isn’t he contradicting himself when he talks about this group going against the Federal Constitution and also infringing on individual basic rights? Most confusing statement indeed.

      He also did mention that this group is lacking in religious understanding and knowledge. I suppose he expect the whole Malay race to think completely alike and any variation in thoughts are not to be tolerated as far as their religion is concerned?

      Edited by Aik TC 08 Aug `17, 8:15PM
  • Moderator
    Aik TC's Avatar
    1,511 posts since Jun '10
    • Non-believers need to be tracked down, says minister

      8 August 2017 The Star Online RAHMAH GHAZALI

      KUALA LUMPUR: Non-believers in Malaysia should be “hunted down” as Malaysia has no place for atheism, says Datuk Seri Dr Shahidan Kassim (pic).

      The Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department said such groups go against the Federal Constitution, which states Islam is the official religion while others are free to practise their own faith.

      “Not once does it (the Constitution) mention atheism. This clearly shows that the group goes against the Constitution and basic rights,” he told the press in Parliament here on Tuesday.

      A group called Atheist Republic had a gathering of its Kuala Lumpur chapter recently, and a photo of the gathering has triggered outrage from some in the Muslim community after it was highlighted on social media.

      Shahidan said he would suggest to religious departments and muftis to intervene in the matter by identifying members of the group.

      “I suggest we track them down and identify each of them. After that, we have to bring them back to the right path,” he said.

      He said these people became atheists because they lacked religious understanding and knowledge.

      “That is why they are easily swayed by new age teachings,” he said.

      However, Shahidan said the group needs to be dealt with in a proper manner.

      “We can’t act in such a way where they could gain sympathy from other people. This would just make them more popular,” he said.

      It was reported that the Federal Government would investigate the local group, with the help of the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission as it involved the faith of Muslims.

       

      Atheist Republic has close to two million followers and supporters on Facebook, with hundreds of chapters worldwide including in Indonesia and the Philippines.

  • Moderator
    Aik TC's Avatar
    1,511 posts since Jun '10
    • Pope Francis to make surprise visit to Myanmar on peace mission

      John Zaw, Mandalay and Michael Sainsbury August 7, 2017 La Croix International

      The main impetus behind pope's visit is to help Myanmar make peace with the Roghinyas, says senior clergyman.

      Pope Francis will focus on trying to improve the troubles of about a million ethnic Muslim Rohingyas when he visits Myanmar, in the first ever papal visit to the country.

      The visit is due to take place in the last week of November after the pope was personally invited by President Htin Kyaw. News of his visit has leaked out of the Vatican but is not expected to be officially announced until next month.

      The visit has already drawn the ire of hard-line Buddhist groups who have fanned sectarian violence and protest, especially against the Rohingya and other Muslims, over the past five years.

      "No, no, don't come," "don't visit if you come to Myanmar for Bengalis", and "we oppose the visit if he used the word Rohingya", several Buddhists posted on their Facebook pages.

      Bishop Raymond Sumlut Gam of Banmaw in Kachin State said a visit by Pope Francis to Myanmar is most likely, although he said he had not officially been informed.

      "The Catholic bishops invited Pope Francis before the 500th anniversary of Catholicism in Myanmar in late 2014," Bishop Gam told ucanews.com.

      "Some improvements have occurred such as diplomatic relations between Myanmar and Vatican plus the appointment of an apostolic nuncio," he said.

      The pope's relatively last minute program change will see the leader of the world's 1 billion Catholics cancel a planned trip to India after prevarication by that nation's strongly pro-Hindu government. The proposed visit to Myanmar will precede the pope visiting neighboring Bangladesh.

      Senior Catholic sources told ucanews.com that Pope Francis will arrive in Myanmar on November 27 for four nights.

      According to information shared with top clergy only two weeks ago, the pope is expected to first visit the jungle capital Naypyidaw where he will meet President Htin Kyaw and the country's de-facto leader, State Counsellor and Foreign Affairs Minister Aung San Suu Kyi.

      It is expected that he will hold at least two Masses before heading to the country's largest city and business capital, Yangon, for a large open air Mass. It is also expected that he will visit and say Mass at the St. Joseph's Catholic Major Seminary in Yangon.

      There are about 700,000 Catholics in Myanmar, served by 16 bishops, more than 700 priests and 2,200 religious.

      The Rohingya

      Most of the Rohingya population in Myanmar's Rakhine State have been denied citizenship. About 120,000 of them are trapped in internally displaced people (IDP) camps near the state capital Sittwe. A further 400,000 live in the state's north which is currently under martial law.

      The media are forbidden to travel to the region but reports of atrocities by the military, including rape, murder and burning villages have leaked out over the past year. Such outrages have further fueled home grown terrorists who have emerged out of desperation.

      More than 170,000 Rohingya have fled to Bangladesh, Malaysia, Thailand, and Indonesia — many on risky boats — in the last five years according to the United Nations.

      While Pope Francis will not visit Rakhine State, he will fly over it on the way to Bangladesh, church sources said, and probably use that time to make some sort of statement. It's a tactic the Argentine pontiff, the first ever from outside Europe has used before.

      "The main impetus behind the pope visiting is to try and help the government make peace with the Rohingyas and improve their plight," said one senior clergyman with knowledge of the pope's visit but not authorized to speak about it. 

      "When the pope received the invitation from President Htin Kyaw, we understand he jumped at it," the source said.

      Observers believe that the unexpected move by Myanmar's civilian-led government to invite the pope, a relentless advocate for refugees, has been driven by its desire to skirt the powerful military with which it effectively shares power. Under Myanmar's 2008 constitution the military retains the crucial defense, border and home affairs portfolios as well as 25 percent of both houses of parliament.

      Aung San Suu Kyi has been widely and increasingly criticized by democratic governments around the world for her hands-off attitude to the Rohingya crisis and her National League for Democracy's insistence on calling the group not by their self-determined name but as Bengalis.

      "[The pope's visit] may be a way for her to change the perception that she is ignoring the plight of the Rohingya, internationally," one observer noted.

      Nyan Win, a central executive committee member of the National League for Democracy, would not confirm the visit but said the government would welcome the pope if he visited Myanmar.

       

      "There is no religious persecution and freedom of religion prevails in Myanmar, all religions have been living together peacefully so it is welcoming news about pope's visit," Nyan Win told ucanews.com.

  • Moderator
    Aik TC's Avatar
    1,511 posts since Jun '10
    • Atheists tend to be seen as immoral – even by other atheists: study

      Agence France-Presse 7 August 2017

      Religious belief widely viewed as safeguard against ‘grossly immoral conduct’, according to new research

      Atheists are more easily suspected of evil deeds than Christians, Muslims, Hindus or Buddhists – even by fellow atheists, according to the authors of a new study.

      The finding suggests that in an increasingly secular world, many – including some atheists – still hold the view that people will do bad things unless they fear punishment from all-seeing gods.

      The results of the study “show that across the world, religious belief is intuitively viewed as a necessary safeguard against the temptations of grossly immoral conduct,” an international team wrote in the journal Nature Human Behaviour. It revealed that “atheists are broadly perceived as potentially morally depraved and dangerous”.

      The study measured the attitudes of more than 3,000 people in 13 countries on five continents. They ranged from “very secular” countries such as China and the Netherlands, to those with high numbers of religious believers, such as the United Arab Emirates, the US and India.

      The countries had populations that were either predominantly Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Muslim or non-religious.

      Participants were given a description of a fictional evildoer who tortured animals as a child, then grows up to become a teacher who murders and mutilates five homeless people. Half of the group were asked how likely it was that the perpetrator was a religious believer, and the other half how likely he was an atheist. The team found that people were about twice as likely to assume that the serial killer was an atheist.

       “It is striking that even atheists appear to hold the same intuitive anti-atheist bias,” the study’s co-author, Will Gervais, a psychology professor at the University of Kentucky in Lexington, said.

      “I suspect that this stems from the prevalence of deeply entrenched pro-religious norms. Even in places that are currently quite overtly secular, people still seem to intuitively hold on to the believe that religion is a moral safeguard.”

      Only in Finland and New Zealand, two secular countries, did the experiment not yield conclusive evidence of anti-atheist prejudice, said the team.

      Distrust of atheists was “very strong in the most highly religious states like the United States, United Arab Emirates and India”, said Gervais, and lower in more secular countries.

      Such research was about more than stigma alone, he said. “In many places, atheism can be dangerous, if not fatal.”

       

      In a comment carried by the journal, Adam Cohen and Jordan Moon of the Arizona State University’s psychology department said the study marked “an important advance in explaining the prevalence of anti-atheist attitudes”.

  • Moderator
    Aik TC's Avatar
    1,511 posts since Jun '10
    • Bhutan: A Buddhist Development Model Worth Emulating

      Dr Omalpe Sobitha Mahathera 19 July 2017 IDN InDepthNews

      ENBILIPITIYA, Sri Lanka (IDN) – There will be many answers to the question: which is the country where the happiest people live? In response many famous, developed nations will come to mind, but you will be surprised that the name of a little-known country could be the right answer to this question. It is Bhutan, the wonderful and amazing country that beats all others on the happiness index.

      Bhutan has been so identified following a worldwide survey on Gross National Happiness (GNH) – not Gross National Product (GDP). Its capital is Thimpu, which reminds us of the peace talks held there between the Sri Lanka Government and Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) separatists in 1985.

      Recently I found the opportunity to fulfil a long-cherished hope of finding out more about this wondrous country, which recalls the island of Uthurukuru mentioned in Buddhist literature. The experiences I had in Bhutan proved that my visit there was truly my good fortune.

      Bhutan, with a population of 750,000 people, is located more than 7,000 metres above sea level in the Himalayan region, near the world’s highest point, Mount Everest. The country has a cold climate (-18 to -7 °C) and the sky above Bhutan is always filled with white clouds rising above the mountain peaks surrounding the country. Human settlements are located some distance away from each other.

      A foreign tourist visiting in the country practically finds himself/herself on a Buddhist pilgrimage because all the important places one sees are Buddhist temples and monasteries. Tourists are drawn towards the many big and small temples which have been built since the arrival of Vajrayana Buddhism in the 15th century, and most of which stand on hilltops surrounded by thick jungle.

      Visitors are overjoyed by the wonders of the places when listening to the tour guide. They are visited by Buddhists to engage in worshipping the Buddha according to their traditions and also by non-Buddhists who go there to enjoy a calm and relaxed experience, respecting the sanctity of the temples.

      Tourists take their own time in visiting the places, free of the distractions that can be found in Sri Lanka, for example, where all types of unscrupulous individuals attempt to cheat them by selling different items or becoming self-appointed tour guides to extort money from them.

      Although there are various items on sale at shops near the places visited by tourists in Bhutan no one tries to force items on tourists. They are allowed to pick and chose whatever they wish and prices are fixed so there is no bargaining, unlike in Sri Lanka where vendors seek to hoodwink visitors by selling items at a price higher than at which they are sold to locals.

      The restless behaviour of some Sri Lankan ‘bhikkus’ and lay persons whenever a group of local or foreign pilgrims visit a place of worship has become a joke. The reason is that all of them want to exploit visitors and line their pockets.

      There is no selling of tickets or charging of any fee to visit any place of worship in Bhutan. Nor are beggars or children running behind visitors and pestering them for money or food to be seen. If someone decides on their own account to give the children something, they are very shy to accept but eventually do so and thank you in English.

      It is most unfortunate that begging has become a ‘tradition’ in places of Buddhist worship in Sri Lanka. Needless to say it tarnishes the image of Buddhism in the eyes of foreigners.

      There are both bhikkus (monks) and bhikkunis (nuns) in Bhutan – 30,000 bhikkus and 18,000 bhikkunis. Becoming a bhikku or bhikkuni is voluntary and temporary ordination is very popular in Bhutan. Entering the Order of the Sangha, even for a short period in life, is considered essential. Children are trained to adapt themselves to life in hermitages from the age of seven.

      The expression “surprising but true” comes to the mind a thousand times when touring Bhutan. It is surprising, for example, that heaps of garbage are nowhere to be seen, neither in villages nor towns. There are no bags of rubbish by the roadside or hanging from lamp posts. Garbage bins are kept in specified places but are not overfilled making the rubbish visible from the outside.

      However, it is in moral conduct and an ethical way of living that the Bhutanese are far above all other societies.

      The government restricted cigarette smoking on and off until 2015 when a total ban was imposed on tobacco production and the manufacture and smoking of cigarettes. Foreigners are allowed to bring a limited number of cigarettes (200) with them and special places are allocated for them in hotels for smoking.

      Strict laws are also enforced on the consumption of alcohol. No alcohol imports are allowed, the sale of alcohol is banned in the vicinity of temples, schools, hospitals, universities and community centres, and all alcohol shops are closed every Tuesday.

      Cattle are a treasure for the Bhutanese who make use of them in a very meaningful way. In addition to being a source for the production of milk, ghee, cheese and butter, cattle are used for agricultural purposes in the rural areas.

      It is an example to us in Sri Lanka that, in accordance with the Brahmana Dhamma Sutra of the Majjima Nikaya, the Bhutanese show due consideration for the welfare of cattle which help the people in their sustenance and livelihood. Cattle slaughter has been banned throughout Bhutan and it is a common sight to see cattle roaming freely on the streets.

      For those addicted to the consumption of meat, it is imported, but during the first and fourth month of every year, meat consumption is completely banned, because these two months are considered religiously important based on the lunar calendar in Bhutanese culture. This mercy shown to animals reminds us of a similar law introduced by Sinhala King Amandagamini (67-79 AD).

      Something else that amazes foreign tourists is that no poor huts and shanties are to be seen anywhere when passing small villages on the way to main towns like Paro, Punakha, Thronsa and Mongar. located hundreds of kilometres away from the capital Thimpu. And there are no helpless and unfortunate persons on pavements or at bus stops anywhere in the country.

      Every citizen has a permanent house built according to state-approved plans, which are drafted according to national cultural standards and artistic designs. The result is that while all houses almost look alike, they might be even mistaken for temples because of their beautiful designs and carvings.

      The three most important factors that bind the Bhutanese and contribute to their unity and harmonious living are king, country and religion. It is compulsory to display pictures of the king and the royal family prominently in every house, government and private establishment, hotel, hostel and temple.

      The government of Bhutan is not interested in attracting foreign tourists at any cost. Hence, when applying for a visa, would-be tourists have to comply with a number of rules and regulations designed to prevent troublemakers and dubious characters from entering the country and corrupting the people of Bhutan. In fact, up to 1974, the only foreigners allowed to enter the country were those invited for specific purposes; others were allowed only after 1974.

      Bhutan communicates with the outside world via two government-owned airline companies; no other airlines are allowed into the country.

      No foreign tourist or groups of tourists are allowed to roam freely, and their attire and behaviour should not violate the country’s cultural norms. As a result, every tourist should register with a government-approved company and should travel with an authorised tour guide. A special examination is held for tour guides who should always be dressed in national costume and observe national and institutional customs when they are guiding tourists.

      The rulers of Bhutan are teaching us Sri Lankans a far-sighted lesson by giving priority to protecting society’s moral standards and its physical and mental health rather than earning foreign exchange through tourism.

      When thinking about Bhutan we are compelled to question the widely accepted criteria of development. Economists and social scientists – as well as politicians and the majority of us – consider that acquiring more and more physical resources and increasing personal incomes is the road to happiness.

      Consequently we are focused solely on reaching economic targets, having entered a dream world via theories based on per capita income and foreign-exchange reserves. We are engaged in a relentless, tiring rat race towards so-called progress, symbolised by skyscrapers, highways, high speed trains, luxury vehicles, palace-like buildings, and so on.

      Mesmerised by this mirage, we have become so selfish and ruthless that we are ignoring not only ethical living and moral standards but also obligations towards our parents, as demonstrated by what is happening in our country and the rest of the world.

      The people of Bhutan are the living example on this earth that happiness alone is wealth as taught by the Buddha. The time has now come for us to realise that the true criterion of a happy country is where the people, without being trapped in unlimited desires, have fulfilled their basic needs and lead relaxed and healthy lives both physically and mentally, spreading goodwill among everyone. Bhutan has already set this powerful example for the world.

      It is not political ideology but the Buddha’s incomparable teaching which has brought about this unique state of happiness in Bhutan.

  • Moderator
    Aik TC's Avatar
    1,511 posts since Jun '10
    • A pure science of mind and matter

      2017-08-07 Daily Mirror

      An objective analysis of Buddhism and science  

      Buddhism has been described by Buddhist Scholar S.N. Goenka as “a pure science of mind and matter”. He substantiates this on the basis that Buddhism uses precise, analytical, philosophical and psychological terminology and reasoning . The Buddha explained the reality of things in terms of cause and effect. Buddhism is firmly founded on the principle that effects arise from causation. The existence of misery and suffering in any given individual is due to the presence of causes. 

      Buddhism is undoubtedly the most profound and wholesome educational path available to mankind. It explains the true nature of life and the universe. In the Buddhist doctrine “life” refers to ourselves and the “universe” refers to the environment in which we live. Buddhism begins with mindfulness. One has to be mindful of the moment that is now, connected with what one is doing outside and what one is thinking and feeling inside. Thus, Buddhism is not only about withdrawal or detachment from this world but is also about living each moment meaningfully.   

       

      Buddhism is essentially a teaching for the intelligentsia. It is based on a systematic and rational analysis of the problems of life and the way to their solution. The Buddha emphatically admonished everyone to “come and see”; not to “come and believe”. Buddhism does not rely on blind faith. On the contrary one is encouraged to probe and verify personally what the Buddha preached.

      Buddhism is undoubtedly the most profound and wholesome educational path available to mankind. It explains the true nature of life and the universe. In the Buddhist doctrine “life” refers to ourselves and the “universe” refers to the environment in which we live. 

      Buddhism has totally rejected belief by faith while encouraging personal conviction by investigation. Buddhism stands out singularly alone as the only system of thought that can be accepted by strict rationalization and comparison with already known phenomena. Every other religious system can be scientifically and rationally doubted. Buddhism is unique as in that not a single facet of its teaching can be disproved or even rationally doubted. On an intellectual basis, Buddhism has only one real contender to convince and that is the materialist. One does not need Buddhism to obviate the sparse rationalism of most religious systems. In fact most religions other than Buddhism are engaged in a desperate and pathetic struggle to keep up with the concepts of modern Science; so much so that with every new scientific discovery they have to adjust their sequence of thought and at times even the dogma.   

      Buddhism today is a hot topic in the science and religion dialogue. There is a basic understanding between Buddhist scholars and eminent scientists regarding the compatibility of Buddhism and science. The case is made that the philosophical and psychological teachings contained in Buddhism share commonalities with modern scientific and philosophical thought. For example Buddhism encourages the impartial investigation of nature or Dhamma Vicaya; the principal object of such study being oneself. In fact some popular conceptions of Buddhism connect it to discourses regarding evolution, quantum theory and cosmology. Moreover, Buddhism has been described as rational and non – dogmatic. There is ample evidence to prove that it has been so from the earliest period of history. Among the common philosophical principles shared between Buddhism and science are causality, empiricism and suspicion of absolutes. 

      Great scientist Albert Einstein has spelt out the common thread that binds Buddhism and science as follows. “The religion of the future will be cosmic religion. It should transcend a personal god and avoid dogmas and theology. Covering both the natural and spiritual it should be based on a religious sense arising from the experience of all things natural and spiritual and a meaningful unity. Buddhism answers to this description. If there is any religion that would cope with modern scientific needs it would be Buddhism”.Likewise, many scientists have observed similarities between science and Buddhism. The American physicist Robert Oppenheimer saw in Buddhism a scientific parallel to the puzzling riddles of modern physics.   

      Science; The product of observations and experiments

      Science is as old as man. It is also universal in the sense that the subjects of study, the methods employed and results obtained have been similar throughout history and across all civilizations. Science from its humble beginnings has come a long way. It has been successful in solving many human problems and making life ever more comfortable. Advances in medical science and new scientific inventions have contributed to relieving pain, eradicating disease, lengthening the life span and also made life healthier and more comfortable. But science up to date except in a few areas of human activity apparently has been oblivious to the damaging effect of fuelling the fires of human greed for more and more comforts and better quality of life. 

      Science is an understanding of matter whereas spiritualism is related to the consciousness of the individual. Usually we analyse them as separate entities. However in reality they are interdependent and inalienable parts of each other.In the west spiritualism is defined as a philosophical doctrine which perceives all reality as spiritual and not material. On the other hand science is knowledge gained by the study of the physical and natural world. The scientific method we use today in modern science is based on building up a hypothesis using data obtained through observations and arriving at a conclusion through experiments.   

      Science is defined as systematic observation of natural events and conditions in order to discover facts about them and to formulate laws and principles based on these facts. Modern science relies on inductive reasoning from multiple observations of nature; thus working up from basic observation or experiment to generalization. However, the entire body of knowledge generated by scientists is not true. Thus, most scientists test theories knowing that future evidence may cause refinement, revision or even rejection of today’s theories that are held as true. 

      Experimentation in science is indispensable for it helps establish causal relationships. It is said that the ultimate purpose of science is to make sense of human beings and our nature. Science has discovered that all matter including human beings consist of particles. Further, it has been found that matter could be converted to energy and vice versa. Thus we are nothing but aggregates of energy. More than 2600 years ago the Buddha said that the “atom” is not the ultimate particle of matter; but that ultimate of matter exists in the form of energies. Modern science discovered the same about a three quarter of century ago. Likewise, there are many aspects of the teachings of the Buddha which we are unable to comprehend.   

      Science has not found an answer to the question why are we here? What is the meaning of life? May be before long science will find out the origin of life and the universe. However, science may not be able to solve the problem of human suffering. Also, science has not found a solution to the malaise of insatiable greed and acquisitive craving. The whole world and it’s economy and all policies of governments are driven by human greed. The Buddha has shown us that the cause of suffering is greed. Apart from that ignorance of the true nature of the world keeps human beings in bondage. The Buddha has said that bondage could be severed by getting rid of ignorance. 

      The development of modern science paved the way for a deep spiritual crisis in the West which resulted in an irrevocable split between the established the monotheistic religious faith and scientific reason. Buddhism being an atheistic philosophy has the ability to bridge the worlds of matter and spirit estranged due to certain findings of modern science. Buddhists do understand that objects and individuals are comprised of an ever changing composite of elements of reality called “dharmas”. Even though Darwinism met with great resistance in the West; Buddhists ingrained in the transient nature of things found no difficulty in accepting that humans evolved from lesser forms of life. Thus, Buddhism has the potential to satisfy post Darwinian needs of religious beliefs grounded in new scientific findings.   

      Similarities between science and Buddhism

      There are many similarities between Science and Buddhism. Both agree that there is no creator. Buddhism rejects accepting things merely on a teacher’s authority. Buddhism emphasizes personal verification. One of the cardinal doctrines of Buddhism is that of dependent or conditioned co-production (patitya samutpada) according to which no being or event arises without a conditioning factor. One of the principles on which science operates is universal causation, which means that all material things are caused. According to Buddhism the cosmos consists of thousands of spherical worlds (chakkavatas). In each world system there are thousands of suns, moons, earths etc. This bears a close resemblance to the modern scientific understanding of the universe with its galaxies. Science states that matter and energy can neither be created nor destroyed but only transformed. Buddhism says the same thing and extends this principle to the mind. 

      In Buddhism mind means awareness of phenomena either conscious or unconscious and awareness of phenomena can neither be created nor destroyed but only be transformed. Thus, reincarnation is simply a transformation in the ongoing continuity of an individual’s awareness of phenomena, but now with the physical basis of another body. There are two types of wisdom in Buddhism namely conventional wisdom and ultimate wisdom. Conventional wisdom relates to the understanding of the conventional world and how it functions including science. Ultimate wisdom refers to a direct realization which is non dualistic and contradicts the way in which we ordinarily perceive the world. There are two methods available to the human being to acquire knowledge. They are left brain centred intuition method and the left brain centred scientific method. The Buddha had used the intuition method while modern science uses the scientific method.   

      Buddhism is more consistent with the scientific method than traditional faith based religion. Accordingly the Kalama Sutta insists on a proper assessment of evidence, rather than a reliance on faith, hearsay or speculation. The general tenor of the Sutta is take no one’s word for it. The following is a gist of the Kalama Sutta. “ If you have a doubt do not be led by reports, or tradition or hearsay. Do not be led by authority of religious texts, not by mere logic or inference, nor by considering appearances nor by delight in speculative opinions, nor by seeming possibilities, nor by the idea this is our teacher. But when you know that certain things are unwholesome (Akusala) and wrong and bad then give them up. When you know that certain things are wholesome (Kusala) and good then accept them and follow them”.   Up to about the 1960’s even though the super normal non materialistic knowledge flourished with one’s spiritual development described in Buddhism as “Panca Abihinna”; those attainments did not receive scientific acceptance. However today with the advancement of Metaphysics and Parapsychology the five Abhinna’s are now being accepted under the same classification given in Buddhism but with new names namely (1) Iddhivida nana or magical powers now called psycho kinesis (11) Dibba Sota Nana or divine ear now called clairaudience (111) Ceto Pariya Nana or penetration of mind now called telepathy (1V) Dibba Chakkhu Nana or divine eye now called clairvoyance and (V) Pubba Nivasanussati nana or remembering of former existences now called post cognition. 

      During the 1970’s several experimental studies suggested that Buddhist meditation could produce insights into a wide range of psychological states. Interest in the use of meditation as a means of providing insight into mind states has recently been revived, following the availability of brain scanning technologies etc. It is worthy of note that in recent times Buddhist concepts have made most inroads into the psychological sciences. Some modern scientific theories such as Rogerian psychology show strong parallels with Buddhist thought. Some of the most interesting work on the relationship between Buddhism and science is being done in the area of comparison between Yogacara theories regarding the store consciousness and modern evolutionary biology especially DNA. It has been scientifically established that there is a co-relationship between Buddhist meditation and improved quality of life. It has been substantially proved that meditation thickens the brain tissues thus increasing attention and sensory processing . Also, it has been found that Pirith chanting not only has a sobering influence on the listener but also a beneficial impact on the heart function.

      Buddhism and science can coexist harmoniously

      Science works on the basis that nature fixes laws. But on the other hand Buddhism strives to solve the problem of human suffering which arises from both internal or mental and external or physical conditions, with an emphasis on human behaviour. At the same time Buddhism sees this as a natural process. Thus Buddhism has faith in nature as well as human beings. Science ignores human values; hence it has an incomplete or faulty view of nature. Science’s search for knowledge is both inadequate and incomplete because it ignores the internal nature of man. Science pays little attention to the development of the human being, whereas Buddhism pins great faith in the human potential and its full exploitation. Buddhist teachings rely on the ability of human potential to develop wisdom and realize the truth of the laws of nature. 

      In Buddhism, real insight or right view has the capacity to liberate and bring about peace and happiness. The findings of science are also typical insight; for they can be applied in technology as well as in our daily behaviour to improve the quality of life and happiness. Thus, Buddhists and scientists can share with each other the ways of studying and practice and can profit from each one’s insights and experiences. The practice of mindfulness and concentration always brings insight. It can help both Buddhists and Scientists. Thus Buddhism and science can go hand in hand to promote more insight and bring greater liberation leading to a reduction of discrimination, separation, fear, anger and despair in the world.

       

      The trend to link Buddhism and science has continued unabated so much so that today Buddhism and science are considered to be rivers leading to the same sea. Hence, the dire need for greater dialogue between Buddhist scholars and scientists to realize the importance of Buddhist wisdom to advance scientific wisdom.   

  • Moderator
    Aik TC's Avatar
    1,511 posts since Jun '10
    • Brief Teachings: Select wisdom from sources old and new

      The Editors SUMMER 2017 tricycle

      AJAHN BUDDHADASA

      Buddhism does not depend on or assume any external authority whatsoever. It is neither exclusive nor possessive. Being Buddhist is a matter of living a sublime way of life, the brahmacariya, wherein one explores the law of nature and lives in harmony with it. It is not a matter of external identity or affiliation. Therefore, you need not convert or register yourself as a Buddhist in order to study and practice Buddhism. You can follow whatever religion pleases you or follow no religion at all, and still study and practice Buddhism. It is simply a matter of how you live your life. Any who are willing to approach, learn, investigate, practice, and live according to natural truth can experience this. Buddhism is available to everyone and is not exclusive in any way.

      From Under the Bodhi Tree: Buddha’s Original Vision of Dependent Co-Arising, by Buddhadasa Bhikkhu © 2017. Reprinted with permission of Wisdom Publications. Ajahn Buddhadasa (1906–93) was one of the most influential Buddhist teachers in the history of Thailand and founder of the first modern forest monastery there.

      DAVID MICHIE

      The qualities of a student have been long established in Buddhism. They include the checklist you might expect—concentration, application, respect for your teacher and the dharma. But they also include the quality of having a questioning attitude, specifically an attitude ensuring that the teachings you receive are in accordance with the established dharma.

       

      One of the most common criticisms of Buddhism I come across is the idea that in following a particular teacher, practitioners are somehow allowing themselves to become brainwashed. From the outside, it’s easy to see why people might think that practitioners fall under the spell of their guru, given their efforts to carry out instructions.

      But as this teaching shows, there is no room for passivity on the part of a student. This is not a one-way process, like watching TV. Students are, instead, engaged in a dynamic activity in which we are constantly assessing and questioning the teachings, thinking about how they apply to our lives. In following a teacher, dharma students are not abdicating responsibility for their future to someone else. Quite the opposite. Just as the occupants of a prisoner-of-war camp might value the advice of a tunnel engineer, or a group of lost explorers would have much to learn from a navigation expert, the actual business of escaping from samsara is something we need to do for ourselves—and, of course, for others.

      From Buddhism for Busy People: Finding Happiness in a Hurried World, by David Michie © 2017. Reprinted with permission of Shambhala Publications. David Michie is a corporate communications consultant, public speaker, novelist, and Buddhist practitioner.

      PERLE BESSERMAN AND MANFRED STEGER

      There’s a difference between meditating to achieve an immediate goal, like becoming a healthier or a better person, and committing yourself to a lifetime of zazen practice with no tangible goal at all. The 20th-century Japanese Zen master Yasutani Hakuun Roshi once described the two kinds of people who come to the practice as those seeking a temporary cure for suffering and those seeking to unearth the root of suffering altogether. Although he didn’t brush aside the former, he pointed out that this instrumental attitude wasn’t enough to sustain a long-term relationship with Zen, one that goes beyond simply adding another “technique” to our first aid kit.

      Looking to Zen for self-improvement isn’t an American invention. It has a long tradition in Japan that goes back to its ancient warrior society. Most samurai used Zen, in fact, to become more skilled at making war and dying. They practiced zazen in order to develop strong “mind power” (joriki) so they would be better swordsmen and less fearful in facing an enemy. Today Japanese businesspeople use it to become more concentrated competitors. The impulse of the businesspeople does not differ much from that of the samurai. The motivation for self-improvement takes many forms.

      The second group of people who come to Zen, those whom Yasutani Hakuun Roshi described as seeking to unearth the root of suffering altogether, aren’t any less troubled or pained than the first. Often, in the course of training, those seeking self-­improvement develop into committed Zen practitioners while the so-called spiritual seekers disappear. The issue is not so much the reasons for coming as what happens once you actually sit down and start to meditate. You might come wanting to improve yourself and leave after six sessions because you feel you aren’t getting anywhere. Likewise, you can be driven by a profound, burning lifelong existential question, and also leave after those same six sessions for the same reason. The important thing is to stick to the practice no matter what. You’ve got to develop the love of sitting for its own sake—and an appreciation for the paradox, because the point of Zen is seeing that there isn’t any static self to improve or realize.

      From Grassroots Zen: Community and Practice in the Twenty-First Century, by Perle Besserman and Manfred Steger © 2017. Reprinted with permission of Monkfish Book Publishing Company. Perle Besserman and Manfred Steger are married university professors and authors. Founders of the Princeton Area Zen group in New Jersey, they have been teaching Zen for more than 25 years.

      KONCHOG LHADREPA AND CHARLOTTE DAVIS

      If faith is strong and pure, then wisdom will develop easily into enlightenment. But if we lack faith and devotion, then even if the Buddha were standing in front of us, he could not bring any benefit. Being without faith is said to be like trying to make a stone float or trying to steer a boat without a rudder; it is like an armless man in front of treasure, like trying to grow a plant from a burnt seed, or like a blind man trying to find his way in a temple.

      From The Art of Awakening: A User’s Guide to Tibetan Buddhist Art and Practice, by Konchog Lhadrepa and Charlotte Davis © 2017. Reprinted with permission of Snow Lion, an imprint of Shambhala Publications. Konchog Lhadrepa is a holder of the Karma Gadri lineage of painting and has been the principal of the Tsering Art School since its founding in 1996. Charlotte Davis is a thangka painter who was among the first group of graduates to complete their studies at Tsering Art School.

      THICH NHAT HANH

      There is a story of a king who, upon listening to a musician playing a 16-string sitar, was moved to the depths of his soul. The music touched him so deeply that he wanted to discover exactly where it was coming from. When the musician departed, he left his sitar with the king, and the king ordered his servant to chop the instrument into small pieces. No matter how hard they tried, though, they could not find the source of the beautiful sound, the essence of the music. Just like the king looking into the sitar, the bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara looked deeply into his own five skandhas [impermanent “heaps,” made of matter, sensations, perceptions, thoughts, and self-consciousness] and discovered that they were empty of a self. No matter how wonderful something is, when we look deeply into it, we see that there is nothing in it we can identify as a separate self.

      From The Other Shore: A New Translation of the Heart Sutra with Commentaries, by Thich Nhat Hanh © 2017. Reprinted with permission of Parallax Press. Thich Nhat Hanh is one of the most revered Zen teachers in the world today.

      SOLALA TOWLER

      A student came to Master Bankei and said that he had an uncontrollable temper, which he felt was obstructing his cultivation practice. What, he asked, could he do about it?

      “Okay,” said Master Bankei. “Show it to me.”

      “I cannot show it to you right now,” answered the student.

      “Well,” asked Master Bankei, “when can you show it to me?”

      “It comes on me all of a sudden,” said the student.

      “Ah,” said the master. “Then it cannot be a part of your true nature. If that were so you would be able to show it to me any time.”

      The student went away and meditated on this and from that day his temper was gone.

      From The Spirit of Zen: Teaching Stories on the Way to Enlightenment, by Solala Towler © 2017. Reprinted with permission of Watkins Publishing. Solala Towler is a Taoist meditation and qigong instructor. He is the editor of The Empty Vessel, a journal of Taoist philosophy and practice.

      PHILLIP MOFFITT

      Buddhist teachings suggest that there are certain characteristics called paramis, or perfections, that you must develop before you can ever achieve liberation. One of these qualities, right resolve, has to do with developing the will to live by your intentions. Through practicing right resolve, you learn to set your mind to maintaining your values and priorities, and to resist the temptation to sacrifice your values for material or ego gain. You gain the ability to consistently hold your intentions, no matter what arises.

      Right intention is like muscle—you develop it over time by exercising it. When you lose it, you just start over again. There’s no need to judge yourself or quit when you fail to live by your intentions. You are developing the habit of right intention so that it becomes an unconscious way of living—an automatic response to all situations. Right intention is organic; it thrives when cultivated and wilts when neglected.

       

      From “The Heart’s Intention,” a blog post by Phillip Moffitt. Published on dharmawisdom.org. Phillip Moffitt is a writer, insight meditation teacher, and the founder of the Life Balance Institute.

  • Moderator
    Aik TC's Avatar
    1,511 posts since Jun '10
    • China Tears Down the Tibetan City in the Sky

      Steve Shaw August 03, 2017 The Diplomat

      China is demolishing homes and evicting thousands from Larung Gar, the world’s largest Tibetan Buddhist institution.

      At the eastern end of the vast Tibetan Plateau lies a sprawling monastery named Larung Gar, which is the largest Tibetan Buddhist institute in the world and a monumental landmark to Tibetan culture, religion, and history.

      It is home to anywhere between 10,000 and 40,000 residents, including monks, nuns, and visiting students. Because Larung Gar sits at an elevation of over 13,000 feet (3,962m), it has become known as a “city in the sky.”

      But in June 2016, the Chinese government in Beijing issued an order that stated the site had become overcrowded and its population had to be reduced to a maximum of 5,000 by October 2017.

      Within weeks, work teams descended on the peaceful community and began tearing down people’s homes, reducing cabins to nothing more than splintered wood and shattered glass. The owners were forced to sign documents agreeing not to return to the area again and to “uphold the unity of the nation.”

      They were then forced to board buses and were taken away.

      Last year around 3,730 residents were made to leave and 172 monks’ residences and 1,328 nuns’ residences were destroyed — a total of 1,500 residences demolished. Further demolitions began earlier this year.

      “The entire process — from eviction through to demolition and finally to forced removal by bus — is opaque,” said a spokesperson for advocacy organization Free Tibet.

      “The authorities within the area have shared no information on the plight of those who are removed, with people saying families are forced to house any relatives who have been bused out of Larung Gar.”

      As pictures began to emerge of the destruction, human rights groups and international organizations called it a crackdown on religious freedoms and an attempt by the Chinese government to destroy an icon of Tibetan culture.

      But with travel to the area severely restricted for international travelers, the media, and aid organizations, it was almost impossible to see first-hand what was taking place.

      However, one young Canadian-Chinese man was able to reach Larung Gar due to his Chinese background and ability to speak fluent Mandarin.

      The Hidden Truth

      In early 2017, David Chan traveled to Chengdu, the capital of China’s Sichuan province and the closest major city to Larung Gar, where he joined a group of Chinese tourists.

      Chinese citizens are permitted to visit Tibet as part of China’s push to make the region an attractive destination for both tourism and resettlement.

      “I met a few Chinese tourists who wanted to go; I didn’t know them beforehand,” Chan said.

      “We then joined one of a number of very small tours. Drivers take groups of maybe three to five in SUVs and you need the driver’s knowledge to reach Larung Gar. Without these groups it would have been very difficult to get there.

      “It was a very long journey from Chengdu and as we traveled we all got to know one another. When I asked my companions about Tibet they gave me the state media’s account of things. I was told that Tibetan people are very prosperous, that the Chinese government takes good care of them, that they are given money by the government for their land, and that their livestock can be sold to the Chinese government at a very premium price, and they have large tax subsidies, many things like that.

      “They told me that Tibetans had no reason to oppose the Chinese government because their lives were very good. They told me the ones who protest were just troublemakers.”

      Tibetans have campaigned for freedom ever since Chinese forces began an occupation of their land in 1950. The Chinese government claims that accusations of oppression in Tibet are a myth and they say that Tibet becoming part of the People’s Republic of China has been overwhelmingly good for the population.

      When looking at Tibet’s economic development today it can be argued that China is correct in saying that they have improved the region by introducing things such as highways, railways, hotels, and electricity but that is only if you are looking at the situation on the surface.

      In reality social and ethnic discrimination are prevalent, with ethnic Han Chinese being the main people to benefit from development. In 2016 the independent watchdog Freedom House noted: “Under the Chinese constitution, autonomous areas have the right to formulate their own regulations and implement national legislation in accordance with local conditions. In practice, however, decision-making power is concentrated in the hands of senior, ethnic [Han] Chinese CCP [Chinese Communist Party] officials.”

      Freedom House added, “[T]he few ethnic Tibetans who occupy senior positions serve mostly as figureheads and echo official doctrine.”

      Jobs from tourism, infrastructure, and construction projects are also primarily awarded to Han Chinese migrants and in some areas Han Chinese migration has been so extensive that Tibetans have been made a minority their own country.

      People face arrest and punishment for “crimes” as simple as displaying a Tibetan flag or publicly protesting.

      It took two days for Chan to reach Larung Gar from Chengdu and he had to pass through two road blocks which were patrolled by armed sentries. Throughout the journey he was regarded as a domestic tourist.

      The tourist group arrived at a time of year when demolitions had not fully resumed after the winter season.

      “The level and extent of demolitions varied across different parts of the monastery complex. At some parts, it appeared as if strips of residences were being cleared out, and at some other parts, I saw numerous homes spray painted with numbers and earmarked for demolition. There was also debris lying around. I think I saw quite a lot of it. Bulldozers too,” Chan said.

      “The demolitions were extensive but not widespread. By saying this, I mean to say that it was not all of the residences which were being destroyed. Some were, and some were not. There were also modern concrete residences being built by the government, alongside the original homes.

      “These demolitions appeared to be more about reducing the number of monks and nuns.”

      Unlike the tourists that accompanied him, Chan was keen to do more than just take photographs. To understand more about what was going on he wanted to talk to the monks and nuns directly.

      “I separated myself from the rest of the group by going to a narrow alley way and I must have tried to speak to at least 20 different people but none would talk to me. Then I recalled that in the Brad Pitt movie Seven Years in Tibet, two European mountaineers managed to get through to a Tibetan village chief because they showed them a picture of the Dalai Lama. So I got a picture of him on my phone. It was by this method that I finally met a nun who was willing to engage with me.

      “This nun could converse in Mandarin. She told me that the devotees saw this problem [the demolitions] as one they could not stop because China was too powerful. She said that to say there was overcrowding was not right as they had been living fine on their own. I saw that if indeed overcrowding was a problem, then the government could easily just build more houses to the side of the mountain without demolishing anything. There is was so much land it would be so simple.”

      Free Tibet does not entirely dismiss the notion that Larung Gar may have become overcrowded but they say that the way that China is dealing with it is the problem. The group argues that evicting people and driving them thousands of miles away before forcibly destroying their homes does not demonstrate concern for safety and security, nor is it a policy that is seen elsewhere in major Chinese cities that also face problems with overcrowding.

      The Real Agenda

      Based on what he saw first-hand; Chan says that he believes that what was occurring was a case of economics and development trumping cultural and historical sensitivity.

      “This appeared to be more about rejigging the area for tourism and economic activity. The negative impact on the monks’ and nuns’ chosen lives appeared incidental. I didn’t see this as an outright wiping out of the monks’ and nuns’ practices. But it was still an injustice because their voices had apparently not been given a fair and considered hearing by the Chinese government.

      “I was told by both the nun and my Chinese driver that the government wants to make the place popular for tourists. The government seems to recognize that the place is quite unique in the world and they want to play down the political problems with Tibet.

      “They also want to keep much of the basic Tibetan architecture so when tourists come they can see all these nice buildings and history. Now, this is all well and good but the huge cultural cost is that eventually it will no longer be a pure Buddhist academic place, it will become a tourist attraction.

      “Making this even more evident is the hotels, which are about a five-minute drive from Larung Gar in the township called Serthar. Our driver took us to one of the many new hotels that had been built here by Chinese companies.

      “The place we were taken to had at least at the same interior finishing standard as as a three or four-star international hotel. You had marble flooring in the lobby, you had big and very comfortable beds, and with this place being about 4,000 meters above sea level, this hotel even had individual oxygen pumps in each room. If you come down with altitude sickness – which people often get at around 4,000 to 5,000 meters – this hotel had a pump and you can just attach a mask and you can then breathe pure oxygen.

      “I had been on high-altitude mountain treks in the past and had never seen anything like this. I was so surprised going into the room. I reflected that this kind of thing is probably only found in the best hotels in, say, the Swiss alps.”

      The hotels are part of a much larger project, according to Washington-based International Campaign for Tibet (ICT), which released a report in March titled “Shadow of Dust Across the Sun: How Tourism is use to Counter Tibetan Cultural Resilience.” In this report the group claims that demolitions in Larung Gar and Yachen Gar — another Buddhist complex in Sichuan province — are aimed at transforming two of the world’s most famous Buddhist institutes into tourist destinations.

      Matteo Mecacci, president of ICT, said in a statement: “The evidence presented in this report calls into question the entire basis of the demolition of homes and expulsion of nuns and monks, which have caused such distress. It cannot be possible for the Chinese authorities to claim there is overcrowding and not enough space for genuine religious practitioners given the extent of construction over a vast area in this remote valley.”

      Chan felt that this development work appeared to not only be detrimental to important historical and cultural sites in Tibet but, as a side effect, also threatened to gradually dilute Tibetan culture.

      “I noticed that Serthar likely used to be very Tibetan but these hotels were being built by people who don’t speak Tibetan. And then you also find that there are stalls beginning to appear selling Chinese goods.

      “I spoke to my driver about this and he said that the Chinese government will tell people go to Tibet, set up a life there, set up a farm, grow your own crops. It can be a fresh start away from the big cities and if you choose to live away from the cities you can have a good life.

      “For example, there are now thousands and thousands of Han Chinese citizens living in Qinghai province. They go there, build a house and they settle there. Over time this leads to the place becoming more Han than Tibetan. Perhaps many years ago it was 10 percent Han but then it grows to 20 percent, 40 percent, 60 percent. I think the government wants to convert Eastern Tibet to make the Han population the majority. Not to eliminate the Tibetans but maybe make eastern Tibet 60 percent Han Chinese and 40 percent Tibetan.

      “It is important that people care about this because the local Tibetans don’t seem to have a voice. Many don’t speak English or Mandarin and as the government does all these things it has very large impact on their lives. I can appreciate the intentions of the Chinese government in wanting to develop the area, but the huge and irreparable cost in terms of undermined cultural heritage seems to be something that the officials do not fully appreciate.

       

      “Something very valuable is being lost here. But no one talks about it and nothing is being done about it.”

  • Moderator
    Aik TC's Avatar
    1,511 posts since Jun '10
    • ... for our fulfillment change, what happens? They will change, they do change. Sometimes for ... subtle discomfort of change and the far...and subject to change, whether we like ...painful situations can change for the better...shaving our head, changing our name to...

  • Moderator
    Aik TC's Avatar
    1,511 posts since Jun '10
    • Mind over matter

      Wency Leung The Globe and Mail Jul. 20, 2017

      Can people warm or cool their bodies using only their thoughts? Wency Leung investigates the physiological effects of meditation and breathing techniques in extreme environments

      Vitina Blumenthal rolled out her yoga mat on the back patio of the Nicaragua hotel, where she was recently leading a wellness retreat. Seeking relief from the 35-degree Celsius heat, she sat down, cross-legged, with her hands in her lap.

      The Toronto mindfulness coach straightened her spine, closed her eyes and took three deep breaths. Then, curling up the sides of her tongue and sticking it out, she slowly inhaled through the tunnel she had formed, and exhaled.

      After repeating this several times, she could feel herself becoming calmer, lighter and less bothered by the oppressive heat.

      “I get really overwhelmed sometimes when I’m super-heated and I can feel frustrated,” says Blumenthal, founder of the luxury wellness travel company WanderfulSoul. “That breath is a nice way to kind of trick the mind that you’re now cool.”

      Blumenthal, who has been practising yoga for more than a decade, explains she learned the meditative breathing technique, called sitali, while living in an ashram in India. Whenever she feels unbearably hot, she uses the technique to make herself feel cooler, whether she’s travelling abroad or riding out a humid Toronto heat wave.

      Meditative techniques for regulating body temperature are part of ancient spiritual practices.

      Yoga practitioners, for instance, refer to sitali and the similar sitkara, which involves positioning the tongue just behind the teeth, as breathing exercises that lower one’s body temperature.

      Other yoga breathing exercises such as kapalbhati, which involves forceful breaths using the diaphragm, are meant to increase body heat. Tibetan Buddhist monks and nuns are known to practice tummo meditation, which is believed to create “inner fire,” allowing them to withstand frigid temperatures.

      Similarly, Wim Hof, a daredevil from the Netherlands, is renowned for incredible feats such as submerging himself in ice for more than an hour at a time and climbing Mount Everest clothed in only a pair of shorts.

      He attributes his seemingly superhuman resilience to his eponymous method of breathing and meditation exercises.

      Such phenomena have prompted researchers to investigate the physiological effects of meditation on body temperature. Can people actually think their way to becoming hotter or cooler? 

      Inner fire

      One of the first Western scientists to examine this type of meditative practice is Dr. Herbert Benson, a mind body professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and now director emeritus of the Benson-Henry Institute for Mind Body Medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital. In February, 1981, Benson and his team travelled to the Himalayan town of Upper Dharamsala in India to study monks as they practised tummo meditation.

      As they reported in a 1982 paper published in the journal Nature, the only descriptions of this esoteric practice that existed previously were unscientific eye-witness accounts. These depicted novice monks sitting naked and cross-legged on the ground, then wrapping themselves with sheets dipped in icy water. The men were then said to have dried the sheets with their body heat.

      Benson says he observed seasoned monks practising tummo meditation in temperatures of 4 C to 10 C. He noticed they first entered what he calls a “relaxation response” state, which he describes as the opposite of the “fight or flight” stress response, slowing their breaths and settling into a deep rest. Then, they visualized their bodies being heated by fire, which they explained comes from “the scattered consciousness,” he says.

      “The purpose of that is to burn away the harmful effects of stress,” Benson says, noting that at such low environmental temperatures, “You and I would go into uncontrollable shivering. [But] here, they were able to actually have the sheets steam on their bodies. That was for them, a sign of successful meditation.”

      Benson and his team took a number of measurements of three monks, aged 46 to 59, including temperatures of various parts of their body. They recorded no change in their rectal temperature, but found the monks were able to increase the temperature of their fingers and toes by as much as 8.3 C.

      “This was fascinating,” Benson says. He noted the monks were able to keep their peripheral body temperature raised for as long as they were visualizing heat generated in the body.

      The question, though, is how? Benson never found the answer. After the study was complete, he didn’t end up researching tummo further. The financial costs of returning to India were too high, he says, and instead, he turned his attention to examining the impact of meditation on health issues such as high blood pressure.

      Mental imagery

      Dr. Maria Kozhevnikov has since picked up where Benson and his team left off.

      Kozhevnikov, an associate professor of psychology at the National University of Singapore, has studied the physiological effects of Vajrayana techniques (Vajrayana is another name for Tantric Buddhism), including tummo meditation, on practitioners in Nepal, the Chinese province of Qinghai (also known as eastern Tibet) and Bhutan. Unlike mindfulness practices that induce relaxation, Vajrayana techniques elicit an arousal response controlled by the sympathetic nervous system, she explains.

      Practitioners “use stress to go to a higher state of consciousness, not a relaxed state of mind,” she says. So contrary to what Benson believed he observed, practitioners of tummo and other Vajrayana techniques don’t dial down the stress response during meditation; they actively crank it up, she found.

      Kozhevnikov, who is also a visiting associate professor of radiology at Harvard Medical School and specializes in the neural mechanisms of visual imagery, believes the answer to how tummo practitioners raise their body temperature consists of two parts: breathing and intense visualization.

      The breathing, which in tummo practice is forceful and involves abdominal and pelvic muscle contractions, “is not that interesting,” she says. Rather, it’s just one of a few mundane techniques, such as engaging in physical exercise, that allow people to increase their core body temperature to a certain point. Typically, once they hit 37 C, the body’s cooling mechanisms automatically kick in. They start to sweat, their blood vessels dilate and they’re unable to raise their body temperature any further.

      This is where she believes intense visualization comes in. In tummo meditation, practitioners conjure mental images, such as flames, and imagine sensations of intense heat. Kozhevnikov suggests this visualization allows practitioners to override the body’s automatic cooling response, allowing them to push past their typical threshold.

      “By using the visualization, apparently, the body doesn’t understand what’s happening and they can go on and on and on, and higher … than 37” degrees, she says.

      Kozhevnikov says she’s still trying to figure out how visualization may produce this overriding effect. This summer, she has been recording the brain activity of nuns in Bhutan using electroencephalography as part of her efforts to understand the mechanisms at work.

      Acclimatization training

      Some scientists are skeptical that this kind of body-temperature regulation can be explained by the powers of the mind. Dr. Maria Hopman, professor of integrative physiology at Radboud University in the Netherlands, thinks the answers are likely more physical than mental.

      Hopman has performed several highly publicized experiments on Hof, also known as “The Iceman,” whose training method has gained followers around the world.

      One of her most “amazing” findings, she says, was Hof’s ability to maintain his core body temperature at close to 37 C, even after an hour and a half of being submerged in ice water, while his skin temperature plummeted. Hopman believes the main factor behind his resilience appears to be his vasoconstriction ability, or his ability to reduce blood flow to the skin in response to cold, so that he doesn’t lose too much heat. She suggests he has acquired this ability over many years of training.

      Even though Hof’s method involves meditation and breathing exercises and is described as similar to tummo and yogic breathing, Hopman says she has witnessed him perform stunts in extreme cold without much time to meditate in preparation.

      “I don’t know that the meditation is so important,” she says. “I think the most important thing is the training and the adjustment of the body.”

      If you were to take daily minute-long cold showers, for instance, and gradually increase the length of your showers over time, you’d likely be able to withstand a 15-minute cold shower by the end of a year, Hopman says. “I really think it’s an adaptation of the body as you exposure yourself to it regularly.”

      Hopman notes Hof’s extraordinary abilities do not extend to tolerating heat. One of her colleagues once studied him as he ran a marathon in the heat of a desert in Namibia, she says, noting, “He was not extremely good at it. He really was not any better than anyone else with some strength and a fit body.”

      Cooling down

      If these hypotheses provide possible explanations for how one might keep warm in cold temperatures, what could be behind yoga and meditation techniques that are meant to cool you down?

      Indeed, it’s possible to improve your tolerance to heat through similar repeated exposure. For instance, Bikram yoga, which is practised in a heated room, can be considered a form of heat training, says Dr. Jessica Mee, a lecturer and researcher in the school of sport, health and exercise sciences at Bangor University in Wales. Typically, after 15 sessions over four weeks, people start to experience certain physical adaptations that allow them to better cope in heat, such as an increase in sweating, more dilute sweat, and lower cardiovascular strain, she says. These adaptations may, over time, help you feel less uncomfortable in heat and become more efficient at cooling yourself down.

      The acute effects of specific cooling postures and breathing techniques, however, such as the sitali breathing that Blumenthal practices, are not well studied. While they’re widely recognized and practised in yoga, there’s a lack of scientific literature on the effects of these techniques on body temperature, Mee says.

      But ultimately, Mee explains, our body temperature is dictated by our heat storage, which is determined by our heat production, or metabolic rate, and our ability to lose heat, which is typically through the evaporation of sweat. She suggests certain meditation and breathing techniques may help relax the body, reducing one’s metabolic rate to resting levels.

      “So when we’re rested or calm and in a meditative state, you would likely expect a lower heat production,” she says, noting this is likely achieved through multiple responses including a lower heart rate, a lower respiratory rate and less skeletal muscle activity.

      Psychological resilience

      None of these practices for consciously controlling one’s body temperature are particularly mystical, says Dr. Norman Farb, an assistant professor of psychology at the University of Toronto Mississauga.

      But he suggests our bodies may be capable of more than we think. How we interpret our state of being hot or cold can contribute to how well we tolerate extreme temperatures, he says. For example, he explains, if we feel as though the summer heat is unbearable, the stress of that discomfort can itself affect our physiology, such as causing our heart rates to increase and our metabolism to speed up, thus making us even hotter and making the situation feel worse.

      “That’s going to create a vicious cycle, like, ‘Oh, it’s too hot, and now I’m getting stressed about getting too hot and so I feel even hotter and I get more stressed,’” Farb says, noting many meditation practices are aimed at helping people distinguish between the primary sensation of what they’re experiencing and the interpretive layer they add on top.

      “If you can stay with the primary sensation, it lends itself to psychological resilience because the things that often make people quit or or panic or fail are appraisals that they can’t cope,” he says.

      Blumenthal, the Toronto mindfulness coach, believes this is what sitali enables her to do. While it may not actually change her body temperature, it calms her nerves and relieves her frustration over the heat, allowing her to better deal with the sweltering weather, she says.

      Farb warns, however, that the body still has its physical limits. People who are good at breaking away from their concerns about the heat or cold may actually put themselves at risk of becoming overheated or making themselves vulnerable to hypothermia.

       

      “It isn’t always just mind over matter,” he says. “You could get to the point where you still freeze to death or overheat. And in fact, this is a practice that would let you get to that place.”