Sunday, 28 July 2013

The webcrawler in your mind.

The purpose of this 'mindfulness' meditation is to obtain a glimpse of the formless nature of the mind as pure awareness, and in the process examine the compulsive web of interlinked thoughts that normally dominates our consciousness.

1. Find somewhere quiet and peaceful where you won't be disturbed. Silence your mobile, and if at home take the phone off the hook.

There's no need for a classical meditation posture, just sit upright in a chair. Try to keep your back reasonably straight. Avoid the two extremes of slouching  and getting excessively rigid.

3. Observe your breathing. Don't try to control it, just observe the natural rhythm of inhaling and exhaling.

4. Once you've settled into this observational state, but before you've got bored, introduce a small amount of breath control - just pause for a second between the in and the out breaths.

5. Next try a simple silent mental recitation. On the in-breath mentally recite the syllable OM (you don't say it out loud). At the pause between the in-breath and out-breath silently recite the syllable AH  (there is no need to prolong this pause any longer than it takes to mentally recite this syllable). On the out-breath mentally recite the syllable HUM.

6. Keep on breathing and silently reciting OM... AH... HUM...  Don't force the breath. Breathe naturally apart from the slight pause long enough to mentally recite the AH between the in and out breaths. You can then extend this pause if it helps you to feel calmer, and you can do so without discomfort. You may like to imagine that you hold the AH sound at your heart during the pause. Concentrate on the syllables and don't let your mind wander.

If the OM AH HUM method  doesn't work for you, then try just breathing naturally and maintaining your awareness of the sensation of the breath in the nostrils as you breathe in and out.


7. After a while, the novelty will wear off and your mind will appear to become extremely busy, with all sorts of thoughts competing for your attention.  Your mind will have much more immediate concerns than OM AH HUM or the sensation in the nostrils. -  "Well here I am meditating, not much happening yet -  the phone's off the hook - I wonder if anyone's trying to call -  that reminds me, it's a week since I last phoned my mother -   have I paid my phone bill? -   I haven't checked my  bank balance lately - I guess its bad because I haven't had a raise since my boss put me on a wage freeze -  "due to the recession" he said' - really it's because I'm 48 and not likely to find another job -  Why do I have to work for that creep? - Surely I could branch out on my own - I should have done it years ago - the whole company's gone down the toilet -  Toilet, just remembered, I noticed a crack in the seat this morning - I hope it doesn't collapse while I'm sitting on it  - more than likely since I'm putting on so much weight - comfort eating mostly - craving, isn't that what Buddhism's about - I hope this meditation helps with that  - nothing much happening yet -  did I remember to silence my mobile? - etc, etc..."

8. Welcome to your information-overloaded mind!  Why does meditation make the mind busier? And you thought it was supposed to calm you down. 

Yes ultimately meditation does quieten and clarify the mind, but in the early stages all that happens is that your mind becomes aware of the incessant junk-thoughts circulating in your brain (the first inkling that the mind is more than just the mechanism of the brain.). There's no more going on in your head than usual, it's just that you've become aware of it.

So is this incessant parade of trivialities all that there is to your mind?   Who's controlling it - obviously not you!

9. Continue with the OM AH HUM for a little while longer, gently returning your mind to the silent recitation every time it wanders away.

10. Now cease the recitation and examine the constant stream of linked thoughts that your brain is presenting to your mind. But try to distance yourself from these thoughts. Observe them but with a certain amount of disinterest. Pretend you're observing someone else's stream of consciousness rather than stuff which is obviously aimed at you. Don't get involved in this thought stream.  Rather than experience how one thought leads to another, examine what the links are and how each thought arises.

You'll become aware of the web of trivialities in your mind. Each thought is like a webpage with hyperlinks which lead on to another thought, and so on round and round ad infinitum. 

11. As you step back from your thoughts, you'll become aware of the webcrawler in your mind  - the process that follows all these associations and presents them to your awareness. You don't (at present) control this webcrawler. It seems to be able to click the links in your thoughts without, or even in spite of, your attempting to exercise some control.  And you'll notice that the webcrawler has certain preferred types of links, those that lead to objects of anger, fear or desire. It doesn't pay too much attention to bland associations, and there's no family filter on what it dredges up.

You have now begun to understand one of the compulsive systems of the mind. What you still need to experience is pure mind - the actual awareness which is viewing all the trivia which the webcrawler is displaying to it.

Convince yourself that your mind is neither the individual scenarios thrown up as the stream of consciousness progresses, nor the mechanism which drives the stream of consciousness. Your mind is pure awareness - non-structured and non-procedural. Occasionally the stream of thoughts will subside into the root mind, and a moment or two of clarity will occur before a new thread of associations emerges. When this happens, attempt to catch a glimpse of the calm, space-like and empty nature of the root mind - like a blue sky rather than one constantly obstructed by a passing procession of clouds. For a moment your mind has stepped outside the system, outside he normal loops and webs of compulsive, self-referential, uncontrolled thoughts.   (This action of 'stepping outside the system' or 'escaping from the loop' occurs repeatedly in different contexts in Buddhist philosophy and practice.)

12. Slowly come out of meditation. It may help to mentally recite the OM AH HUM for a brief period.

It is traditional and auspicious at the end of a meditation to silently dedicate any insight that we might have achieved to the happiness and freedom from suffering of all sentient beings.

Read more at Buddhist Philosophy

Friday, 26 July 2013

Everything I say is a lie

'Everything I say is a lie, and I swear that's the truth!'

Pinocchio is trying to be economical with the truth, but not completely succeeding because of the Liar Paradox.

The Liar Paradox is a statement of the form "this sentence is false."

If "this sentence is false" is true, then the sentence is false, which would in turn mean that it is actually true, but this would mean that it is false, and so on in an endless loop.

Similarly, if "this sentence is false" is false, then the sentence is true, which would in turn mean that it is actually false, but this would mean that it is true, and so on in an endless loop.

So trying to assign
a classical binary truth value (0 = FALSE, 1 = TRUE) to this statement leads to a contradiction. 

Intermediate 'probabilistic' values like 0.5 don't work either.

The only way to deal with this problem is for the mind to jump out of the computer-like endless logical loop.

This action of 'stepping outside the system' or 'escaping from the loop' occurs repeatedly in different contexts in Buddhist philosophy and practice.

TIP - If some aspects of Buddhist beliefs seem unfamiliar, obscure, or confusing, then bear in mind that Buddhism is a process philosophy.   Difficult aspects of Buddhism often become much clearer when viewed from a process perspective.




Thursday, 25 July 2013

Stress and Loneliness

From  Mindfulness meditation aids health by  Jacob Axelrad / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

"...Mindfulness-based stress reduction, a 12-week program developed in the 1970s by Jon Kabat-Zinn at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, uses techniques from Buddhism to train participants in skills they can apply to their everyday lives, to help them deal with stress, pain and illness. The skills involve finely tuned attention to thoughts and emotions and their bodies' reactions to physical sensations.

Loneliness and stress have been found to increase risk for medical conditions such as heart disease and Alzheimer's. Last year, in a published study of 40 healthy adults, mindfulness meditation in the MBSR model seemed to reduce loneliness and stress. In addition, it was linked to reducing inflammation throughout the body, which scientists say promotes the progression of diseases such as cancer and cardiovascular and neurodegenerative diseases.

The loneliness research is among several small studies conducted by Carnegie Mellon assistant professor of psychology J. David Creswell. One study from 2006-08 focused directly on the body's immune response to the human immunodeficiency virus. It indicated that mindfulness meditation could prevent the decline of the type of white blood cell that is specifically targeted and killed by HIV. Known as CD4 cells, they are counted in people infected with HIV to analyze the extent of the disease. They are a type of T-cell, cells that send signals to activate the body's immune response when they detect virus or bacteria infections.

"It was one of the first studies to show that mindfulness meditation could actually have a direct impact on a clinically relevant disease marker," Mr. Creswell said. "In this case it was delaying disease progression in the context of HIV infection..."      Full article


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Buddhist Mindfulness Meditation Alleviates Depression

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Nepalese rockstar nun sets stage on fire with Buddhist hymns

From Daily Bhaskar

"Ani Choying Dolma sings Buddhist hymns and sings them with her heart. In the process the enormous following that the Nepalese nun has gathered, has made many compare her to the renowned US pop singer Lady Gaga...

"...The money collected from her shows and record sales are put into  the Nun’s Welfare Foundation in Nepal.

What is incredible is her success in making something so spiritual and niche, a genre for all, which every common man can relate to. Her success lies also in the fact that the nun has been able to spread the teachings of Buddhism in an enjoyable and non-esoteric way to the masses..."    Full article 

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Wednesday, 24 July 2013

Losing our religion, Buddhism bucks trend in British Columbia

Buddhist Temple - Richmond News

By Alan Campbell, Richmond News 

"With every passing generation, attendance at religious services and affiliation to a recognized faith in Canada wanes...

...But it's not a surprising trend to people like John Stackhouse, an eminent professor of theology and culture at Vancouver's Regent College.

"The most important problem religions face in British Columbia is the same problem faced by any serious people trying to interest the public..."

"We spend billions of dollars a year distracting ourselves from the 'big issues' of life; from our smartphones to our leisure activities, to our workaholism, to our kids - who has time to think about 'ultimate reality.' So we don't.

"And we hope, every once in a while when we're on vacation or sitting in a hospital waiting room, that we're not, in fact, on the wrong road, heading for very big trouble."

Stackhouse said the popularity of a specific religion will rise and fall, and some disappear altogether.

"So not all 'religion' is 'relevant,'" he explained.

"Religion is a map of reality and a guidebook to making your way through the world with that map.

"Those maps that prove themselves to be useful continue to be passed along from one successful navigator to another. Those that give bad guidance are eventually discarded."

Faiths that, for the last 10 to 20 years, have survived or bucked that downward spiral are the ones that "connect with people's feelings, minds, fears and hopes," Stackhouse suggested.

"Some religions cater to our more noble characteristics, some to our less "Success, in terms of numerical growth and wealth, can come either way."

One of those religions that's faring better than most in B.C., the Lower Mainland and in Richmond is Buddhism..."

Full article

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Interest in Buddhism surges at Top Universities

Monday, 22 July 2013

The dangers of secularizing Buddhism

From Beyond McMindfulness by Ron Purser and David Loy at The Huffington Post 

"...In their branding efforts, proponents of mindfulness training usually preface their programs as being "Buddhist-inspired." There is a certain cachet and hipness in telling neophytes that mindfulness is a legacy of Buddhism -- a tradition famous for its ancient and time-tested meditation methods. But, sometimes in the same breath, consultants often assure their corporate sponsors that their particular brand of mindfulness has relinquished all ties and affiliations to its Buddhist origins.

Uncoupling mindfulness from its ethical and religious Buddhist context is understandable as an expedient move to make such training a viable product on the open market. But the rush to secularize and commodify mindfulness into a marketable technique may be leading to an unfortunate denaturing of this ancient practice, which was intended for far more than relieving a headache, reducing blood pressure, or helping executives become better focused and more productive.

While a stripped-down, secularized technique -- what some critics are now calling "McMindfulness" -- may make it more palatable to the corporate world, decontextualizing mindfulness from its original liberative and transformative purpose, as well as its foundation in social ethics, amounts to a Faustian bargain. Rather than applying mindfulness as a means to awaken individuals and organizations from the unwholesome roots of greed, ill will and delusion, it is usually being refashioned into a banal, therapeutic, self-help technique that can actually reinforce those roots..."   Full article 

TIP - If some aspects of Buddhist beliefs seem unfamiliar, obscure, or confusing, then bear in mind that Buddhism is a process philosophy.   Difficult aspects of Buddhism often become much clearer when viewed from a process perspective.

Related article

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The webcrawler in your mind.

Sunday, 21 July 2013

Are Buddhism and science incompatible?

Book review by Paul Knitter 

"Donald Lopez is on a mission. In his “role as a scholar,” he feels called “to protect, preserve, and defend the religion that he studies.” More specifically in this book, he seeks resolutely to protect and defend “the old Buddha” from “the scientific Buddha.”

Who is this scientific Buddha who, in Lopez’s view, is threatening, “bleaching,” “domesticating” the message of the original Buddha? It’s the Buddha “discovered” by critical, Enlightenment Europeans who thought they found a religion without God, based only on experience and reason. Nowadays, it’s the Buddha who is presented as not only compatible with, but a harbinger of, the discoveries of quantum physics and even biological evolution. Most recently, it’s the Buddha whose teachings on the benefits of meditation are being confirmed by neurological research and by movements such as “mindfulness-based stress reduction.”

Lopez will have none of this. Yes, he recognizes that Asian Buddhists used this “made in Europe” scientific Buddha to trump missionary accusations that Buddhism was superstitious and world-denying. (More recently, Pope John Paul II made the latter charge.) But Lopez finds that the real and “timeless” message of Buddha is “radically incompatible” with science. Thus, while the life of this scientific Buddha may have been helpful and happy, Lopez wants to make sure that it is short and consigned to nirvana as promptly as possible..."   Full article

Related Article

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Friday, 12 July 2013

Kinkaku-ji meditation garden


By Igor I. Solar at Digital Journal 

"Kinkaku-ji is among the most beautiful places in Kyoto. The location is a Zen garden with a pretty lagoon, dotted with miniature islands, and the site of one of the most loved Buddhist temples in Japan, known as the Golden Pavilion.

Zen Buddhism was introduced from China into Japan at the end of the 12th century becoming widely accepted among the Samurai class and the ruling warlords. The gardens of Zen temples in Kyoto in the 14th and 15th centuries were similar to the Chinese gardens of the time, including religious buildings set among small lakes and islands designed to stimulate meditation.

Legacy of Yoshimitsu, the third Ashikaga Shogun
When Ashikaga Yoshimitsu (1358-1408), the third shogun of the Ashikaga Shogunate, abdicated in favour of his 9-year-old son Yoshimoshi to devote himself to religious life as a Buddhist monk, he requested that his estate, known as Kitayama-dai, would become a Buddhist temple. At the time of Yoshimitsu’s death, Yoshimoshi complied by dedicating the property to Kannon, the Buddhist Goddess of Mercy and Compassion, and re-naming the grounds as Rokuon-ji (meaning Deer Park Temple).

After the Kitayama-dai villa was turned into a temple, many of the luxurious buildings belonging to the Shogun were removed. Only one building remained on the site, the three story temple, with the second and third floors wrapped in gold-leaf, which became known as Kinkaku or “The Golden Pavilion”...

More pix and full article

Thursday, 11 July 2013

Jesus and Buddha Walk Into an AA Meeting

From Darren Littlejohn at the Huffington Post 

"...Ultimately, we're tasked to live out our clean and sober lives with our thoughts and actions geared toward love and service. The Alcoholics Anonymous basic text says that, "Our very lives, as ex-problem drinkers, depend upon our constant thought of others and how we may help meet their needs."

In my view, those of us with addictions are uniquely qualified to understand the nature of what Buddha taught, namely, that in our lives we suffer and that the path out of suffering is about how to be better people. Buddha taught that we are to, "develop the motivation to benefit each other and extend it to cover all beings," and "It is the great merciful and compassionate heart, the motionless heart, the unpolluted and unattached heart, the emptiness-observing heart, the respectful heart, the humble heart, the uncluttered heart, the non-view and non-grasping heart, and the uppermost Bodhi (enlightened) Heart. You should know that such hearts are the feature and characteristics of this Dharani (mystical incantation), you should practice according to them."

Being an addict teaches us, probably more quickly than for non-addicts, the nature of what Buddha called attachment, aversion and ignorance and how these three poisons keep us stuck..."      Read it all 

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Wednesday, 10 July 2013

Unlikely conversation, conservative Evangelicals and Zen Buddhists hold interfaith meetings

By Kyogen Carlson at Pantheos

"In what might seem an unlikely conversation, conservative Evangelicals and Zen Buddhists in Portland have been meeting for potluck dinners, serious dialogue and the cultivation of friendship since 2005.

People on both sides have found the experience to be eye-opening, refreshing and rewarding. With some humility, not claiming to have all the answers, we have found common ground. We have learned we don’t have to come to complete agreement in order to find areas of agreement.

The most recent series wrapped up April 18 at Portland’s Multnomah University, a Christian college, graduate school and seminary, and plans are already in the works for another series next fall and winter. In 2011 we added vajrayana Buddhists, and this year theravada Buddhists, while the Christians involved have a connection to the university’s Institute for the Theology of Culture. How did this unlikely arrangement come about?

After a phone conversation with a distraught sangha member who was deeply angry, particularly with Christians, I thought of Dr. Paul Metzger, a professor of theology and culture at Multnomah. I had met Paul in a dialogue group that brought religious leaders together with the Portland Police Bureau personnel to discuss social issues, and I had been impressed with his thoughtfulness and understanding of other perspectives.

I got in touch with him and asked if he would be willing to come speak to senior members of our sangha. He said he would.

It is amazing to me now to remember how much fear and anxiety there was on both sides as we first approached each other, with our strong concepts about one another..."     Read it all    



Sunday, 7 July 2013

Jihadists Bomb Bodh Gaya Buddhist Sacred Site and Temple


Terrorists have bombed Bodh Gaya, the sacred site where Buddha achieved enlightenment.

GAYA: Terror struck the temple town of Bodh Gaya in Bihar, as nine serial explosions rocked the Mahabodhi Temple complex on Sunday morning.

Two tourists, including a monk from Myanmar, have been injured in the blasts. The injured are being treated at the Anugrah Narain Magadh Medical College hospital.

Union home secretary Anil Goswami confirmed that the Bodh Gaya blasts were a terror attack.

Bihar Police suspect the involvement of Indian Mujahideen in the temple blasts.

According to Gaya Police, the blasts took place in quick succession between 5.30am and 6am in the temple complex and near the Mahabodhi tree. One blast was reported from a bus stand.

One of the blasts took place just under the enlightenment tree causing partial damage to the Buddha footprints in the shrine premises.

Four blasts took place inside the shrine premises, while another three blasts took place in the Tregar monastery premises. The Tregar monastery belongs to the Karmapa, the second most important spiritual leader.

One blast each took place at the great Buddha statue and a bus parked on the Sujata bypass.

Arvind Singh, a member of Mahabodhi Temple Management Commitee said two other bombs, one near the 80 feet statue and one at bus stand have been defused.

Zonal IG Sushil Khopade confirmed eight blasts.

Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar reached Bodh Gaya to take stock of the situation. He took a round of the Mahabodhi Temple complex and held a meeting with the officials.

BJP activists led by former minister Prem Kumar greeted Nitish Kumar with 'go back' slogans outside the temple main gate.

JD(U) workers present there raised pro-Nitish slogans and countered the protesting BJP workers.

Cops have sealed the entry routes to the shrine. A NIA team is expected to arrive shortly for the probe.

"A team of NIA officers is coming to Bodh Gaya from Kolkata," DIG special branch Parasnath said.

The DIG said, "The sanctum sanctorum of the Mahabodhi Temple is intact. The temple premises have been sanitised."

The secretary of the Bodh Gaya committee Dorji said, "There were four blasts inside the temple premises. Fortunately, there was no damage to the Bodhi Tree or the main temple structure."

"In the first blast which took place near the Bodhi tree, a table was blown up because of which two persons were injured. The second blast, I think, was inside the enclosure where books were kept. The furniture was damaged but there was no damage to the monuments or statues," he said.

Asked about the nature of explosives used, S K Bharadwaj, ADG (Law and Order) said they were low intensity time bombs.

He said, "We got information about six-seven months back that there may be a terror attack on the Mahabodhi temple. After that we had beefed up secuirty and deployed extra forces".

Bodh Gaya Buddhist temple, around 10 km from Gaya and 100 km from capital Patna, is world famous. Lord Buddha had attained enlightenment here under the Mahabodhi tree in the temple premises.

Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama makes frequent trips to Bodh Gaya and Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa had visited it six months back. A total of 52 countries have established their monasteries here. 


"An Indian Mujahideen militant Syed Maqbool had told Delhi Police Special cell way back in October  last year that they planned to target the Mahabodhi temple and other major Buddhist shrines. Syed Maqbool belongs to Maharashtra's Nanded district and is a close associate of underground IM leadr Yasin Bhatkal.
Maqbool had told Delhi Police that Bhatkal had a plan to target Buddhist shrines in India to extract revenge for the killings of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar.

Delhi Police special cell had then given detailed info about the Bodh Gaya plan to Home Ministry, which in turn, had passed it on to Bihar police.

A team from Gaya police had then visited Delhi and discussed about this info. The district magistrate of Gaya, who is the president of Bodh Gaya temple management committee, had then promised to instal cctv cameras at the shrine and in neighbouring localities.

Home Ministry today asked Bihar police why no concrete action to safeguard the major Buddhist shrine was not taken despite issuing three alerts within a month.      

See   No future for Buddhism in an Islamized World

Buddhists save dogs from being slaughtered and eaten in dog meat festival

Dog waiting to be sold for meat
by Vicki Feng

"Chinese animal activists flocked to Yulin, Guangxi province, to save the lives of hundreds of dogs before the local dog meat festival began on Friday.

More than 20 activists from various cities in China, most of them Buddhists, spent more than 100,000 yuan (around HK$126,000), most donated by animal lovers, to buy and save around 400 dogs from the local markets.The activists have re-settled these dogs on a farm in Shangrao, Jiangxi province.

“This year most of the dogs are females. They are pregnant. It’s so cruel,” said Du Yufeng, 55, an activist from an animal protection association based in China’s Sichuan province. She also campaigned in Yulin at the same time last year.

An animal lover, Du founded the group after the 2008 Sichuan earthquake, when many dogs had to be killed for reasons of public sanitation, she said.

“These dogs live in a very poor conditions [in the market]. They don’t have water to drink and some of them died soon after we saved them,’’ said Hong Bin, 40, a Buddhist artist who joined the dog rescue..."  Full article 

Related article

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Friday, 5 July 2013

Unitarian Universalists - America's hidden Buddhists

From Monkey Mind

"... some ten to fifteen percent of UUs, something in the neighborhood of twenty to thirty thousand people, self-identify as Buddhist, or, at least, significantly influenced by Buddhism. One could argue with some truth that the Unitarian Universalist Association is among the largest of convert Buddhist organizations in the West. And yet this is barely noticed by those who write about Buddhism come west.

So, this book is a welcome and rather overdue addition to the literature of the Dharma come west.

There are deeply moving articles, confessional and reflective.
The range of the articles is reflective of the range of Buddhist thinking and practice among Unitarian Universalists. I felt particular connections to the articles by Catherine Senghas, Alex Holt, Kat Lieu, & Thandeka.
But, the most important contribution, I feel, is from Jeff Wilson. Jeff is a birthright UU, and continues to attend UU worship services. He is also an academic specializing in Buddhism. And, he is an ordained Shin Buddhist priest. 

His “A Brief History of Unitarian Universalist Buddhism” examines the meeting, the challenge, and the mutual transformation of Japanese Buddhism and American liberal religion. I hope this article will be expanded into a book length study. It is very important..."    Full article

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