Thursday, 31 May 2012

Lucid Dreaming and Tibetan Buddhism

A couple of years ago I blogged briefly on lucid dreaming in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition. Now it seems the BBC has caught up with this practise as it is becoming more mainstream in the West.

From Transcultural Buddhism December 2009:

`Off with her head!' the Queen shouted
at the top of her voice.
Nobody moved.
`Who cares for you?' said Alice,
`You're nothing but a pack of cards!'

When you know you're dreaming but don't wake up
Here's a fascinating reprint from Tricycle of an article by B. Alan Wallace on lucid dreaming.

A lucid dream is when we realise that we are dreaming and begin to take control of the progress of the dream. Some people use lucid dreaming just for fun, but the lucid state can also be used to communicate with aspects of our subconscious that are normally inaccessible.

Tibetan Buddhists have developed the practice of lucid dreaming to explore the nature of the mind, including the 'substrate consciousness' that goes on from life to life. Read it all here


Disgusted of Tunbridge Wells

BBC Article June 2012:

"A slew of apps promise to encourage "lucid dreaming". So why is there such enthusiasm around the idea of controlling dreams, asks Sam Judah.

"You're only bound by gravity if you believe in it," says Rory Mac Sweeney, impatiently.

He is explaining the logic of a dream world which he not only visits each night, but apparently has active control over, flying at will through lush forests or launching himself upward into the night sky.

It sounds implausible, but the phenomenon is known as lucid dreaming.

Lucid dreaming technically refers to any occasion when the sleeper is aware they are dreaming. But it is also used to describe the idea of being able to control those dreams.

Once confined to a handful of niche groups, interest in lucid dreaming has grown in recent years, spurred on by a spate of innovations from smartphone apps to specialist eye masks, all promising the ability to influence our dreams.

"A couple of years ago there were about four or five people organising meetings" says Mac Sweeney, a dentist and lucid dreaming expert from Islington, London. "Now there are closer to 50, and that's in the capital alone."

It's not just lucid dreaming groups that are booming. Attendance at more traditional dream interpretation groups like the Academy of Dreams, in Euston, are up, and elsewhere people are paying up to £40 an hour for private interpretation sessions.

Michael Cave, who works at a bank in Marylebone, London, is one of the newcomers. As with many recent recruits, he was attracted by adverts for lucid dreaming meetings on social networking sites, one of the factors behind the trend.

"I'm quite a sceptical person and would only believe it if I experienced it for myself. Now, though, I've achieved lucidity a number of times."

In addition to the group meetings, Michael has toyed with Dream:ON, the most popular of the many new smartphone apps now available.

Created by psychologist Richard Wiseman, the app has seen over half a million downloads in just six weeks.

"The new wave of interest is led by technology," says Wiseman, whose app claims to allow users to choose their dream before bed, and plays sound cues once they have entered the right phase of sleep.

"When I selected birdsong, for example, I found myself dreaming that I was in a green and sunny field," says Cave.

Whilst this isn't strictly lucid dreaming, as it doesn't offer users control from within a dream, there are many more which promise just that.

Singularity Experience, Dreamz, Sigmund and Lucid Dream Brainwave all work in a similar way, by playing subtle audio cues whilst the user is asleep. Not enough to wake them, but hopefully sufficient to trigger awareness inside a dream.
Man using smartphone These things normally keep you awake...

More curious still are the specialist sleep masks which attempt to make a lucid experience more likely.

The Remee, from Brooklyn based inventors Duncan Frazier and Steve McGuigan, is the latest such device, and it confirmed the public appetite for dream control.

Attempting to raise $35,000 to develop the product, the pair saw a deluge of public contributions totalling over $500,000.

"We wanted to bring lucid dreaming into the mainstream," says McGuigan.

By firing a set of LED lights over the eyelids once the user is asleep, the mask claims to offer a visual reminder to a dreamer who hopes to gain control.

The tool isn't the first of its kind, however. An early "dream machine" was created in the late 70s by Keith Hearne.

A lucid dreamer himself, Hearne was determined to prove the phenomenon in a series of trials at Liverpool University.

From a bed in a laboratory, wired up to a polygraph machine, a sleeping subject was able to move his eyes according to a pre-agreed pattern - left then right many times in quick succession.

The study was repeated by Steve LaBerge in California. Allan Hobson, a neuroscientist at Harvard Medical School, confirms this view. "For the first time you could show that there were objective correlates between dreams and the outside world."

But references to lucid dreaming stretch back at least as far as Tibetan Buddhists in the 8th century, for whom it was just one stage in the practice of "dream yoga"...   full article

- Sean Robsville




Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Rebirth: Joanna Lumley believes she was killed in the First World War

Joanna Lumley tells how she does not fear death - and believes she was a WWI boy soldier in a previous life

By Damien Gayle

Joanna Lumley says she does not fear death, thanks to her strong belief in reincarnation.

She has even claimed she 'might have been a boy in the First World War' during a visit to a battle site.

The actress said she 'recognises places' from visits in her previous lives, adding that an 'immense calm' she felt in Ypres, Belgium, led her to believe she may have fought there as a young soldier.

She also said she feels 'tremendous' and 'very positive' about her own death.

She said: 'I don't think anybody should be scared of dying.'

In an interview, Lumley told a Sunday magazine: 'I have been here before.

'I recognise places. When I visited Ypres I felt an immense calm.

'I think I might have been a boy in the First World War.'

The 66-year-old former Bond girl, best known for her portrayal of louche fashion director Patsy in the sitcom Absolutely Fabulous, was born and raised in India and the Far East before becoming an actress.

Her opinions on death reflect the philosophy of the regions where she spent her formative years. 'Be no more afraid of dying than you are of going to sleep,' she said.

'Every day is a pattern. You are born in the morning, you live through the day and when you put your head on the pillow that is your death.'

Hailed as a 'Nepalese national treasure' for her campaign for immigration rights for Gurkhas who have fought for Britain, Kashmir-born Miss Lumley has enjoyed a glittering four-decade acting career.

The former model turned Bond girl has starred in 30 movies and over 40 television shows, and is the proud recipient of three Baftas and an OBE.

Read more:

- Sean Robsville


Monday, 28 May 2012

Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) Pride Festival gets Buddhist Blessing

 Khann Sovan presides over the Pride blessing ceremony.
Photograph: Roth Meas/Phnom Penh Post

From The Phnom Penh Post

At least two hundred people gathered at the Tuol Dombok Khpos pagoda in Phnom Penh last Sunday to bring the week-long Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) Pride festivities to a close in a very Buddhist way.

Khann Sovan, head of Tuol Dombok Khpos pagoda, presided over a traditional blessing ceremony where he said that Buddhism has never conflicted with issues of sexuality or gender identity.

“Our Buddha taught us to love each other, to help each other and not to discriminate against each other,” Khann Sovan said.

The monastic gave a speech about the five precepts of the Dharma, or the Buddha’s teachings: not to kill, not to consume intoxicants, not to lie, not to steal, and not partake is sexual misconduct. He then sprayed attendees with holy water.

The morning blessing ceremony lasted about half an hour and was followed by a Community Day consisting of live entertainment and traditional games, as well as educational activities to raise awareness of HIV issues.

Srun Srorn, the facilitator of Rainbow Community Kampuchea (RoCK), one of the main organisers of Pride, said that he wanted lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people to feel connected with their religion.

Because members of the LGBT community may feel separated from their religion, he said he hoped the ceremony would bring them closer to the humanitarian principles of Buddhism.

“Human rights already exist in Buddhism,” Srun Srorn said. “As we see, Buddhism is open to us. Almost every Buddhist pagoda in Phnom Penh was willing to host our Pride event on their campus. Through this ceremony, they want to show that we also have equal rights to religion like other people.”

At the same time, he also wanted to give a message to Cambodian people whose mind cannot accept homosexuality, or those who think that it is unnatural.

“I believe that nobody made us as homosexual or lesbian person. It came from our birth. So old people have to understand this and stop banning the homosexual or lesbian behaviour of their children any more.” he said.

This year’s Cambodia LGBT Pride launched on May 12 with a variety of activities such as art shows, film screenings, live performances, and workshops about gay rights.

Unlike Pride festivities in other parts of the world where revellers parade through public thoroughfares, though, Cambodia Pride was organised as a series of smaller affairs.

Srun Srorn said he felt Cambodian society was open to the LGBT community because none of the festivities were interrupted by the police.

“If we organised a huge crowd, we would be split up by police ... We understood that issue in advance, so we organised smaller events but at many different places,” he said.



Iran Executes five men for homosexuality



Sunday, 27 May 2012

Decentering as a Buddhist spiritual practice and psychological skill

Sylvia Claudio

Continuing the theme of macho control-freakery in the patriarchal religions, here's an interesting article on 'decentering' by Filipina Buddhist psychologist Sylvia Estrada Claudio.

Pacquiao, Corona, Lady Gaga, the CBCP and me

By Sylvia Estrada Claudio - director of the University of the Philippines Center for Women's Studies.

From Rappler

'My psychological training and readings in Buddhism, have taught me the value of “decentering.” Decentering builds empathy and compassion. Decentering is what happens when a person “walks a mile in another's shoes.” It is a necessary skill for the psychologist, who must come to an adequate understanding of the person seeking advice. It means being able to take oneself out of the “center” of one's world.

Decentering can be a form of spiritual practice apart from a psychological skill. It is one way to love one's enemy. It is necessary to decenter when one disagrees with another person. The more fundamental the disagreement, the more difficult it is to decenter. And yet it is more important as the differences increase.

Psychological studies show that homophobia is lessened when the bigoted person gets to interact with an increasing number of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons. Many programs for peace-building recognize exposure and exchange between groups as one mechanism for conflict resolution.

Lessening the emphasis on the self leads to other spiritual gains. Immersion in a field, a forest, a mountain or an ocean evokes in me an understanding of being a miniscule part of a larger whole to which I owe respect and reverence.

Because religious conservatives and groups like the CBCP (Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines) rile me so deeply and so often, it is they that provide me the most opportunities for decentering. I try very hard to understand the lived realities of Bishops.

I am glad I have Catholic friends. It is to them I address questions like, “how can they rail again sexual sin and then be so lax when they deal with the sexual abuse of priests?” Or, “how can he stand there and lecture to the Filipino people about the immorality of the reproductive health bill, when I know he is a sexual harasser?”

My friends explain to me that it is the role of the priest is to tell us what is right and wrong. That his years of study and prayer make him the expert on this matter. That the organization and laws of the Church give him this authority. In this sense, it has nothing to do with moral character of the priest.

I appreciate such answers. My friends may not accept the reasoning, but they know that some of my questions only seem rhetorical.

Such answers help me create a psychological profile of the CBCP and its conservative followers. (Not all Catholics are conservatives. Many see the same liberal Jesus that I see when I read the New Testament.) Psychologists distinguish between authoritarian and patriarchal leadership/parenting styles and democratic ones. In authoritarian families, the power to decide what is good for the family is held by the father (or in patriarchal systems, the father priest, Father of the Nation, God the Father). It is the psychological basis for cults and social movements based on the authority of its founder/s and its hierarchy.

I agree, however, with the opinion of many child development experts that more democratic methods be used in raising children. Decision-making should be shared between husband and wife and becomes increasingly consultative as the children mature. Such families teach children to think and feel for themselves. The capacity for taking responsibility for and control of one's life is also called “agency.” Agency is central to other aspects of success —family survival, academic excellence, self-efficacy, satisfaction and happiness. It is the educational foundation for citizens who must deal with the give-and-take of democratic political systems. It leads to a life-long comfort with change and the capacity to adapt.

In any case, we see how the CBCP could never be guilty of blasphemy because as the Fathers of the Church, they determine what is good and what is evil. This brings me to the issue of Lady Gaga, and her blasphemy...  Full Article

Related Articles

Buddhist Mindfulness Meditation Alleviates Depression

Bodhisattva vows - an antidote to depression and mental illness

Honoring the Feminine in Buddhism

Control-freak patriarchal religions that bully, humiliate and mutilate girls 

Buddhist pedophile ring gang-rapes British girls 

Buddhist Candlemas and Celtic Celebration of Brigid 

Why is God Male? 



Saturday, 26 May 2012

Punk Buddhism from Japan?

Following the article on the Manchester Punk Buddhists, here's what happening in Japan:

Music Group Fronted by Japanese Monks Bring Buddhist Sutra to the Dance Club, Wear Awesome Helmets

"Well Dubstep, you had a good run but it’s time to drop out and make way for a new genre of dance music straight from the Buddhist temples of Japan: Dubsutra.

Okay, so maybe I just made that word up, but it is a real thing thanks to Tariki Echo, a musical unit fronted by two Japanese, bike helmet-wearing monks who have turned the Buddhist sutra into dance music... 
Full story 

- Sean Robsville



Control-freak patriarchal religions that bully, humiliate, abuse and mutilate girls and women.

Green Tara

How fortunate we Buddhists are that Buddhism honors the feminine aspects of spirituality as much as the male.  Some of the Abrahamic religions are nowhere near as enlightened, and are often violently divisive and misogynistic.

So, following on from the previous post about Jihadist pedophile rape-gangs implicating decent law-abiding Buddhists through guilt by association , here's a hard-hitting examination of the mentality of such men, in an eloquent and impassioned plea by Soraya Chemaly for girls to reject vicious patriarchal religions. 

Originally published at the Huffington Post, the article has rapidly gone viral on the internet.

Here's the text of the message:

'Dear Girls,

You are powerful beyond words, because you threaten to unravel the control of corrupt men who abuse their authority.

In the United States last week there were people who wouldn't let boys play a baseball championship final because a girl was on the opposing team. She'd already had to sit out two games because of their demands. Why? Did she, a competitive athlete and a member of her team, chose to? Was she being good and respectful when she acceded to their demands? Why were they not asked to forfeit their games? What messages were sent to her and her teammates? This is not complicated. It sent the wrong messages. Confusing messages. Incoherent messages. You need to know that she should have been allowed to play and not have had to sit out two games. These people, and others like them, all over the world, led exclusively by religious men, are scared of you and will not let you be. You worry them constantly.

If you were not powerful, they would not take you so seriously and they take you very, very seriously. You should, too. You can set the world on fire.

It doesn't feel this way, I know. If that were true, you think, I would not have to sit out baseball games out of respect for religious beliefs that require my subservience and call it a gift. I would not be turned away from serving God with my brothers. I would not be taught that I'm an evil temptress or the virtue keeper of boys. I would not have virginity wielded as a weapon against me and my worth determined by my womb. I would not be spat on and called a whore by men when I am eight because my arms are bare. I would not be poisoned for going to school. I would not be forced, at the age of 9, to carry twins borne of child torture. I would not have to kill myself to avoid marrying my rapist. If this were true, they would pursue my rapists instead of stoning me for their crimes. I, and thousands others, would not be killed for "honor."

Girls, these things happen because there are men with power who fear you and want to control you. I know that I have equated relatively benign baseball games with deadly, honor killings but, whereas one is a type of daily, seemingly harmless micro-aggression and the other is a lethal macro-aggression they share the same roots. The basis of both, and escalating actions in between, is the same: To teach you, and all girls subject to these men and their authority, a lesson: "Know your place." I also know that there are places where girls are marginalized and hurt that are not religious. But all over the world these hypocritical, pious men, in their shamefully obvious wrongness, represent the sharp-edged tip of an iceberg, the visible surface of a deep and vast harm. They employ the full range of their earthly and divine influence to make sure, as early as possible, that you and the boys around you understand what they want your relative roles to be. Where there are patriarchal religions girls, in dramatically varying and extreme degrees, disproportionately suffer. Understand these men for what they are: bullies. Do not internalize what they would have you believe.

Your very existence makes them anxious. And their anxiety is particularly high because you have something no generation of girls has had before -- globally connected communities of men and women who support your equality and freedom. Like guns, germs and steel, this transformative technology, which enables me to write to you here, alters geography, changes societies and dismantles systems of control -- it makes the world a smaller place and it creates, even if slowly in some places, positive change for girls like you. You see, until now, these men could count on, indeed they could ensure, that you and the women around you were house-bound and isolated. Many of you still are. But now, there are millions and millions and millions people who are thinking about you and challenging these men every single day. You have the speed of light on your side and unless someone permanently turns the lights out, those days are gone. So, although you might feel like you are alone, you are not.

How do you threaten them? A girl, alone? By being able, strong, confident and yes, shameless. You may not "naturally" be interested in domesticity, piety, purity and submission, and they rely on your commitment to those things to order their worlds. Their actions, from one end of the spectrum to the other, are designed to fill you with self-doubt and, ultimately, fear -- either bodily or spiritual -- because otherwise you, and the young boys around you, will be fully aware of your strength and potential.


Because of this, they single-mindedly focus their attention on you, your body, your clothes, your hair, your abilities, your physical freedom. When their "manners" and "morals" are not universally applicable, but different for boys and girls, you can be sure that this is why. They seek to teach you, subtly, through small slights and gendered expectations, that you are "different," weak, unworthy, incapable. The sadness is that, in their perception, if you are none of these things, then they are not strong, worthy and capable. This is not an excuse, but an explanation. It's why they find infinite "benevolent" ways to undermine and disparage you, all in the name of "God's word." When that fails, they resort to violence. All over the world, their anxiety is manifest in a spectrum of actions ranging from mild paternalism, respectful of "proper boundaries," to deadly enforcement of their rules.

Fear is why these men "officially" investigate Girl Scouts while perversely shielding child rapists. It's why they obsess over your "purity." It's why they segregate you in public and private spaces. It's why they instruct girls and boys that girls' bodies are either shameful and dirty or sacred and belonging to men. Fear motivates them to teach that you pollute others by your very nature. It makes them intent on making sure you stay home and not be fully engaged in the world. It leads them to sanction marriages of 8-year-olds to old men. It convinces them that rape and its consequences are a "gift from God." It's why they empower others to stone you to death and disfigure you with acid.

Even "beating the gay" out of children, especially boys who are "more like" you, is aimed at you. Because if boys are "more like girls," something these men believe is fundamentally inferior, then you can be "more like boys." That causes ambiguity and destroys their carefully defined hierarchies and that is intolerable to them.

Fear is why they insist there is something fundamentally wrong with you. Don't believe them. Fear is why they want you to cover your body. There is nothing wrong with your body, and your body is not to blame. Whether you chose to expose your body or to cover it up, consider the degree to which either choice is defined by a reduction of your character to narrow sexuality by a culture that refuses to hold men accountable for their actions and requires you to either radically display ourself for men's pleasure or withdraw from the world and be held in reserve. Either way, ask who is defining your worth and by what measure. Fear is why they tell you you are so different from boys. You, and the boys you know, understand that your bodies are different, but that you are far more alike than dissimilar. Threatened, insecure, adult men say otherwise. Don't give in. Even if you're quiet. The differences these religious authorities exaggerate are simply pillars of oppression used to teach boys and girls that women's subjugation is "natural" and "divine." Reject them and their ideas.

This is hard to do. It requires that you, individually, be brave, strong, determined, fearless and confident. It requires that you demand that the adults around you pay attention and change their behavior. This is even harder.

First, and perhaps the most difficult to understand as a girl, is that women who love you and care for you often enable these men. This is what people say, "It's not JUST men!" And they are right, women support them, individually and in groups, in ways that have private, public, political and societal consequences. But, make no mistake -- although women are the enforcers of rules, they have no real, systemic authority in conservative religious hierarchies, and they know this. Yes, without their support these men could not continue, but until these women are truly free -- bodily, economically, physically, politically -- and their practical and spiritual salvation is no longer mediated by these very men, they will continue to support them. Enforcing the rules is a rational choice that enables them to survive, the world over, in unjust environments. You scare them too, because you call in to question their own complicity and cause conflict within.

Second, it is confusing that these men say they do what they do for your own good. They talk about respecting you and your dignity. You want to believe them; they have power and authority over you, your parents, your community and your access to God. They are often kind and benevolent and they love you. So, they must be right. But they are not. They demonstrate their own hypocrisy over and over and over again. They say they know what is best. They do not. You do. Don't believe them when they teach you in hundreds of ways, through sacred text, careful words, cherished traditions, hidden threats and frightening examples, that you are inherently more sinful, base and corrupt, less worthy and in need of constant male guidance. Reject them.

The adults around you may not appear to support you when you take your humanity to its logical religious conclusions. Do not let them off the hook. Do not let them use "tradition" as an excuse or say it "really doesn't matter." Do not allow them to get away with asking you to "sit out games," "be a good girl," "don't make a fuss," and "put something on." These are micro-aggressions that result in macro-aggressions. Adults often don't think these things through. Sometimes it's scary to them, too.

You can say: "There is nothing wrong with me. There is something wrong with you and your world."

Otherwise, when you get older, these same men, the ones who fear and hate you, will continue to undermine you. They will seek to control your body, keep you out of the public sphere, subjugate you in the name of a narrowly defined "family," create impediments to your equality, shame you at every turn and justify your continued oppression in convoluted ways that defy reason and morality. They will investigate you for being strong, violate you, stone you to death, charge you with witchcraft, punish you in every conceivable way to set an example for ... your children.

So, know that you are strong and powerful. Use your reason. Trust your instincts. Seek out those that would support you and, yes, know your place: on the field, in the street, on the bus (in the front), in school, at work and in public office.

You are not alone and you are brighter than the sun.'

Buddha Guanyin

What Soraya omits to mention (probably because it's too stomach-churning for the Huffpo) is the barbaric Islamic practice of female genital mutiliation in Muslim-majority countries,  which is also often inflicted on non-Muslim girls as a result of dhimmitude and intimidation. 

However the BBC is not as reticent in describing this particularly repulsive form of control-freakery, where the clitoris and labia are removed before puberty to prevent any possibility of sexual pleasure:

"...Type 1 involves the removal of the clitoris; Type 2 the removal of the clitoris and the labia - the "lips" that surround the vagina, those hyper sensitive parts of the female genitalia which make the sexual act a pleasurable one.

In the rural areas of Egypt, in Upper Egypt, however there is scant respect for the law. You hear the words "tradition", "custom", "honour" uttered like a mantra when people justify their decision to circumcise their daughters.

The belief there is that it is the female who is sexually rampant and that her sexual desire must be arrested at a young age, before she can disgrace the family.

If we tell a police officer in the local station, we will be reporting to an officer who believes in it and is probably doing it to his own daughters.
"It is important that she loses that part of her body that awakes sexual desire. If not, she may play with herself or ask a boy to touch this part for her, not specifically a stranger, but one of her cousins for instance, and she might enjoy it," Olla told me. "When she feels the pain of it she will be more careful about this part."

Related Articles

Buddhist pedophile ring gang-rapes British girls 

Honoring the Feminine in Buddhism

Buddhist Candlemas and Celtic Celebration of Brigid

Why is God Male? 




Saturday, 19 May 2012

Buddhist pedophile ring gang-rapes British girls

Charlene Downes

from Gates of Vienna

by Takuan Seiyo

"Consider the case of the nine “Asian” men recently convicted for snaring, drugging, kidnapping, pimping and gang-raping 50 young British girls, over ten years. These Asian men, all of them Japanese Buddhists from Kyoto.

As has now transpired, police, public prosecutors and social workers knew about these blood-curdling abuses since 2002, and ignored them because they feared being called racist. They ignored the complaints of a 15 year-old who told them she was being driven all over town to be raped by up to five men every day. Singled out, as she relayed, because she was white, vulnerable and under-age.

And the pleas of another one who described in a six-hour interview with the police her multiple rapes, by up to five men a day, and provided DNA evidence too. And a mother whose three daughters were being raped regularly by the Japanese Buddhist Asians, and who complained about it multiple times to the authorities, to no avail... continued

Not exactly a good advert for transcultural enrichment by Buddhism.
I don't know what sect these Buddhists claim to be from (some form of Zen?), but I was always taught that Buddhists should refrain from harming any sentient being, should abandon sexual misconduct, and should respect all women as their own mothers.

UPDATE 19-May-2012

It now appears that the Gates of Vienna article was a spoof produced in response to the misuse of the blanket term 'Asian' to cover up what is specifically Jihadist pedophile predation.    The predators were in fact Jihadists, not Buddhists.

Hindus and Sikhs in Britain have complained about being tarred with the same brush as these criminals. Maybe Buddhists should do the same.

According to the BBC:

Complaints over use of 'Asian' label in grooming cases
Groups representing Sikh and Hindu communities have complained about the term "Asian" being used to describe the men involved in grooming trials.

Earlier this month, nine men were jailed for being part of a sex ring in Rochdale which groomed girls for sex.

The groups said the men involved were "almost always of Pakistani origin" and the term "Asian" was inaccurate.

The Ramadan Foundation has said grooming is "a significant problem for the British Pakistani community".

The joint statement was released by the Network of Sikh Organisations UK, The Hindu Forum of Britain, and The Sikh Media Monitoring Group UK.

It says the reluctance of the media and the government to discuss the "disproportionate representation of Muslims in such cases" and the fact victims are "almost always non-Muslim girls" is adding to the cause of far-right groups such as the BNP.

It said blanket use of the word "Asian" was "unfair to other communities of Asian origin".

"We believe that in this case the government itself is sanctioning the use of term Asian as a way of clouding responsibility," the groups say.
Stifled debate

The groups say sex gangs have targeted Hindu and Sikh girls but the cases are rarely reported as they seldom reach the courts.

The statement says: "We believe that political correctness stifles debate and will not facilitate a frank and mature discussion or solutions to get to the root of why the above pattern is emerging in these crimes and how to help find a solution to the problem.

"We will not be able to do that if we mask the identity of those involved based on misguided views of 'protecting a vulnerable community' of the perpetrators and not looking at the vulnerable community of victims."


Jihadist rape gangs are also targeting British Sikh girls and threatening their families - People of Shambhala


Muslim sex gangs not Asian
The recent British media reports on the Rochdale sex gang describing them as ‘Asian’ are both offensive and unfair. The use of the blanket term Asian by the media to describe these criminals’ brands all Asians as potential offenders and attributes either implicitly or often explicitly this kind of behavior to Asians in general, which is both racist and offensive to a large section of the law-abiding Asian community.

Why is it that the national press can't bring itself to use the words Pakistani or Afghan sex gangs in their reporting of these cases or more to the point Muslim sex gangs! Why is it in their efforts to be politically correct they must print headlines that not only twist and hide the truth but libel all Indians and Asians in general with racial and criminal slurs of the worst kind.
The offenders in Rochdale and previous Muslim criminal gangs were acting from a religiously inspired cultural perspective that is incompatible with British society and is not shared by the Asian community. Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism and Christianity all have an older religious and cultural tradition in Asia than Islam with a moral code that is compatible with British law and values. It’s disgraceful that the media should use such racial terms to link the sexual abuse crimes committed by these Muslims with all Asians.

I speak as part of a Tamil family whose members fought bravely in the Second World War for the British and are proud of both their cultural heritage and the place they have earned in British society. The people in my community are all more than tired of the problems associated with Muslim drug gangs, Muslim sex gangs and Muslim supporters of terrorist groups. The funds raised by Muslims for Islamic terrorists are used to finance attacks on Indian as well as British innocents; in Mumbai and in London.

The Sikh community’s contribution to British culture and society has also been a loyal and honorable one. How unfair it is to associate them with the kind of behavior we've seen from Muslims? Sikhs also have a long and proud history in both the British and Indian military and as a valued part of British society. A Sikh told me today,’ the problem lies in the Muslim community and the politically correct left wing press and weak political leadership’s failure to do anything about it’.

I spoke with a Christian friend from Goa in India today as well , who told me how upset his brother was at being labeled as a ‘sex beast’ by the British media. His brother had just read a British newspaper article describing all Asians as ‘sex beasts’! Buddhists are also upset with the British media calling the British Press racist in their careless and frankly reckless use of the term ‘Asian’ in reporting these criminal cases.

It not only puts a racial spin on the story which is unjustified but demonizes the whole British Asian community. British Asians are disgusted with the racist slurs and reporting in the UK media. Why do they insist on introducing a racial element where there is none? Why do you not report on the real problems within the Muslim community and Islam? I myself have already complained to the press complaints commission and urge all British Asians to do the same in an effort to put an end to these racial slurs.

Evening Standard tells the truth....
Click to enlarge
.... then goes politically correct and blames 'Asians' 

Islamic rape gangs a major threat to children

From the BBC

A 12-year-old girl who was repeatedly raped by a group of men was also made to have a back-room abortion after falling pregnant, a court has heard. She is one of six alleged victims of nine men accused of grooming children and exploiting them for sex in Oxford.

She was also "branded" with the initial of a man who claimed to "own her".
The men deny 51 charges including rape, arranging child prostitution and trafficking relating to girls aged between 11 and 15 from 2004 to 2012.

Jurors at the Old Bailey heard the victim, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, was "sold" to Mohammed Karrar when she had just turned 11 to "cure her bad attitude".
Noel Lucas QC, prosecuting, said he then groomed her for sexual activity, giving her alcohol and drugs.
Both he and his brother, Bassam Karrar, repeatedly raped the girl and arranged for her to be raped by other men in a way she described as "torture", the court heard.

Mr Lucas said that on one occasion Mohammed Karrar heated a hair pin with a lighter and branded the girl with the letter M on her buttock to show she belonged to him. When she became pregnant, aged 12, he arranged for her to have an illegal abortion in a back-room in Reading.

Mr Lucas told jurors: "This brief summary of the very extensive and persistent abuse [she] suffered at the hands of Mohammed Karrar illustrates his view of her as something to be used and abused at will.
"He regarded her as his property. He showed her no regard.
"He felt he was entitled to have sex with her when he wanted and in whatever manner he wanted.
"If she had the courage to resist, he beat her. He branded her to make her his property and to ensure others knew it."

The court heard Mr Karrar would charge men between £400 and £600 to use the girl.
'Want to be loved' Another 14-year-old girl was burned with a lighter and threatened if she refused to have sex with men, the court heard.
She met defendants Kamar Jamil, Anjum Dogar and his brother Akhtar Dogar, while she was living at a children's home aged 14.
The court heard she drank and took drugs "to the point of passing out because she knew what was expected of her".
Mr Lucas said she felt she had to do what she was told by the men, otherwise they would threaten her and get rough with her.

It is claimed she was taken to alleyways, woods and various houses and flats where men would have sex with her.  Mr Lucas also told the court the girl had said to a friend: "I have no choice, I just want to be loved. I've never been loved and this shows me love."
The court has previously heard the group of men deliberately targeted vulnerable young girls with troubled upbringings which made it less likely anyone would be looking out for them.

The trial is expected to last until April. The defendants are all in custody.
The defendants are:
  • Kamar Jamil, 27, of Aldwych Road, Oxford
  • Akhtar Dogar, 32, of Tawney Street, Oxford; and his brother Anjum Dogar, 30, of Tawney Street, Oxford
  • Assad Hussain, 32, of Ashurst Way, Oxford
  • Mohammed Karrar, 38, of Kames Close, Oxford; and his brother Bassam Karrar, 33, of Hundred Acres Close, Oxford
  • Mohammed Hussain, 24, of Horspath Road, Oxford
  • Zeeshan Ahmed, 27, of Palmer Road, Oxford
  • Bilal Ahmed, 26, of Suffolk Road, Maidenhead

Further details here, and the Jihadist motivation here.

More at  Jihadwatch  and The Daily Mail

The Buddhas of Bamiyan by Llewelyn Morgan – review

Buddhas of Bamiyan from Guardian Bookshop
From The Guardian

The Buddhas of Bamiyan by Llewelyn Morgan – review 

The story of two Afghan sculptures, destroyed after a millennium and a half

In 2001, in a violent attempt to advance the cause of Islamic fundamentalism, a clutch of men empowered by the Taliban brought down a titanic pair of structures that loomed over their skyline. No lives were lost. The few people living near the Buddhas of Bamiyan, in central Afghanistan, were cleared out first, before anti-artillery weapons were trained on the sculptures, carved out of the russet cliffs of the Bamiyan valley. "These statues have been and remain shrines of unbelievers," a February 2011 edict from Mullah Omar had proclaimed. Their destruction was carried out with a rare and perverse vim. Failing at first to pulverise the Buddhas, the Taliban called in Pakistani and Arab engineers to finish the job. In The Places in Between, Rory Stewart observed that the Taliban had scorched a fresco on the ceiling of one of the caves that honeycomb the cliffs and then stamped boot-prints over the patina of soot. "This must have taken some effort, as the ceiling was 20 feet high."

The Buddhas had stood for a millennium and a half; the smaller figure, 38m tall, was built around AD550, and the larger – at 55m only a little shorter than London's Monument – around AD615. In The Buddhas of Bamiyan, Llewelyn Morgan, a lecturer in classics at Oxford University, explores not so much the heartbreaking demise of the statues as their remarkably long lives. How and why did the Buddhas survive more than a dozen centuries of an Islamic Afghanistan, only to meet their end at a particular political moment in 2001? The final downfall of these sculptures – their arms already snapped off, their surfaces pitted by erosion and minor vandalism – represented the nadir of a long and complex process of civilisation. In the plangent words of the Iranian filmmaker Mohsen Makhmalbaf, perhaps the Buddhas could take no more: "Even a statue can be ashamed of witnessing all this violence and harshness happening to these innocent people and, therefore, collapse."

The story of Bamiyan, Morgan suggests, is really the story of Afghanistan itself – of a fractured land with the misfortune of being one of the world's great crossroads, the benefits accruing to it from trade and commerce rubbed out by the curse of being coveted for its strategic location. Bamiyan lay on a branch of the silk route that cut efficiently through the heart of the Hindu Kush mountains, providing both merchants and soldiers access to the Indian subcontinent, to China, to central Asia and thence to Europe. It has hosted a multitude of nationalities, religions and armies, a tinder-dry mix ever primed to be set afire: Greek stragglers from Alexander's campaigns; Hazaras descended from Genghis Khan's troops; Indians and Pashtuns and Persians and Turks; Buddhists and Christians as well as Shia and Sunni Muslims; the forces of the British Raj, the Soviet Union, the Taliban and Nato. Incredibly, through this tumult, Bamiyan managed to retain an air of pacific calm; the historian Arnold J Toynbee, visiting in 1960, wrote of "peace in the glistening white poplar-trunks … peace in the shadowy shapes of the Buddhas and the caves".

Buddhism arrived in the Bamiyan valley in the first or second century AD. This was as far west as the religion would advance, but it flourished here; archaeologists have discovered the remains of a great stupa – a domed home for Buddhist relics – and the Chinese traveller Xuanzang, who passed through Bamiyan in AD629, wrote of "several tens" of monasteries with "several thousand monks". An uncommon stability prevailed in Bamiyan at the time, the result of a delicate balance of regional powers. Morgan proposes that Buddhism benefited from this stability, but also from Bamiyan's nature as a hub of commerce. The town's monks, Xuanzang noted, shrewdly charged visitors to see their relics, and their monasteries functioned as dormitories, bazaars and banks for merchants. Out of such unexpectedly mercantile zeal were Bamiyan's giant Buddhas funded...   Full article

Update from Jihadwatch:

Hatred and Violence in the Qur'an Awareness Month: "Travel through the earth, and see what was the end of those who rejected Truth"

bamiyan.jpgOne of the Buddhas of Bamiyan, and the niche where it used to be

Why do some Muslims hate pre-Islamic art with such frenzied intensity that they would destroy it, despite its historical and archaeological value? Why did the Taliban blow up the Buddhas of Bamiyan, and why do some Islamic supremacists in Egypt today want to do the same thing to the Sphinx and the Pyramids?
It isn't just because they are artifacts of a religion that Islam rejects as false and idolatrous, although that is a large part of it. It is also because the Qur'an says that the ruins are a sign of Allah's punishment of those who rejected his truth:
Many were the Ways of Life that have passed away before you: travel through the earth, and see what was the end of those who rejected Truth. (Qur'an 3:137)
This is one of the foundations of the Islamic idea that pre-Islamic civilizations, and non-Islamic civilizations, are all jahiliyya – the society of unbelievers, which is worthless. Obviously this cuts against the idea of archaeological preservation. V. S. Naipaul encountered this attitude in his travels through Muslim countries. For many Muslims, he observed in Among the Believers, “The time before Islam is a time of blackness: that is part of Muslim theology. History has to serve theology.” Naipaul recounted that some Pakistani Muslims, far from valuing the nation’s renowned archaeological site at Mohenjo Daro, saw its ruins as a teaching opportunity for Islam, recommending that Qur’an 3:137 be posted there as a teaching tool.
Their hatred for their own heritage and past was a point of pride for them, inculcated by the Qur'an.

See also

Buddhist Defense League   



Friday, 18 May 2012

Punk Buddhism

A punk movement of spiritual practitioners
From The Guardian...

"The breakfast session begins with a presentation by Rohan Gunatillake, creator of the urban meditation app Buddhify. Having first explored Buddhist practice when working in Manchester, Gunatillake is a firm believer in the idea that Buddhism is compatible with city living. This is Buddhism as filtered through modern marketing, with the jargon to boot – there's lots of talk of Buddhism as an "industry of awakening" and an "innovation tradition", as well as a desire to tackle Buddhism's "pathological" attitude to money.

Gunatillake is an engaging performer though, casting Buddhism as "a punk movement of spiritual practitioners", with Buddha as a proto-scientist using "inner technologies" to explore the nature of human experience and the mechanics of suffering. He's particularly interesting in charting the migration of Buddhist practice, from austere and scholarly south-Asian Buddhism, moving east through China, Korea and Japan (zen), and on to Tibet. The hippies then brought Buddhism to the baby-boomers and creating a "western meditative tradition".

He brings the timeline up-to-date with the birth of the "hipster meditator", a postmodern Buddhist influenced by all three Buddhist traditions, as well as the science on the neurological effect of meditation and consumerism. As Gunatillake puts it:
It's not about looking to the East, to the mountaintop in India or the zen garden in Japan or a monastery in Burma, it's about making it work here.
And there's plenty of evidence to show there are people doing exactly that, with groups like buddhistgeeks, an online community dedicated to modern Buddhist practitioners, and the #OMCru (that's Online Meditation Crew for the uninitiated, a group who encourage meditation through Twitter) and Gunatillake's own Buddhify app (tagline: "Modern meditation. To go.") It's even spreading to the corporate sector, with Google encouraging their employees to read Search Inside Yourself in a bid to improve their wellbeing and productivity."

... another facet of the Dharma Jewel becoming visible, or just another Dharmaburger?



The International Symposia for Contemplative Studies: A Landmark Event

From The Mind and Life Institute

"If you had wandered by accident into the enormous foyer of Denver’s Hyatt Regency Centennial Ballroom on the afternoon of April 26, you might have been forgiven for thinking there was going to be a concert by a major rock and roll band that night. Hundreds of people crowded the large space, with many camped by the doors to the ballroom hours before the event was to start, and the excited chatter of conversation, the many happy hugs, and the palpable electricity in the air only added to the sense of imminent rock royalty. You might have been surprised, then, to discover the actual event was the International Symposia for Contemplative Studies, a professional gathering of neuroscientists, social scientists, and contemplative scholars there to share their research.

The Symposia, which was organized by the Mind & Life Institute on behalf of 25 cosponsoring organizations and which took place in Denver April 26-29, was indeed a landmark event, the first of its kind. And while there were no rock stars in attendance, there was at least one celebrity: U.S. Congressman Tim Ryan.

The Ohio representative was at the event because he has just published a book titled A Mindful Nation, which looks at how contemplative practices can address a host of pressing national issues. In his remarks during his closing keynote address, he said that the idea for the book came to him as he was attending a mediation retreat led by Mind and Life board member Jon Kabat-Zinn: “I went up to Jon afterward and said, ‘This needs to be in our schools, in our healthcare system, in the military for our returning veterans.’” “This gets to the heart of the issues in the United States of America,” he told the Denver audience. “If we really want transformational change in our country, not just more money for this or more money for that, not just this new program or that new program, but fundamental change that could reform education, reform healthcare, and all the things we talk about, then this is going to be it.”

Ryan’s comments were notable for several reasons: of course, just having a congressional representative address a scientific conference is significant in any circumstances, but having a congressman attend an event on contemplative research to talk about his own book on mindfulness indicates just how far this field has come.

No one was in a better position to appreciate that idea than Mind and Life board member and renowned neuroscientist Richard Davidson, who gave the other closing keynote speech. Davidson, who in 2006 was named by Time magazine as one of the 100 most influential people in the world, has been involved in contemplative research since the early 1970s. In his talk, he provided a retrospective on the path this work has taken. He described how, as a graduate student at Harvard in 1972, the idea of meditation as a scientific research subject was so unheard of that the only place he could publish his work was in journals like the Journal of Abnormal Psychology.

With that perspective, it’s hard to fully appreciate what he must have felt looking out from the stage on the Hyatt’s vast ballroom filled with more than 700 researchers and contemplative scholars who were there presenting rigorous and enormously varied studies. “It’s just an extraordinary event for us to be here together,” he said. “This meeting is, in so many ways, the realization of a dream; I haven’t been to a professional meeting in more than a decade where I really wanted to be at every single thing. It’s a testament to the vibrancy of where we are now.”

The audience was impressive not only for its size, but also for its diversity. When one of the keynote speakers asked how many people in the audience were from outside the United States, a third of the audience raised their hands. And a significant number of younger researchers were present (a testament to the effectiveness of Mind and Life’s Summer Research Institute, which many of them said they had attended). Just as important, the scientists represented a very wide range of disciplines. Psychologists, educators, neuroscientists, contemplative scholars, medical specialists, and many others presented their work.

The research itself was equally wide-ranging, studying the benefits of meditation for everything from post-partum depression to PTSD, compassion training for medical specialists involved in caring for the dying, defining and measuring compassion, work on the uses of mindfulness training in the military, and the substantial benefits of using contemplative practice in education settings from kindergarten to graduate school.

In addition to 137 research paper presentations, there were 122 poster presentations, 27 master lectures, and 6 keynote speeches. But as impressive as the statistics are, they cannot convey that unflagging sense of rock-concert excitement that pervaded the whole event. The lunch periods and breaks between simultaneous research-paper presentations were packed with people enthusiastically sharing ideas, sparking inspiration, and renewing old acquaintances. The only reason they could be broken up for the next session was because they didn’t want to miss a minute of the presentations. (At a post-conference town-hall-style evaluation session, the only substantial concern voiced by researchers was the happy problem of having too much excellent content and the challenge of taking it all in—along with a desire for even broader content at the next Symposia.)

And at the end of each day, that excitement spilled out onto the streets of Denver, where you could see groups of scientists all through the downtown area, walking together to dinner, still excitedly exchanging ideas and triggering new areas of research to be explored.

The Symposia’s keynote lectures served as a thematic anchor for the research presentations, discussing the larger ideas and principles that frame the work. (To see video of all of the master lectures and keynote addresses, go to the conference website: Among the speakers were author and founder of the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care, and Society Jon Kabat-Zinn, who opened the conference by leading the attendees in a mindfulness exercise and a discussion of the meaning and importance of mindfulness; former Wellesley College president (and new Mind and Life board member) Diana Chapman Walsh, who gave examples from her professional life of how mindfulness affects leadership in any setting; and Marsha Linehan, a psychology professor at the University of Washington, who discussed using contemplative practices to treat people with the most severe psychological disorders, especially those who are suicidal.

Saturday night’s keynote was especially powerful, featuring renowned neuroscientist Wolf Singer, philosopher Evan Thompson, and prominent Buddhist monk, author, and cellular geneticist Matthieu Ricard. Together, they explored an aspect of what scientists call “the hard question”: the nature of consciousness and its relation to the brain. Their three very different perspectives made for an invigorating debate and resulted in an appropriately open-ended conclusion.

“The International Symposium was a landmark meeting for Mind and Life,” said Mind and Life president Arthur Zajonc. “Beyond the superb science and contemplative scholarship, the conference brought together our whole community in a way that celebrated each person and their work. The conference demonstrated the power of the vision of Mind and Life to animate the imagination of scientists, contemplatives, and scholars alike in a common enterprise. The energy and excitement was palpable, and at its conclusion, many expressed to me their gratitude for the gathering and their impatience for the next.”



Saturday, 12 May 2012

Roger Scruton on Algorithms, Data Structures and Mental Attribution

This is a datastructure in the form of a two-dimensional array of 24 bit integers, processed by the algorithms in your PC.  Any appearance to the contrary is purely a projection of your own mind.

In Buddhist philosophy, all functioning phenomena are said to exist in three ways, known as the three modes of existential dependence:

  • Causality
  • Structure
  • Mental Designation ('Imputation') or Meaning

Causal dependency can be modelled as algorithms, and compositional/structural dependency can be modelled as datastructures, but where does that leave conceptual dependency?

According to Buddhist philosophy, the function of the mind cannot be reduced to physical or quasi-physical processes. 

The mind is clear, formless, and knows its object.  Its knowing the object constitutes the conceptual dependency,
which is fundamental, axiomatic and cannot be explained in terms of other phenomena, including algorithms and datastructures.

The question that separates the Materialist from the Buddhist is whether there is anything left to explain about reality once algorithms and and data structures have been factored out.

The Materialist would answer that algorithms and datastructures offer a complete explanation of the universe, without any remainder.  The Buddhist would claim that a third factor, mind, is also required.

Computer algorithms cannot interpret their data
In a recent article, 'Brain Drain', philosopher Roger Scruton has given a vivid illustration of the need for this third aspect of reality - mental imputation or designation - in addition to algorithms and data structures.

"...So just what can be proved about people by the close observation of their brains? We can be conceptualised in two ways: as organisms and as objects of personal interaction. The first way employs the concept ‘human being’, and derives our behaviour from a biological science of man. The second way employs the concept ‘person’, which is not the concept of a natural kind, but of an entity that relates to others in a familiar but complex way that we know intuitively but find hard to describe. Through the concept of the person, and the associated notions of freedom, responsibility, reason for action, right, duty, justice and guilt, we gain the description under which human beings are seen, by those who respond to them as they truly are. When we endeavour to understand persons through the half-formed theories of neuroscience we are tempted to pass over their distinctive features in silence, or else to attribute them to some brain-shaped homunculus inside. For we understand people by facing them, by arguing with them, by understanding their reasons, aspirations and plans. All of that involves another language, and another conceptual scheme, from those deployed in the biological sciences. We do not understand brains by facing them, for they have no face.

We should recognise that not all coherent questions about human nature and conduct are scientific questions, concerning the laws governing cause and effect. Most of our questions about persons and their doings are about interpretation: what did he mean by that? What did her words imply? What is signified by the hand of Michelangelo’s David? Those are real questions, which invite disciplined answers. And there are disciplines that attempt to answer them. The law is one such. It involves making reasoned attributions of liability and responsibility, using methods that are not reducible to any explanatory science, and not replaceable by neuroscience, however many advances that science might make. The invention of ‘neurolaw’ is, it seems to me, profoundly dangerous, since it cannot fail to abolish freedom and accountability — not because those things don’t exist, but because they will never crop up in a brain scan.

Suppose a computer is programmed to ‘read’, as we say, a digitally encoded input, which it translates into pixels, causing it to display the picture of a woman on its screen. In order to describe this process we do not need to refer to the woman in the picture. The entire process can be completely described in terms of the hardware that translates digital data into pixels, and the software, or algorithm, which contains the instructions for doing this. There is neither the need nor the right, in this case, to use concepts like those of seeing, thinking, observing, in describing what the computer is doing; nor do we have either the need or the right to describe the thing observed in the picture, as playing any causal role, or any role at all, in the operation of the computer. Of course, we see the woman in the picture. And to us the picture contains information of quite another kind from that encoded in the digitalised instructions for producing it. It conveys information about a woman and how she looks. To describe this kind of information is impossible without describing the content of certain thoughts — thoughts that arise in people when they look at each other face to face.

But how do we move from the one concept of information to the other? How do we explain the emergence of thoughts about something from processes that reside in the transformation of visually encoded data? Cognitive science doesn’t tell us. And computer models of the brain won’t tell us either. They might show how images get encoded in digitalised format and transmitted in that format by neural pathways to the centre where they are ‘interpreted’. But that centre does not in fact interpret – interpreting is a process that we do, in seeing what is there before us. When it comes to the subtle features of the human condition, to the byways of culpability and the secrets of happiness and grief, we need guidance and study if we are to interpret things correctly. That is what the humanities provide, and that is why, when scholars who purport to practise them, add the prefix ‘neuro’ to their studies, we should expect their researches to be nonsense."


Pixel art
Pixel art uses the minimum number of pixels needed to give a recognisable object.  Looked at closely it appears as an 'abstract art' style set of color blocks.

Looked at from a distance, cherries appear.   But where does the appearance of the shiny cherries and their stalk originate?   From a few dozen pixels, or from your mind?

Cherries and pixels

Pixel art long predates computers, and can be found in counted stitch embroideries, where the minimum configuration of counted stitches is used to invoke the mind's projection of an object. 

Pixel embroidery

- Sean Robsville

Related Posts

Buddhism and Process Philosophy
The Church-Turing-Deutsch Principle and Buddhist Philosophy
Why Beauty Matters - Roger Scruton
Algorithmic compression and the three modes of existence
How things exist - according to Buddhism and Science