10 ways to control your anger - Professional expert’s advice

I am really emotional and excitable person. I think that there are two types of anger: constructive anger and a destructive one. In order to understand the anger phenomenon I decided to investigate the nature of anger, reasons of its appearing, key factors and anger management.

What does it mean this anger? Anger is a strong indignation feeling of our emotional sphere that is attended by self-control losing. Anger is a signal of our state. Glands produce an array of hormones that have a great and deep effect on all our body. The main participants of this process are adrenaline and cortisol. They activate cardiovascular system and consequently all organs. Adrenalin causes fast heart beating, rising blood pressure. These rich oxygenated blood streams to the places are responsible for reaction. Thus some extra energy is released.

There are 4 basic ways of anger expressions:

1. Straight and immediately (verbally or nonverbally) to show your anger. It gives an opportunity to free from the negative emotions.

2. To express anger in an indirect way. In this case usually suffer persons that are weaker, not dangerous and those ones who “come to hand”, usually they are our family and close relatives. Thus we hurt our dear ones. One of the best ways is to express your anger to the person who is the source of this very anger. If it is impossible- better find some compromise.

3. Restraining anger you “drive” it deep inside. So, negative emotions store will provoke a big stress sooner or later.

4. You may foresee situation of anger feeling, try not to expand this feeling but get to know the reason, understand and solve it. A Roman philosopher Seneca said: “When you are feeling of ascending “volcano”- stand still, not doing anything- not speaking, not moving.”

Anger is a normal and natural human feeling, especially nowadays as life is really fast and we have a huge amount of information to accumulate (in comparison with our previous generations). The range of anger is rather wide: from a slight annoyance to impetuous fury. Anger can be quick and long, lasting for years in form of bitterness, vengeance or hate. Anger can lead to health issues like depression, high blood pressure, hearth diseases, stresses, alcohol dependence and obesity. If you are anger- express it. If you feel discomfort from these “negative splashes”- then we can give some techniques how to manage your emotional anger:

  • 1. Take a deep and continuous breath. Count up to 50 or imagine your aggressor just naked, only in socks. This will help you to calm and smile.

  • 2. Have a walk. Look at high sky. Continue to breathe deep and easily. So you appraise the situation and calm down.

  • 3. Do some physical exercises. When you are angry- your body is very tensed and tough. If you stretch your muscles it will relax your body, as you will spill out all your negative energy into action. Your brains will get more oxygen and it assists to clear your thoughts.

  • 4. Write down all your thoughts. Write down that you are mad and why. Avoid being rational, logical or laconic. Write on paper all you are feeling this moment. Try to write all in details. The function of this technique is to shift all your anger out of your head on paper.

  • 5. Be grateful. Find someone to thank. Do you not forget about yourself. Thank that you have woken up today, thank that that the Sun is shining for you, that the sky is blue and the grass is green.

  • 6. Prayer. Ask God to be with you during this anger moment and lead you.

  • 7. Meditation. Close your eyes, look into solar plexus, and be all your anger, breathing deeply.

  • 8. Change of places. Move yourself on your enemy’s place. And look at situation from his point of view. Better look at the situation from the ceiling. Focus on details, especially on funny and absurd ones. Strive to forgive your enemy as well as forgive truly yourself.

  • 9. Go back to your childhood memories. Recollect state when you were angry. Hug this child and say: “All is ok. I am here. You are good child. I love you and I will not leave you.”

  • 10. Your values. What is the most significant thing in your life? Who are the most important people in your life? What kind of person do you want to be? Think and accept that point that you are living your life, and you are living your values. There is a good man inside you that wants to help you. I wish you good luck!

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Friday, June 27, 2008

22-year-old is said to be embodiment of wisdom and compassion in world of Buddhism

SHAMONG*-On the day the living Buddha first stepped onto New Jersey soil, weeks of rainy weather gave way to not one, but two rainbows - fitting symbolism for a man many consider a bright sun rising in the Buddhist sky.

And on the beautiful day that followed, more than 1,600 people from around the country converged on the Karma Thegsum Choling New Jersey (KTCNJ) Buddhist Monastery in Shamong to hear the teachings of Ogyen Trinley Dorje, the man viewed as the 17th reincarnation of a 12th century Tibetan lama.

Regarded as the human embodiment of wisdom and compassion, the 17th Gyalwa Karmapa heads one of the four family lineages of Tibetan Buddhism and is recognized as the third most important Buddhist figure behind the Dalai Lama and the Panchen Lama.

During his 18-day tour, which started May 15, Dorje traveled from speaking engagements in New York City and his North American seat at the Karma Triyana Dharmachakra in Woodstock, N.Y. to Shamong, then Boulder, Colo. and, finally, Seattle.

"This is my first visit to New Jersey, and as such I feel like a new man," he said to the crowd that had assembled under a massive white tent in the backyard of the KTCNJ, which sits on 150 acres off Atsion Road.

Nestled at the foot of the Pine Barrens, the house serves as a monastery as well as his official North American residence.

Given a quick glance, Dorje could pass for your average college student; minus the large entourage and flowing robe, of course.

But At 22, Dorje has quickly become a spiritual leader whole governments eye with an uneasy suspicion; his youth coupled with a life story that has every potential to become one of modern legend, has many scholars and social analysts believing he may become extremely instrumental as Buddhism's premier proponent of world peace and a free Tibet.

Only nine years ago at the age of 14, Dorje first made far reaching sociopolitical waves when he mounted a daring escape from China after the government restricted his ability to receive certain teachings in Tibet.

Over eight grueling days, he, along with a handful of assistants, traveled 1,000 miles by foot, horse, train, jeep and helicopter over the Himalayas from Tibet to Dharamsala, joining the exiled Dalai Lama in India. The Indian government officially accepted him as a refugee in 2001.

The much-publicized escape represented an embarrassment for China and strained relations between the Indian and Chinese governments.

But on that beautifully sunny day a few weeks ago, the culture of world politics was eclipsed by a message of understanding and empathy.

"The world seems to be shrinking," he said. "As the world becomes smaller, we have a new responsibility for greater harmony and greater friendship through greater communication and understanding of one another."

Sharing intimate personal experiences and anecdotes, Dorje conveyed the importance of understating and embracing the world's different cultures as the way to bring people together and achieve peace.

"The establishment of genuine peace and happiness, not just for one person, but for everyone, depends upon communication and understanding," Dorje explained through a set of translators; one English, one Chinese.

"For that reason, it is essential that we put great emphasison the understanding of one another's culture and language."

Dorje went on to acknowledge the obvious example of having his teachings translated into the two languages.

The message of peace through cultural unity held a special place for Devorah Devi, a New York City resident who has combined a Jewish heritage with Buddhist mediation.

"He spent 900 years perfecting peace and nothing else compares to his love and respect of earth and the fragility of life," said Devi, who made the trip south to hear Dorje speak. "I find that meditation helps me obtain a better sense of compassion for myself and others since one of the great things Buddhism teaches is that people can help themselves and I find that very refreshing."

According to Buddhist history, the first Karmapa attained enlightenment, breaking the cycle of rebirth, yet has continued to reincarnate himself generation after generation for the last 900 years in an effort to guide others along the path.

Each preceding Karmapa left letters, usually in a poetic form, indicating the location and parentage of their next reincarnation.

Many of the Karmapas are also said to have been self-recognizing, meaning at a young age they claimed to be the reincarnation of the Karmapa, recognizing associates and colleagues of the former Karmapa. Since it is these associates that knew the former Karmapa and are the ones responsible for teaching and raising the next one, they play a critical role in finding and recognizing the next reincarnation.

However, since the death of the 16th Karmapa in 1981, two candidates have been put forth.

Both have been enthroned as the 17th Karmapa and have conducted ceremonies in that role.

The rival Karmapa, Trinlay Thaye Dorje, has toured Europe and continued to assert his own legitimacy. The issue has caused a division among followers around the world and has even gone to court in India.

Yet, this isn't the first time a debate has raged over the next 'real' Karmapa. Arguments over previous reincarnations have been contested through the centuries and eventually resolved.

Today, most Tibetans accept the recent U.S. visitor, citing his recognition as the 17th Karmapa by the Dalai Lama and the Chinese government.

"We are very fortunate to have him here," Lori Volpe, a spokesperson for KTCNJ said about the visit. "To followers it is a lesson for an enlightened being and to be here in his presence is incredible."

* Shamong is North American home to a reincarnated Tibetan Lama

By Scott Holden

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Buddhist monk and Harvard Chaplain teaching on island July 3-5

Harvard University's Buddhist chaplain, Lama Migmar Tseten, was 3 years old in 1956, when he fled hi s bi rthplace in Gy antse, th e central region of Tibet, and crossed the Himalayas by foot with 100,000 Tibetans, led by the 14th Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso.

The Chinese invaded Tibet in 1951, killing more than 1 million Tibetans.

The Chinese occupation of Tibet, which still occurs today, is what motivates Tseten to teach the Dharma of Buddhism.

"I was actually trained," said Tseten, 52 years old. "I have studied Buddhism with my teachers and I went to Indian universities to study Indian and Tibetan Buddhism. I made up my mind when I left Tibet because of the communists having destroyed thousands of monasteries. I think it is our obligation to preserve this rich cultural heritage in Tibet and to share it with others, and so, to share the wisdom, I took this responsibility."

Now a Buddhist chaplain at Harvard University and founder of the Sakya Institute in Cambridge, Mass., Tseten connected with islander Sherry Copeland who began studying at the Institute last winter. Hearing from Copeland that no Buddhist monks had been to Nantucket to share their teachings, Tseten agreed to come to the island next weekend.

On July 4, Tseten is teaching, "Training the Mind," a session "on how to calm your destructive emotions and then how to transform the person through pacifying destructive emotions of a person and cultivate positive feelings in a person," he said.

And on July 5, Tseten is offering "Green Tara Initiation and Practice Instruction," a female empowerment class to explore meditation empowerment through Mother Tara. The practice of Green Tara "helps to overcome fear and anxiety and eliminate suffering of all kinds. Tara brings happiness and can also grant wishes."

Tseten's visit to Nantucket is a chance for island Buddhists and those still exploring this belief system to learn about an alternate way of living one's life.

"I think the whole practice and study of Dharman Buddhism is just a method or structure in which to lead your life," said Copeland, a social worker with Nantucket Behavioral Health Services. "It helps you focus on what you're doing, and in that way it can be very transforming."

While on a trip to India and Nepal last year, Copeland "took refuge" or accepted the Buddhist teachings of Dharma.

"The study of Buddhism gives you a way to address the negativism in your life to help others," said Copeland. "With my own work, I'm trying to find a way to be more helpful, especially as a healing practitioner. It's hard to bring up issues and not get caught up yourself."

Part of Copeland's responsibilities as a Buddhist is to spread the word of His Holiness, the Dalai Lama. Towards that end, she will be hosting two teaching sessions by Tseten at the Yoga Room from July 3 to July 5 and a book signing at the Methodist Church.

Within the Buddhist belief system, Dharma is the truth about the way things are, and will always be, in the universe or nature, especially when contained in scripture.

Dharma is the written text around Buddhism, the body of teaching put forth by the Buddha, said Copeland.

What the Dharma means to each individual Buddhist, however, is as personal and unique as anyone's faith in their chosen religion.

By Peter B.Brace

What is Samsara in Buddhism?

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Buddhists do believe in god

One of the points that I run into all the time is that Buddhism is a religion without god, that is it is an atheistic religion. I admit this assertion as an ideal or elite belief, but contend that the vast majority of the world's Buddhists are theists, so one can't simply present Buddhism as an atheistic religion when most Buddhists are not atheists. I do tend to agree that Western converts to Buddhism are often atheists, and that's one reason Westerners view it as atheistic religion since the Buddhists they are most likely to know are not ethnically Asian ones. The US Religious Landscape Survey actually has some questions which assess the beliefs of American Buddhists.

As you can see the majority of American Buddhists are theists. To the left you see the ethnic distribution; even allocating all the atheists and agnostics ("Don't know/ refused/ other") to whites still leaves the majority of white American Buddhists admitting at least some belief in god! So you can't dismiss this result purely as an artifact of Asian immigration to the United States introducing "debased" Buddhism.

This is not to say that I believe Buddhism is a theistic religion; one can't deny that many people are Buddhists who are admitted atheists. It is to offer that to generalize about a religion one must look at the true distribution of beliefs and practices, not just scholarly inferences based on textual clues in their scriptures. Of the American religions listed Buddhism did have the highest number atheists (Jews were second at 10%), so it is correct to say that of all major World Religions atheistic interpretations are most prevalent in Buddhism. But it is too much to make the claim that Buddhism is an atheistic religion as such.

By Razib

Monday, June 23, 2008

Dream Builder

An architect fulfills the vision of working on a spiritually enriching project

After more than thirty years as an architect, John Martens had been in these types of meetings before. Difficult conversations where he would have to tell one of his clients that despite everyone's commitment and best intentions, a deadline could not be met.

But this was no ordinary project, and no ordinary client. Martens would have to tell Geshe Sopa, founding abbot of the Deer Park Buddhist Center, that his longstanding dream for a traditional Buddhist temple would not be ready on the projected completion date in 2007. More importantly, it wouldn't be completed in time for the Dalai Lama to deliver a formal consecration during his trip to Madison.

For Martens, these testy situations have always called for a little humility along with the agility needed to run and duck. But the response he received from Geshe Sopa embodied the Buddhist ethos and underscored the Dalai Lama's close relationship with Geshe Sopa and Deer Park.

"After we told Geshe Sopa it wouldn't be ready, he immediately got an ear-to-ear grin and said, 'I just want to thank you people for working so hard on this,'" says Martens. "That's what this project is all about. It's a total inspiration."

Geshe Sopa had no way of knowing that the fourteenth Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso, would be back again just one year after his last trip to Madison from India, where Tibet's political and spiritual leader has lived in exile since 1959. But on July 19, he will be here, and the occasion will mark an astonishing fifth official visit by His Holiness since 1979.

An iconic figure whose worldwide influence belies his humble calling as Buddhist monk, the Dalai Lama is a Nobel laureate and recipient of the Congressional Gold Medal, and he frequently spends his days zigzagging between countries to consult with dignitaries on political, religious and economic issues of the day, including the current unrest in Tibet that erupted in March. Amid all of this, Gyatso's journeys have again and again set him on a path leading back to our community, back to the uniqueness of Deer Park and its new temple, and Geshe Sopa's role in fostering its vision.

A Madison Treasure

The Deer Park Buddhist Center sits high on a hill in the Town of Dunn, just south of Madison. To visit Deer Park, you have to travel down a two-lane county highway that cuts through the countryside passing cornfields, a horse stable and unadorned family homes. If you're not looking for the turn, it's easy to speed right past.

The centerpiece of Deer Park is the nearly twenty-thousand-square-foot temple built in traditional Tibetan style that incorporates stunning handcrafted woodwork, metalwork and symbolic elements such as lotus flowers and wish-granting jewels. By any definition, this is no ordinary building. The Buddhist monastery and teaching community not only attracts students and devotees from around the globe, but has also become a treasured place for the Dalai Lama himself. To Geshe Sopa, it is the realization of a sacred ground in America that preserves Buddhist teachings, literature, art and architecture as well as a way to help sustain his Tibetan homeland's culture in the face of diaspora.

Even at a very early age, Geshe Sopa was considered an extraordinary Buddhist scholar. He was chosen as one of the examiners who tested the young Dalai Lama as he was completing his studies. In the early 1960s, Geshe Sopa moved to the United States at the Dalai Lama's personal request. His Holiness asked him to lead a mission of spreading the Buddhist message cross-culturally.

After a brief time on the east coast, Geshe Sopa moved to Madison to accept a teaching position at the University of Wisconsin--Madison. Here he was named professor emeritus and became the first Tibetan tenured at an American university. But in spite of these professional accomplishments, as with the Dalai Lama, Geshe Sopa's first calling is that of a simple monk. More than anything, Geshe Sopa wanted to create a lasting gathering place where people could study Buddhist teachings outside of the university setting. When asked why he's here, so far from public view, his answer is perfect in its simplicity: "The land was on sale, so I bought it," Geshe Sopa says.

When speaking with nearly anyone associated with Deer Park and the Dalai Lama's visits, there is an undeniable reverence, but it is impossible to find even a hint of self-importance. This is not surprising when one explores the basic tenets of Buddhism.

Buddhism exists somewhere between religion and philosophy, and even those who study it do not agree on a perfect classification. In fact, the Dalai Lama himself has taught that if a person has a religion to which he already subscribes, he should not feel compelled to abandon it for Buddhism. If there is something in Buddhism's teachings that interests a person, she should by all means adapt and incorporate it into her daily life. But no one should ever feel any pressure to follow a doctrine that doesn't work personally. And while strict Buddhists believe that the Dalai Lama is an enlightened being who has postponed his own nirvana to serve humanity, Buddhist teachings as a whole are inclusive and focus on achieving enlightenment through the practices of meditation, awareness, compassion and tolerance.

"It Will Not Rain"

Ani Jampa is a Buddhist nun and Sopa's full-time administrative assistant. Born Alicia Vogel, she was one of Geshe Sopa's teaching assistants before joining Deer Park. She dresses in the same maroon and yellow robes as the monks and wears her dark hair shaved close to her head. When she talks about Geshe Sopa, there is a passion in her words that put Geshe Sopa's achievements and relationship with the Dalai Lama into a context the humble Geshe Sopa shies away from.

"Geshe Sopa has done so much in his life. His Holiness [the Dalai Lama] has great respect for him," she says. "Teaching in the American academic system is unheard of for Tibetan lamas."

While Jampa herself is obviously close to Sopa and Deer Park on a spiritual level, similar attitudes are repeatedly reflected when exploring why the Dalai Lama, Geshe Sopa and Deer Park are so intricately intertwined.

Penny Paster has been volunteering for Geshe Sopa since 1977 and has served as primary coordinator for most of the Dalai Lama's visits to Madison. Her husband, Dr. Zorba Paster, is the point person for medical care should His Holiness need to see a doctor while he is in the United States.

Each is involved with the Dalai Lama to a degree most people never experience, but neither views their roles with any heightened importance. Things need to be done, so they do them, they say, just as anyone in their position would do. And like so many others whose lives have been touched by the spiritual leader, they spend less time contemplating the whys and more on being grateful that he does, in fact, have these strong ties to Madison.

"His Holiness feels very much at home here. He loves driving through the country and stopping to pick flowers," Penny Paster says. "We've seen again and again that the serenity and peacefulness of Deer Park is very important to him. It's a living, breathing monastery. We don't question it; we're just so thrilled."

Martens is not a practicing Buddhist, but he has long been interested by its teachings. As a result, he originally signed on with the new temple project as a volunteer construction consultant but later became the primary architect for the construction phase. After three years, he has traveled to India and invested innumerable hours of research, all with the goal of being mindful of Geshe Sopa's hopes for the temple. He has also experienced things he cannot explain.

Last fall, Martens was contacted by Deer Park on a Thursday and told that the following Tuesday would be a propitious day. They requested that certain ceremonial roof ornaments--which had not been scheduled to be installed for weeks--be put up by the following Tuesday. To further complicate matters, that day's forecast called for heavy all-day rains.

So on that Monday, Martens called Deer Park to tell them he didn't think it would be possible to complete their request. He was told to wait. After five minutes, a voice came on the line and spoke four words: "It will not rain."

Tuesday morning, it was pouring. By the afternoon, there were no clouds in the sky, and the ornaments went up without incident.

Martens shrugs when the incident is brought up. "I have seen things happen here that make me appreciate the depth of this project," he says.

This July the temple will be finished, and the Dalai Lama agreed without hesitation to return again to perform the dedication. On the eve of completion, Martens knows he has been part of something few people ever get to experience.

"I can't believe how lucky Madison is to be in this situation."

By Jason Albert

Friday, June 20, 2008

Transurfing: Your intention and Formula of success

Reality exists beyond you, as
long as you believe it. Due to Transurfing you are
able to control reality.

I do not know what you were dreaming of, but I was dreaming in my childhood of how to manage at least a piece of the world that surrounds me. Here goes the passionate love for fairy-tales, magic wands of the neighbour`s cherry-tree and hundreds of signs and symbols. Just make a wish, cross a bridge with the closed eyes, and your wish certainly comes true. By the way, not all wishes realized but the strong desire to manage the reality remained. It is constant and unquenchable till now. Only now instead of magic wand- more serious practices. One of the most efficient practices is “Transurfing” by Vadim Zeland.

Transurfer`s revelation
We do not know how this world is organized and regulated as well as we do not know what threads to pull in order to change the world. Somebody seeks the answers either in religion or in alternative esoteric doctrines and only selected ones understand that all these answers are one and the same revelation just said with the different words. No any miracles, our subconsciousness stores all answers carefully. Fortunately, sometimes our subconsciousness gives us some gifts- instructions on how to implement our wishes into life and other basics of magic. Someone will make a religion from an occurred thought to his mind, a secret knowledge, a study or just start to put it into practice. That is why the following notions might seem very familiar to you. Somebody tells that he/ she always lived the way like this, but did not know that is called “transurfing”.

Global universal laws are common for all of us and it does not really matter what method you have chosen. Transurfing is one of the methods. This teaching is without authorities and dogmas, without initiation and regulation. Vadim Zeland does not attribute himself to the authorship; he just narrates what his own subconsciousness revealed once to him. Vadim is a bearer, not a Guru, not an Enlightened one, not a Teacher. Probably, we have to share knowledge as a real and ordinary miracle as every one of us is able to perform it. Why? Because just is able.

What does it mean this thing “intention”?
I think that a human being possesses only one freedom - is the freedom of choice. This thesis is in the basis of Transurfing teaching as well as of any other esoteric study. Nobody forbids you to choose the world you want to live in, nobody forbids you to choose any life or destiny.

Actually, there are two ways of achieving the desirable - to fight with all your strength or simply to choose. The first method is not bad, as is a fascinating game played by millions people and they get excited and enthusiastic of it. The second approach is complex and difficult by its simplicity. It means that you may choose your fate- but you must be resolute in your desire, going to get 100 % result of your wish. Here begins to work one law- all our dreams and intentions come true. Be careful in your wishes and thoughts as they come true. The moment you want something very strong – the world changes around you. Any wish, dream, intention do work. Just go and take what you want.

Transurfing helps you to think consciously in order to launch the mechanism of intention any time and place. We can define intention as “thought or idea that transfers into strong desire or wish in order to have something and act resolutely”. If you see, understand and believing in this simple invocation as well as put it into practice, then you bravely reshape reality on your own fashion. Now you have a unique formula of success in your hands. See more what is going on in “Illusion in mirror and slides of your life”.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Kansas Man Discovers Buddhism In Prison

The word penitentiary originally comes from penance and the religious idea of redemption through punishment. Many inmates find religion to be one of the few sources of comfort and, for some, if can be life-changing. In US prisons, the Christian chaplain has been a common figure, but today, inmates might be offered the services of a Rabbi, an Imam or a Buddhist Lama. The Prison Dharma Network, which is one of several organizations that brings Buddhism to prisons, has over 1200 members worldwide. Alex Smith has this story of a former Kansas prisoner who says Buddhism saved his life. Alex also spoke with a who teaches Buddhism in prison, Lama Chuck Stanford of the Rime Center in Kansas City, MO.

By Alex Smith

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Arrival of Buddhism. The cultural, social development in Sri Lanka

Until the introduction of Buddhism, the inhabitants of this country believed in ghosts, sun, rocks, mountains, trees, fire and the dead which are lifeless objects. They had spectral or phantasmal powers and viands were offered to demons and ghosts which benefited them in no way but instead increased their awe inspiring terror and dismay. They thought they were punished if they failed to make the offerings. After the introduction of Buddhism, the offerings were accepted by the Buddha and His disciples, Sangha who were human beings like themselves. They could talk to the priests and get their problems clarified. They came to know that the Bhikkhus were not offended even if offerings were not made

Gauthama Buddha visited Sri Lanka on three occasions and preached Dhamma to the rulers in the Northern and Western regions and the central hills.

However, Buddhism had not been established firmly in this country with the visit of Buddha as in the case of North India and Nepal presumably because most of the then inhabitants, most of Yakkhas, Rakshas and Asuras and some of the Nagas were heathens who did not realize the value of Buddhism.

In spite of the untamed nature of certain heretics and heathens who were the inhabitants of this land during the time of the Buddha’s visit, there is historical evidence of invasions from the neighbouring country, India, which had presumably resulted in the flow of cultured population which prepared a suitable arena for Arahant Mahinda Maha Thera to propagate Buddhism.

King Panduwasdev married a princess from North India. Queen Bhadddhakaccayana was related to prince Siddharaatha and her six brothers who had accompanied her had built their own colonies in Lanka. They called them Gamas.

These Gamas or colonies, Ramagama, Anuradhagama, Uruwelagama, Vijithagama, Dighayagama and Rohanagama were established in different parts of the country. Seemingly the queen’s brothers had brought people including craftsmen from India for the construction of these colonies. In spite of all these developments there is no debate regarding the fact that the overall development of the country had started with Mahindagamanaya – the arrival of Arahanat Mahinda Maha Thera with Buddhism, followed by his own sister, Arahant Sanghmitta Maha Theri who brought the oldest sacred tree in the world, Sri Maha Bodhi to Sri Lanka.

Thus the recorded history in Sri Lanka began when Buddhism paved way to a cultural revolution more than 2000 years ago. In the wake of the Cultural Revolution there came an era of unsurpassed achievement. Fashioned lifestyles fostered the arts and inspired the creation of Dagabas, temples, monasteries, statues, numerous man-made reservoirs and irrigation systems which even today defy engineering interpretation.

The mission of Arahant Mahinda Maha thera was the introduction of Buddhism to Sri Lanka. In a bid to establish Buddhism firmly in this country as envisaged by the Enlightened One Himself Arahant Mahinda Maha Thera established the order of monks and caused to establish the order of Nuns-Meheni Sasna. For worshipping of the devotees, relics of Buddha which are sharirika Dhathu and most importantly the treasured Paribhogika Dhathu, the Jayasiri Maha Bodhi were brought from time to time.

Until the introduction of Buddhism, the inhabitants of this country believed in ghosts, sun, rocks, mountains, trees, fire and the dead which are lifeless objects. They had spectral or phantasmal powers and viands were offered to demons and ghosts which benefited them in no way but instead increased their awe inspiring terror and dismay. They thought they were punished if they failed to make the offerings.

After the introduction of Buddhism, the offerings were accepted by the Buddha and His disciples, Sangha who were human beings like themselves. They could talk to the priests and get their problems clarified. They came to know that the Bhikkhus were not offended even if offerings were not made. They taught the cause and effect of everything, merits and demerits, virtues and sins, but no compulsions were imposed. They were taught that they themselves were responsible for their own fate. There were no outside forces or spirits to stand on their way to spiritual development. Priests provided education to their children.

The Noble Eight Fold Path led them to final emancipation. Panchaseela is a guidance to lead peaceful day to day lives. Attangika seela, Dasa sil and priesthood led them for spiritual development. Thus the teachings of Thathagatha which were introduced to this country by Arahant Mahinda Maha Thera who is regarded as Anu Budhu or secondary Buddha in Sri Lanka brought about a civilized society in Sri Lanka. People even rose against the rulers when they found them unrighteous. An Upasaka named Tissa had reportedly refused to kill a fowl even on the orders of king Saddhatissa. They learnt the virtues of looking after their old and feeble parents. Hospitality or friendly and generous reception of guests or strangers, treating the sick, helping the poor and needy and kindness to animals are some of the other virtuous qualities they acquired from Buddhism.

Buddhism is not against any other religion and hence Buddhists can live in harmony with the other religious groups. Buddhism thus played a pivotal role in building a strong united nation.

The progress in the field of education was solely due to the introduction of Buddhism. Most of the rock inscriptions recovered from Sri Lanka and Asoka rock inscriptions in India are written in Brahmi scripts. The modern Sinhala alphabet is a gradual evolution of the Brahmi script. This alphabet was brought to Sri Lanka by Buddhist missionaries. On the guidance of Arahant Mahinda Maha Thera Buddhist commentaries were translated into Sinhala. The substances of most of ancient Sinhala literary works is the Buddhist doctrine. In the effort made to explain the Buddhist philosophy into the Sinhalese language gradually developed. Buddhist monasteries were converted to educational institutions. The Sinhala literature was improved in quality. Educational opportunities were available for the common man. Lyrics scribbled on Sigiriya rock bare witness.

Building construction was in a very poor state at the time when Arahant Mahinda Maha Thera arrived in Lanka and introduced Buddhism to the inhabitants led by King Devanampiyatissa. The king had only his elephant kraal to be offered to the Maha Thera and his followers. After the arrival of Buddhism, a number of Buddhist temples were established throughout the country. Sri Lankan craftsmen came in contact with their counterparts in India from whom they learnt various forms of architecture. They gained experience in the construction of shrine rooms, alms halls, image houses, preaching halls and relic depositaries were constructed. Indian craftsmen had played a pioneering role in these construction works. There is evidence in chronicles to the effect that emperor Dharmashoka had sent skilled craftsmen to Sri Lanka to attend to the construction work relating to Sri Maha Bodhi. Local craftsmen had gained experience by working with these Indians.

Another important aspect that was developed consequent to Mahindagamanaya and Dumindagamanaya is sculpture. Sculptors who could depict the super human extraordinary serenity in the countenance of the Buddha image in a clear, calm and lucid manner were emerged and substantiated from the Samadhi Pilimaya (Buddha statue in the meditation posture) at Mahameuna Uyana and Avukana Buddha image among others. Paintings on the walls of image houses are evidence for the development of paintings.

Methods of surveying and levelling, weighs and measures and the monetaryu system was introduced to them. There is historical evidence to the effect that consequent to Mahindagamanaya, Sri Lanka had engaged in foreign trade. Traders had come from India, China, Japan and many other Asian and Arabic countries.

Teachings of Gauthama Buddha enabled the people to get their lives adjusted in a righteous manner. They observed Pansil and abstained from killing, stealing, adultery etc. There is no compulsion but they observed the Buddha’s teachings voluntarily and willingly as they knew the virtues of it. They reared their domestic and farm animals not for killing but for milk and to be used in farms and in transport.

Singalowada Sutta Vyaggapajja Sutta etc. provided guidelines in spending virtuous lives. They learnt the causes for ruining from Parabhava Sutta and refrained from sinful ways including unethical and inequitable trade.

Thonigala and Badigala rock inscriptions disclose information of banking system under which the villagers deposited their savings of cash and grain. They later accepted foreign economic systems presumably because they were in keeping with the sublime teachings of the Enlightened One.

Rulers adjusted their systems of administration according to the Buddhist teachings. Protection of Buddhism and looking after the people were their main responsibilities.

They observed these principles by word and deed. King Devanampiyatissa was probably the first king to observe the principles of Buddhism. He was enthroned for the second occasion on the advice of emperor Dharamasoka of Dambadiva.

It is to be noted that king Devanampiyatissa was engaged in a game of hunting and was chasing after a deer when Arahant Mahinda Maha Thera and his followers were standing on Missaka pawwa having come in a religious mission of Emperor Dharmasoka. The king was completely reformed after embracing Buddhism. According to the available chronological evidence he and the kings enthroned after him sought the advice of the clergy in all important matters. Thus the clergy took serious interest in the administration of the country.

Thus Buddhism was accompanied by social, cultural and economic values which resulted in an overall development in the country.

By Gamini Jayasinghe

Monday, June 16, 2008

10 Simple Soul Exercises

Our spiritual life is like singing. Most of us can sing, but few of us do it in public. Even fewer can do it in public without embarrassment! Try these simple, soulful, spiritual workouts to help develop your religious voice so that you can--to use the words of the Psalms - "sing a new song to God."

Therefore I Am

French philosopher Rene Descartes wrote, "I think, therefore I am." But what if thinking isn't the reason for your existence?

What word or phrase might you substitute for "I think"?

Here are a few ideas:

  • I complain, therefore I am.
  • I have stuff, therefore I am.
  • I improve on things, therefore I am.
  • My parents procreated, therefore I am.
  • I create, therefore I am.
  • God loves me, therefore I am.

Every version gives a very different perspective on life. Meditate on what you would put in the blank and see what you discover.

Spend Time 'Not Doing'

Parkinson's Law (named after 20th-century British historian Cyril Northcote Parkinson) states, "Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion." That's just the way it is.

Paradoxically for adults, it takes work and planning in order to successfully rest. Can you spend five minutes today not doing? How about 10 minutes? Or a half hour?

Take a 'Universe Job Survey'

I saw the following quote: "Many people want to serve God, but only as advisors." If we aren't here to advise God, what is our job?

Here's a way to think about answering that question: Imagine for a moment that the universe was your employer. Based on the way you actually live your life--not on how you wish you did - how would you answer the following questions on The Universe's Job Survey:

  • What is your job title?
  • What department do you work in?
  • How high-ranking are you in your department?
  • Do you have a job description?
  • Does your job have fixed hours or benefits?

Create Your Own Holy Day

Rather than commemorate a truly significant religious or secular event, many of our culture's holidays are invented and exist primarily for commercial purposes. If you could invent a holiday what would it be?

  • Bob, my brother-in-law, advocates "Creativity Day."
  • Larry, my friend the retired minister and sociology professor, likes the idea of an "International Day of Contrition."
  • I would have everyone celebrate "Faith Day."

What "holy day" do you think should be observed?

Give Yourself Advice

If you could go back in time to when you were half your current age, what advice would you want to give yourself?

Might you tell yourself:

  • to have more faith?
  • to love more freely?
  • to be less anxious?

And, if you were to take that advice today, how might that change your current outlook?

Try New Words

For the rest of the day, see if you can substitute the verb "get" for "have." For example, if you were going to say, "I have to check my email," say instead, "I get to check my email." It's amazing how the little change of one word can affect our attitude.

Read an Email from God

Imagine you open your inbox and find an email with the subject line: An email from God. What do you imagine the message would contain?

  • Praise?
  • Condemnation?
  • An answer to a question that you've been asking?
  • Advice?
  • A forwarded joke?

What about your response? What would you write back? How would you sign it?

Surprise Yourself

Imagine that at half the age you currently are, you fell asleep. And imagine that you slept right through (like Washington Irving's story of Rip Van Winkle) until today. What five things about your own life and the world would be most surprising to you?

Would you be surprised by where you live? Would you be surprised by your wealth? Would you be surprised by your state of mind? Would you be surprised by technology? Would you be surprised by world politics?

Change It Up

If the only constant is change--as paradoxical as that might seem--it would behoove us all to learn how to deal gracefully with it.

For the rest of the day, change your cell phone ringtone or put your watch on the opposite wrist. (Really, do this.)

Now, each time your phone rings or you look at an empty patch of skin instead of finding out the time, notice how you react. Your reaction to this change is going to inform you about your natural, pre-wired response to change.

Change is just change. It isn't inherently good or bad. It's just different.

See if over the course of the day you can learn from yourself and accept both change as well as your reactions to it.

Have a Talk with God

If you were in a couples' counseling with God, what complaints, grievances, grudges, etc., would you have about your recent relationship with God? In other words, what is it that you have not said to God that you know deep in your heart you want to say about your relationship as of late?

It might be something that you haven't felt particularly safe saying or just something you haven't had the opportunity to say. Or it might just be something you've said before that bears repeating.

See if you can come up with at least seven sentences. (There is no one who can't do this--those claiming to have no relationship with God can use that as a wonderful starting point.)

By Rabbi Brian

The Cultural Dimension of Poson

This week, Sri Lankan Buddhists celebrate Poson Poya. It is no exaggeration to say that the Lankan culture and Poson Poya are synonymous. History says it was on a Poson Poya day that Arahath Mahinda, son of the great King Asoka of India, and a group of missionaries came to Sri Lanka to spread the word of the Buddha.

Asoka was a harsh king. He was known among his subjects as “Chandasoka”, meaning “cruel Asoka”, but after embracing Buddhism he came to be known as “Dharmasoka”. He accepted the new religion that was fast spreading in his native India and wished to propagate the Buddha Dhamma in the island adjacent to his country.

Arahath Mahinda, after putting King Devanampiyatissa to the test with a series of questions and satisfying himself on the matter of the king’s wisdom, then introduced the Buddhist philosophy to Sri Lanka. This year’s Poson marks the 2,311th year of that historic event.

The Sinhala king accepted Buddhism, and the people of the country followed. This acceptance resulted in a cultural revolution, coloured by the teachings of the great teacher, Lord Buddha. The Sinhala culture became a Buddhist culture, and so it has remained ever since. The meeting of King Devanampiyatissa and Arahath Mihindu at Mihintale (the present Missaka Pawwa), was a defining moment in our history.

From that point on, the kings of Sri Lanka took the lead in religious matters, and their governance was based on ethics drawn from Buddhism. Foreign invasions over the centuries failed to erase the cultural or religious identity of the Sinhala Buddhists. It is Buddhism that has preserved this country’s cultural identity. Anyone who has embraced the Sri Lankan way of life would instinctively respect Buddhist values, regardless of ethnic or religious differences.

Foreign invasions and incursions have, to some extent, modified the cultural identity of the Sinhala Buddhists, especially in maritime areas where, since the 15th century, the Portuguese, the Dutch and the British ways of life have influenced the local culture.

Sinhala customs have their roots in Buddhism. The Sri Lankan Constitution requires that the head of state be a Buddhist. With that first Poson, 2,311 years ago, Buddhism and the Sinhala culture became one.

The Poson experience has led Sri Lankans to believe that the Lord Buddha chose Lanka as the place that would preserve his teachings. Lankans believe the nation was reborn on that august day.

Non-Buddhists appreciative of the Buddhist way of thinking would gain insights into the country’s ethnic, cultural and religious character. This awareness leads to a deeper understanding of the country. It is only through such an understanding that all communities in Sri Lanka can live in peace and harmony.

Poson is a good opportunity to restore the inter-religious, inter-ethnic harmony that the peace-loving have been struggling to recover for close to three decades.

By Lenard R. Mahaarachchi

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Free Buddhism-themed films

Good response: People leaving the hall after watching films showcased during the 2006 Wesak International Film Festival.
FEW media can convey the message of hope and love in a story to the masses as effectively as the big screen.

Hence, in an effort to promote greater public understanding of Buddhism values, the second edition of the Wesak International Film Festival (WIFF) 2008 will be held this weekend and on June 22 and 23 at the Malaysia Tourism Centre in Jalan Ampang, Kuala Lumpur.

Featuring 12 films, the festival will be presenting Buddhist-themed movies and documentaries to animation and children's films.

WIFF 08 organising committee member for publicity Wong Kin Yap said the objective of the festival was to offer the cinema as a vehicle to foster wider appreciation and better understanding of Buddhism among the public.

“Building on our success in 2006, 18 Buddhist organisations have come together this year to organise this second edition of the festival which showcases the best in films on Buddhism,” said Wong.

“It is also our aim to promote peace and harmony among people.”

Of the 12 films to be screened, three will be full-length movies, namely Angulimala from Thailand, Qi Xia Temple 1937 from China and Milarepa from Tibet.

Angulimala, which was produced in 2003, tells the story of the murderer of the same name who became a disciple of Buddha, according to Buddhist scriptures.

Meanwhile, Qi Xia Temple 1937 is about the 1,500-year-old monastery that became a hiding place for thousands of terrified civilians when the Japanese army invaded the Chinese capital of Nanking in December 1937.

The film documents the temple's abbot Ji Ran's extraordinary contribution in protecting his countrymen during the war, and the fearless spirit he displayed in saving those who were suffering.

The third movie, Milarepa, which tells the story of Tibet's most famous saint, was directed by Bhutanese Neten Chopling Rinpoche.

Other featured films are 10 Questions for the Dalai Lama, Peace is Every Step, Buddha's Lost Children, Lion's Roar, Amongst White Clouds, Refuge in the Three Jewels (Discovering Buddhism Series), Fearless Mountain, Oseam (animation), and Eyes of the Little Monk (animation).

Wong said on the festival's opening night tomorrow, there would be a special performance by famed Buddhist songwriter Ravenna Michalsen from the United States who would be singing hymns.

Admission to the festival is free.

From The Star

Corporeality Has No Effect On Spirituality

Two questions I received on corporeality’s relationship to spirituality:

Question: You’ve said that if people don’t study Kabbalah, it will lead to material consequences such as murder, destruction, and corporeal suffering, and that by studying Kabbalah, we can prevent the suffering. You have also said that the spiritual and the corporeal aren’t connected. How do you explain this contradiction?

My Answer: Spiritual forces operate from above downwards. They create and determine everything in the corporeal world. However, it is impossible to have a reverse effect, from below upwards, and influence the Upper World with one’s corporeal, physical actions. One can, however, influence the Upper World with one’s desires, by becoming similar and balanced with the Upper World to the extent of one’s desire for it. As a consequence, a force descends upon you from the Upper World - a Light that corrects you, making you similar to the Upper World.

Question: Is there a connection between a person’s place of residence and his luck, health, and happiness? How can someone find out where he should live?

My Answer: It doesn’t matter where one lives. It only matters if you live in a physically or spiritually dangerous place, near physical or spiritual criminals, because they influence you negatively. See Baal HaSulam’s article “The Freedom,” section “The Environment as a Factor.”

By Laitman

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Panchaseela and Buddhism

I refer to Mr. Upali S. Jayasekera's response in The Island of today (6/6) to my earlier contribution on this subject in The Island of 23/5.

Normally I do not reply to such responses because they are not worthy of comment. But when he says that "My Jayatissa Perera appears to have launched a campaign ridicule Buddhist practices" I must deny the allegation because I do not for a moment consider the consumption of liquor after reciting panchaseela, a Buddhist practice.

I mentioned how a prominent Buddhist Secretary to an equally prominent Cabinet Minister considered a Buddhist leader in this country consumed arrack soon after Venerable Madihe Pannaseeha had delivered a bana at his home.

This writer knows another Buddhist who leads a Buddhist Society as its President who consumes liquor after reciting Panchaseela. When I asked him if that was correct, he replied, "The Buddha has never told us not to drink!"

I am not against anybody consuming liquor but I am against such a person calling himself a Buddhist while reciting the Panchaseela in public. I also know such an alcoholic whose photograph is seen from time to time carrying the sacred relics of the Buddha! If such practices go unquestioned the Kalama Sutra of the blessed one is meaningless!

According to the little bit I know of Buddhism (though I do not carry a label of any sort) doubt and questioning is a method of spiritual enquiry. Doubt cleanses, purifies the mind. As beautifully explained in the Kalama Sutra, the very questioning, the very fact that the seed of doubt is in one, helps to clarify our investigations. That is why religions like Christianity which believe in an angry, jealous, punishing God prohibit doubt.

Spiritual evolution is not possible without questioning the rigid orthodoxy into which a Buddhist or Christian is born. We need to know the difference between the spiritual and the ritual. In this country we see a rapid decline in religion, an utter disregard for human life, political chicanery and the absolute cessation of any religious, enquiry. The tribalism that is glorified and labelled as nationalism, cemented by all our politicians in laymen's garb or saffron robes cannot be got over by making an exhibition of oneself reciting panchaseela, morning and evening.

The challenge is so great that one cannot respond to it with some conditioned reply as a Hindu or Buddhist or Christian etc. We must bring about a spiritual evolution in ourselves. This cannot be achieved through rituals of any sort, including panchaseela.

Even after 2,500 years of rituals, Panchaseela, 84,000 pahan poojas, pichchamal poojas, sabda poojas, pirith, lanterns, pandals, 'olu bakkas', we are living in utter confusion, not knowing whether we will live tomorrow.

Jayatissa Perera, Bambalapitiya.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Monk, champion of lay spirituality, dies at 89

ST. BENEDICT — A Benedictine monk who pioneered lay spirituality died peacefully Monday at 89.

Father Bernard Sander, lauded as a visionary and a mentor, was reaching out to Catholic families and youths as early as the 1940s. By the 1980s, he had helped establish a summer spirituality conference for families. Three years ago, he was the guide of a group that founded a Catholic youth center in Mount Angel that would be named for him.

“This is the age of the laity,” he told the Sentinel in 2004.

Vigils for the Dead will be held at 7:30 p.m. Monday, June 9 and the Mass of Christian Burial will be held on at 10 a.m. Tuesday, June 10 — both in the abbey church.

Bernard Sander was born in 1918 in Tillamook and grew up on a dairy farm. His uncle was Father Louis Sander, a priest of the Archdiocese of Portland. Father Bernard made his simple profession in 1939 and was ordained a priest at age 25 by Archbishop Edward Howard on May 18, 1944.

In 1946, he became vice-rector of Mount Angel Seminary and was rector from 1952 to 1954, when the seminary was reorganized into major and minor seminaries. At that time he was appointed rector of the minor seminary, where he served from 1954 to 1967. For the following three years, Father Bernard served as rector of Mount Angel Seminary High School. He was also the abbey vocation director for a time.
In 1970 Father Bernard became guest master and retreat master of Mount Angel Abbey Guest House, where he served 13 years. In 1981 he became director of the Oblates of Mount Angel Abbey, lay people who commit themselves to live the Benedictine life in the world. He continued to serve in that position for 22 years and influenced hundreds of lay people.

The amiable monk saw that monastic spirituality could not stay in the monastery, but should spread to the rest of society.

“It’s natural for husbands and wives to learn to apply the Rule of St. Benedict to their family lives,” he told the Sentinel in 2001. “I’m personally convinced that it’s such a source of beautiful and simple spirituality that it’s very useful.”

He taught Oblates the way monks learn to pray with scripture. Reflecting on the bible, especially the psalms, make people more joyful, he once said.

In recognition of his service to the seminary, Father Bernard received the first Lumen Gentium Award in 1988, the highest honor granted by the institution.

Throughout his career, Father Bernard had a forward-looking concern for Catholic families and youths. As part of that effort, he led a resurgence of Catholic retreats. In the 1960s, he invited the Young Christian Students teen group to the abbey’s guesthouse and inspired youths to begin a new social and spiritual movement called Catholic Action.

“If you notice at church on Sunday, there’s a big group missing — those age 17 to 22,” Father Bernard told the Sentinel in 2004. “They are afraid to go to confession, so they don’t go to church.”

He hoped the retreat center that bears his name would provide confessors who take real time with young Catholics to help them make peace with the faith and continue discovering its treasures.

When the center opened, Father Bernard himself spent two hours straight hearing confessions. He predicted the center would develop into a “very strong spiritual power.”

Even into his 80s, he was considered a youth priest. Up until he was too ill to work, he ran a group for 30- and 40-somethings who wanted to learn more about the Second Vatican Council.

He was optimistic about young Catholics.

“When they take time to listen and they realize you are not trying to give them a bad time, they will hear you,” he said in 2004. “Most of them realize there is good reason to be friends with the church.”

Until recently, he led retreats on marriage and family life.

From a large and prominent Catholic family himself, Father Bernard would host large reunions in Mount Angel, welcoming as many as 500 from the clan.
People across the country looked to him as an inspiration. Margie Hoglund, a flight attendant from Minnesota, met him at a retreat and afterward saved her vacation hours to get in as many trips to the abbey as she could.

Marilu Hitchcock of San Mateo, Calif. met Father Bernard in 1952 when she was a student at St. Mary’s Academy in Portland and attended a Young Christian Students retreat at the abbey. Because of the monk’s encouragement, she became a union organizer.

When she got engaged in 1957, Hitchcock brought her fiance home to meet her parents first and to Mount Angel to meet Father Bernard second.
When the priest would visit the Hitchcock family in California, he would sleep in a bunk bed and wash the dishes while the parents gave baths and read bedtime stories to the children.

Marilyn Kruse, Father Bernard’s office aide for 18 years, says working with him at the guest house led her to an infusion of contemplative prayer. The monk eventually asked Kruse to lead retreats.

Auxiliary Bishop Kenneth Steiner met Father Bernard in 1954 as a freshman at Mount Angel. That began decades of friendship and support. “He has played an important role in the formation of countless priests and been involved in retreats for thousands of people,” Bishop Steiner said when the Father Bernard Youth Center opened in 2004.

In 1991, one Sentinel reporter closed a story with an image that seems to sum up the much-loved monk: “Father Bernard, quietly greeting, arranging, making things happen.”

Father Bernard had a quick wit even until the end of his life. Several months ago, after he got a haircut, a fellow Benedictine commented that he looked so handsome that he might be a temptation to women.

“We all take that risk,” the aged monk quipped.

By Ed Langlois

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Friday Funny Post

Selling Tibet to The World

GUCCI, iPod, Facebook, Tibet - these are among the world's hot brands, for which brand integrity is everything.

Tibet, as a brand, works particularly well. It brings in millions, and Hollywood A-listers queue to endorse it. What's more, they do it for free. Creative director and brand chief executive, the Dalai Lama, will visit Australia again next week. He will preside over a five-day Tibetan prayer instruction course in Sydney. A company has been set up to handle the visit - Dalai Lama in Australia Limited.

Tickets for the event can be bought online even from The Age's own Box Office website along with tickets for Bjorn Again and The Pink Floyd Experience. But few are as expensive as the Dalai Lama experience, with tickets ranging from $800 for front seats to $450 for seats at the back. Tickets for good seats for the Sunday session alone are $248. Lunch is extra - between $18 and $27 for a pre-ordered lunch box. A clothing range has even been created. There are polo shirts, baseball caps - even men's muscle tees emblazoned with the endless Buddhist knot. From street chic to urban cool, baby, this monk has funk.

Saving Tibet, like Saving Private Ryan, is a good earner. Everyone's into it, even China. Back in April, a factory in China's Guangdong province was exposed as one of the manufacturers of the Free Tibet flags so prominent in the anti-Olympic torch protests in Britain, France and the US. The factory workers claimed they had no idea what the colourful flags represented. Blame China's state-controlled media for that.

But dark clouds threaten the Tibet brand. The Dalai Lama has just been in Britain where an appearance at Royal Albert Hall was marred by more than a thousand protestors, most of whom were supporters of Dorje Shugden, a controversial deity in the complex pantheon of Tibetan Buddhist deities. The Dalai Lama, who apparently once supported this deity but then issued edicts against it, has attracted the ire of the deity's supporters.

Shugden supporters plan to protest against the Dalai Lama next week in Sydney too. Several are flying in from the US and Britain to help organise the protests. They have been tailing the Dalai Lama recently, popping up wherever he does with placards labelling him a liar and a persecutor. It's embarrassing for the Dalai Lama because these are his people.

One called on me recently in London. She was accompanied by two bodyguards, which is suggestive of how hot tempers are getting on both sides, despite the ostensible support for non-violence. The precaution might be well founded. In 1997, three monks were murdered in Dharamsala, India, where the Tibetan government-in-exile has its headquarters. A year earlier, a former Tibetan government-in-exile minister was stabbed and wounded. Both events seem to be linked to the Shugden controversy.

Selling Tibet to The World - Page 2

By Michael Backman

Selling Tibet to the world

Shugden supporters claim that the Dalai Lama took advantage of the worldwide groundswell of support that accompanied the Olympic torch protests earlier this year to move against them. They claim that on his orders hundreds of pro-Shugden monks were expelled from Tibetan Buddhist monasteries, mostly in India, leaving them without financial support and shelter. They now argue it is the Dalai Lama who is breaching human rights when it comes to freedom of worship.

While in Britain, the Dalai Lama gave evidence to a British parliamentary committee about the human rights situation in Tibet despite, as Shugden supporters pointed out, him not having set foot in Tibet for almost 50 years. Of course, before that, Tibet was ruled by the Dalai Lamas, under whom the human rights situation was nothing short of disgusting. The brand makeover since has been startling. It helps that Westerners find mountains romantic. Come down from them and anything can be excused.

Why is the Dalai Lama so hell-bent on moving against Shugden supporters? A reason might be that he genuinely believes Shugden worship is wrong. Another seems to derive from his desire to unite the four traditions of Tibetan Buddhism - the Nyngma, Sakya, Kagyu and Gelugpa. This has always been one of the Dalai Lama's problems. He is not the head of Buddhism; he is not even the head of Tibetan Buddhism. Traditionally, the Dalai Lamas are from the Gelugpa sect. But since leaving Tibet, the current Dalai Lama has sought to speak for all Tibetans and particularly all overseas Tibetans.

To enhance his authority, he has sought to merge the four traditions into one and place himself at its head. But Dorje Shugden presents a roadblock. One aspect of Shugden worship is to protect the Gelugpa tradition from adulteration, particularly by the Nyngma tradition. Nyngma followers respond by not wanting anything to do with Gelugpa followers sympathetic to Dorje Shugden. So to allow a proper merger of the four traditions, the Dalai Lama needs to get rid of the Shugden movement. If the Dalai Lama can claim to represent all Tibetans, it will increase his political prestige and clout with overseas Tibetans and with governments.

Pushing the Dalai Lama's wheelbarrow is Australia's right as an independent country. But given that China is Australia's most important trading partner, Australia owes it to itself to fully understand exactly what is in that wheelbarrow before it pushes so hard. After all, prudent shoppers are always careful to separate the actual product from the brand and the buzz that surrounds it.

Selling Tibet to the world - Page 1

By Michael Backman

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Change, yes. Now, no.

There is no plausible way to end this conflict other than to allow the whole society to take part in drafting the new constitution. Either that, or there will be blood on the streets.

For Thai society, there is no worse moment to amend the constitution than now. Even though a consensus has been more or less reached about whether we should change the charter, some blood was shed on the streets. If we actually get down to rewriting the text, we could be butchering one another.

There are so many ideas, phrasing and wording to argue about. And the sad thing is that these differences of opinion are less about the relationship between the institutions of governance than the political objectives of different power groups.

We might remind ourselves that we wrote the constitution in the first place so that we could have a set of rules we can agree to and solve a conflict peacefully. Today, however, we are using the charter as a forum to achieve political goals. It's no surprise that the raw power of fists, sticks, stones and bottles has been hurled around in this forum.

Unless we can sort out the mixing up of the end and the means in this volatile conflict, the squabbling won't go away. That is why the referendum idea is appeasing no one and calming nothing.

I had pointed out since the 2007 constitution was not promulgated that it had many flaws and should not have been put into use. Or that it should be amended after it was voted in.

But faced with a referendum question of whether to allow it to be changed or not, I find myself not knowing how to answer.

And I know why. The thing is the heart of this issue is not about "whether" the charter should be amended but "how".

If the amendment process is not an accountable and legitimate one, or is viewed as too rushed, the rewritten version could end up with more flaws than what it already has. Don't forget that we have had a few constitutions that were much worse than the 2007 one.

Without knowing what to change and how it would be changed, nobody can make an informed choice should a referendum be held. The votes, both for or against, will be political ones, the result of which wouldn't be accepted by the opposing groups and thus wouldn't help lessen the conflicts.

None of the draft amendments that have been proposed so far have been publicised, nor have they been discussed widely in public. There have been no discussions why certain sections should be changed and why others should not. The discussions should be allowed to continue until the public has enough information to make a choice on their own. It's this process that is necessary, that must be done, before a referendum is held.

Amid the many ideas that have been floated to break the apparent impasse, the one that I agree with is the proposal to set up a committee to study the issue. I would like to add that the committee should not consider only legal aspects. It should start by studying what are the "problems" in Thai society that can be effectively tackled by mutually agreed "rules". Then, it should disseminate the ideas and find ways for the public to participate in discussing them.

Although some of the premises on which the 1997 charter was made still hold true today; some of the answers it provided proved to be ineffective. Not only were independent bodies prone to being crippled by a very strong government, but an attempt by the public to provide checks and balances was also dysfunctional.

The 10 years that lapsed after it was written also brought with it a number of new challenges that a charter must address.

For example, will a proposal to set up a "special administration zone" in the restive south go against the constitution's stipulation of Thailand as an "indivisible Kingdom"? Have we really sorted out what should be the status of Buddhism in the constitution?

The process of constitution amendment is too complex to be settled by a simplistic, yes-or-no event of a referendum. And it is the "process" that counts. It is the process - one that is inclusive and open to every group - that could convince people that we will be having a new constitution that is good, fair and effective.

And even though we have arrived at what the challenges of today's Thai society are and what shape the new constitution should be in to cope best with them, there is another question of who we should trust to do the rewriting. I think a number of Thais would agree with me in not trusting parliament on this matter.

MPs are authorised to do certain tasks for the public, that is true. Charter amendment is not one of them, however.

While the idea of having another constitution assembly is appealing, it also fails to resolve current conflicts. The problem is no matter how the assembly members are selected - even though they were voted in by the public like members of parliament - the other side would still view them as being biased or belonging to a political party.

At this juncture, I see no plausible way to end this conflict other than to allow the whole society to take part in drafting the new charter themselves. We will have to resort to having a public hearing on each important aspect of the constitution, for example how the electorate should be divided? One-person-one-vote? Small constituencies or large ones?

I hope that the process of arguing and discussing these important issues regarding the constitution would divert society to a more reasonable conflict than the trading of accusations that we are facing at present. We can have legal hands do the actual rewriting of the charter, but the concept must come from the results of public hearings.

It is going to be a long process. I actually hope that the length of time we will have to spend on this will reduce the rather senseless bickering we are having today. Changing or drafting a constitution demands a more amicable ambience than now. There will be so many things to contend with and debate. A friendly atmosphere would ensure we can disagree with respect.

Once we have the newly rewritten draft charter, we will still need a bit more time to allow the public to debate its merits and drawbacks. After that, the new draft can be put up to a referendum. When that time comes, the public will have a clear choice between the current 2550 constitution and the new draft. Neither of them will be perfect. Each person will have to see for him or herself which one is the better charter.

As long as the all-important "process" of constitutional amendment is carried on in a rash and hasty way, people will suspect that it's only done to serve vested, personal purposes.

There is no way such a shabby process should be allowed to break through.

By Nidhi Eoseewong

Monday, June 02, 2008

Dalai Lama Faces Protest

Hundreds of Buddhist monks plan to gather in the centre of Oxford today - to protest against a visit by the Dalai Lama, the Tibetan spiritual leader.

The Dalai Lama is due to speak at the Sheldonian Theatre and up to 1,000 members of the Western Shugden Society plan to demonstrate outside.

They claim the Tibetan leader has banned a traditional Buddhist prayer, the Dorje Shugden, and worship of a deity, while his followers are abusing the human rights of Shugden Buddhists.

Speaking yesterday at the Randolph Hotel, in Beaumont Street, Oxford, Kelsang Pema, the spokesman for the Western Shugden Society, said the demonstration would be peaceful but noisy.

Extra police will be on duty and Catte Street will be closed throughout the morning.

Kelsang Pema said: "We want the world to see these demonstrations and hope we can get the Dalai Lama to lift this religious ban, which is infringing people's human rights.

"In India, monks have been expelled, houses burned, supporters denied food and thousands of families ostracised, because Shugden is perceived as acting against the Dalai Lama.

"He comes to this country and tells us about love and compassion, but he is not practising what he is teaching.

"We will be making a lot of noise and we won't stop until he stops this religious persecution.

"We hope this demonstration will bring about a meaningful discussion with him."

Supporters are expected in Oxford from as far away as Brazil, New Zealand, Hong Kong and South Africa.

Many of them have been following the Dalai Lama around the UK, including London and Nottingham in recent weeks.

Kelsang Pema claims a referendum initiated by the Dalai Lama aims to ban the Shugden prayer across the world. She denied the group shared links with China or was harmful.

Mark Leonard, of the Oxford-based Society for Wider Understanding of the Buddhist Tradition, which is hosting the Dalai Lama's talk, said: "We welcome freedom of speech and our understanding is this is an internal matter within Tibetan Buddhism."

Supt Brendan O'Dowda, of Oxford police, said: "We're very used to dealing with high-profile visitors in Oxford and will deal with this event in a sensitive and professional manner."

By Matt Wilkinson

Alien Spirituality

Is spirituality a uniquely human attribute and experience? Do intelligent non-human beings exist and, if so, do such beings have religious beliefs or even souls?

At least one major world religion has indicated that its answer to such questions may well be no, yes, and yes, in that order. In a recent interview with Italian newspaper L’Osservatore Romano, the Vatican’s chief astronomer, the Rev. Jose Gabriel Funes, said there is no conflict between believing in extraterrestrial intelligent life and believing in God.

“How can we exclude that life has developed elsewhere?” Rev Funes asks, a point based on faith and logic, given the extraordinarily high number of planets with suns and atmospheres similar to those of earth.

But the Catholic Church’s top astronomer goes even further, implying that some aliens might not have been subject to the separation from God described in Genesis. “There could be (other beings) who remained in full friendship with their creator,” Rev. Funes adds.

While the premise of intelligent non-human life is one of the driving themes of science fiction and fantasy, most creative works in these genres eschew any direct talk of alien spirituality, religion, or faith. There are some notable exceptions, however, that are worth exploring because they help us examine our own spirituality and the limitations we may have placed on it, however unconsciously.

Enemy Mine, a 1985 science fiction film derived from Barry B. Longyear’s award-winning 1979 novella, depicts an intergalactic war between human beings and an alien race called the Drac. Marooned by their battle-damaged space fighters on an isolated, inhospitable planet, a Drac and a man start off as enemies. Out of survival necessity, however, they make a wary peace.

Eventually, the two become the dearest of friends. The Drac has a faith and a sense of his own spirituality and the divine that his human counterpart can readily identify as such. The Drac reads frequently from a small book of religious/philosophical text that hangs around his neck, and often sits outside at sunset, pondering the larger questions of life and meaning and speaking about them with his newfound human companion.

Ultimately, the alien’s faith and friendship motivate the human being to consider something other than his prestige as a top-scoring fighter pilot focused solely on advancing his military career. The alien reminds the man that life is so much more than just a scramble for conquest and material success. The Drac even rescues the man from being eaten by one of the planet’s predators, and suffers for it later. The human being is much better off for having learned to respect and even love an alien as a being of great faith and courage.

An example of fantasy that directly addresses spirituality is the Green Stone of Healing® series. It features an intelligent non-human being, known as a Mist-Weaver, who exhibits capabilities that human beings more readily ascribe to angels or the supernatural. The Mist-Weaver is able to appear and dissolve at will, transitioning from material to non-material realities in much the same manner as the divine heralds of earthly religious traditions.

As would an angel, the Mist-Weaver takes a physical form to converse easier with the human characters. The Mist-Weaver clearly has a profound sense of the divine and his connection to it and to all life, and tries to encourage that spiritual connection in his human counterparts. But his spiritual teachings often leave them baffled because they are very different from the more limited human understanding. The Mist-Weaver’s presence spurs his human students to examine the limitations of their faith and their spiritual understanding, just as the burning bush, signaling God’s presence, presented Moses with challenges of faith and self-growth.

Although the Mist-Weaver is more spiritually advanced than the human beings he interacts with, he does not try to dictate human behavior or beliefs, solve human problems, or protect his human students from the consequences of their actions. He’s no deus ex machina waving a magic wand and righting all wrongs. In taking a hands-off approach, he might seem indifferent to some, but just the opposite is true. He heals one character of a broken finger and further injuries and often tries to comfort others in their most desperate hours.

The Mist-Weaver simply refuses to intervene out of his abiding respect for and more advanced understand of the true meaning of free will. Well-intentioned human beings often disregard others’ free will and rush in, foolishly, where wiser angels fear to tread. Perhaps that’s what makes this alien truly strange. The Mist-Weaver doesn’t suffer from that all-too-human inclination to run other people’s lives or to believe that God is a similar micro-manager.

A third example of speculative fiction portraying intelligent non-human beings with a highly developed spirituality is Alien Nation, both a pilot TV film and short-lived Fox Network TV series of the same name. Most of these on-screen “Newcomers” are just regular folks, although there are villains in their midst, too. But the average alien Joes and Jills have jobs, houses, children, and try to live peacefully among their human counterparts. They also have extensive religious rituals and traditions that are depicted throughout the series.

Like Enemy Mine and the Green Stone of Healing® series, Alien Nation asserts that non-human beings can teach the human variety a thing or two about life and spirituality. The Newcomer police officer is paired with a human detective who is initially very unhappy about the arrangement. But the former earns the latter’s respect and affection through his courage, smarts, initiative, and loyalty. The Newcomer demonstrates that these enduring and spiritual character qualities are not the sole province of human beings. Again, the human being is better off for having come to know the alien.

On planet earth, closed off and isolated by the only too human fear that spirituality is just a mirage, many find the former a far more alien concept than the supposition of non-human intelligent beings. Yet all of us, although we may not use spiritual terms to describe our longings, hunger for a sense of community and belonging, a sense of self and of our unique place in this vast universe.

In other words, we long to live our spirituality and its implied relationship with God, however we conceive God to be and by whatever name we call the divine. Yet we struggle with our greatest human fear: that having lost our creator’s “full friendship,” in the words of the Vatican astronomer, we will never be sufficient or worthy enough to reclaim that ultimate spiritual relationship.

Aliens may give God far more credit than we do. If/when the day comes that we openly encounter intelligent non-human beings, we may find that the experience brings us much closer to reclaiming and living our own spirituality than we ever believed possible.

We can always choose to embrace the unknown-the alien-instead of fearing it.

Article Source: Ezine Articles