Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Stone Age People Timeless Religion

Papua New Guinea

The island of Papua New Guinea has over 1,000 languages.  The western half, known as Irian Jaya to Indonesians and West Papua to the Papuans, has at least 800 languages and 312 tribes.  The eastern half has at least 715 languages.  Papua New Guinea is made up over 600 islands.  The western half is controlled by Indonesia while the eastern half is run as an independent nation.  It's biodiversity is legendary.  Many researchers believe these wet mountainous lands could even contain a cure for cancer.

The Indonesian government was believed by most of the world to have liberalized with the ousting of dictator Muhammed Suharto.

For the West Papuans that is not the case.

Settlers from Java and Sulawesi have increased the islands population and marginalized the native Papuans.  Nearly all jobs go to Indonesian settlers.  The forests of this vastly forested country have been torn down.  Pro-independence supporters have been thrown in prison, tortured, beaten and killed.  Women are routinely victims of rape and sexual violence.  Throughout West Papua military personnel are garrisoned to prevent rebellion.  The Indonesian government denies that it is committing such atrocities.

Transforming Our Greed, Transforming Our World

The entire western half of New Guinea came to be occupied during the Suharto regime, a two decade long rule that ended years ago and brought democracy to the country of Indonesia, with the exception of the Papuans.
Why is the west so slow to intervene on the behalf of Papuans living under Indonesian rule as has been China?  Is it that these countries don't want to upset trade relationships with Indonesia?  How could this greed be transformed for the people of West Papua?

Friday, February 24, 2012

Not Losing the Lesson When You Lose a Childhood Treasure

Two days ago I was unfortunate enough to lose a childhood treasure of mine.  It was a wooden yoyo I had since I was fifteen that I got in Philadelphia in a sort of recreation of an old colonial town and it had great sentimental value to me.  Today though I wrote some haiku which teach of the nature of impermanence and I felt a lot better.
Jack's mother meanwhile, after struggling with cancer, actually seems to be doing a lot better.  I have heard from Jack that she had it twice before now, so she already has experience in surviving cancer.  Not all can say that.  What comes, come and and that is when we will have to deal with it.

Dharma in Your Wallet

I have seen the "million dollar bill" with the gospel message on it and I thought What if there was a Buddhist version of this?
Thich Nhat Hanh advised all his followers to carry in there pocket a card that said, "Wherever you are, you are your true person."  How about this:

This way, modern day American Buddhists could better learn to reconcile money with their spiritual principles.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Tibetan Dream Catcher

At my "home" at the University of Central Missouri in Warrensburg, I have a "dream catcher" hanging over my bed that is an imitation of a Tibetan dream catcher.  I used some carnelian beads, some tiger's eye beads, and some sandalwood beads on a red string which at the end below the beads and at the end there I tied an "eternal knot" (Buddhist symbol representing eternity)

My Altar

Left to right: a statue of the Buddhist saint, the Green Tara; a picture of the Dalai Lama; a Celtic poem called Song of Amergin; a miniature bronze stupa, a gong; and a bowl.

The Green Tara is a Buddhist saint similar to the Virgin Mary in the Catholic faith.  She was said to be the Nepalese wife of the Tibetan king around the third century C.E. and introduced Buddhism to him and his people along with the king's Chinese wife known as the White Tara, another Buddhist saint.

I am the wind on the sea.
I am the wave of the sea.
I am the bull of seven battles.
I am the eagle on the rock.
I am the flash from the sun.
I am the most beautiful of plants.
I am the strong wild boar.
I am the salmon in the water.
I am the lake in the plain.
I am the word of knowledge.
I am the head of the spear in battle.
I am the God who puts fire in the head.
Who spreads light in the gathering on the hills,
Who can tell the ages of the moon,
Who can tell the place where the sun rests.

Song of Amergin from World Prayer Index

Monday, February 13, 2012

Keeping a Meditation Journal: Gaining a New Perspective on Your Spiritual Life

A meditation journal can help you keep track of your meditation practice over the years and help you understand how your meditation is going for you.  First you will need one sturdy notebook.  Things you might want to include in a meditation journal include:

-General comments like about a local charity, an event in today's news or something from your life; books or films you have read or seen.  Also poetry you have written or by other people.

-Mantras, chants or hymns you use in your spiritual practice.

-Prayers you have said and answered prayers.  George Washington was said to have kept a daily journal of all his prayers which can currently be viewed through the library of Congress.

-Topics covered in your meditation.

-Notes on Dharma talks, Buddhist books and texts

-Excerpts from Dharma texts that our relevant to your current situation.

-Dharma passages, what they mean and how you can apply them to your life.

-Definitions-of words that come up in your spiritual practice

-Questions or concerns about your spiritual practice or teachings.

-Talk about people who give you inspiration.

-New insights you have had about your life or the world in general.

Basically there are no limits to what you can put in a meditation journal.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

A Little Reminder to Myself

The truth is my greatest weapon.

                                         -Mahatma Gandhi

Friday, February 10, 2012

Buddhism for Uncertain Times

I recently found out is that my close friend and roommate's mother has cancer.  She has had it two times before so it seems to be in remission.  Nobody knows for sure how it will turn out.  However I know the Buddha would say that whatever happens, we have no control over it, and thinking about it won't change anything.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Rescuing from the Hell-Realms in Southeast Asia

Socially engaged Buddhism is about being aware of the suffering that happens to to people outside your doorstep without discrimination so you can cultivate true unbiased compassion for all beings.

When people talk about genocide, they nearly always talk about Darfur or Rwanda.  They hardly ever talk about Myanmar.

In Myanmar, there are over one-hundred ethnic minority groups.  These people for fifty years have been victims of rape, torture, random shootings, abductions and forced labor.  Over 3,500 villages have been burned down completely.  It is time for the American people to take a stand in Myanmar.

Service Dogs and Autism: More than Just Seeing

Rather than just being for seeing, service dogs for people with autism and other disabilities can be used for several other things.  These include:

Protection: For many people with autism, who often cannot tell untrustworthy people, dogs can sense danger.  A service dog could growl at a man who pulls up in the streets asking someone with autism to get in their car.  This growling could also alert police if they are nearby.  For autistic people who have parents or caretakers who try to harm them, a dog could attack in defense of their owner.

Company: Service dogs can provide a person with autism company when they feel alone.  A dogs loving, nonjudgmental company can give autistic people a feeling of self-worth and the ability to feel loved.

 Alarm System: Over a year ago, an autistic man died in a van after being left alone in there for hours.  Four years ago, an autistic child became traumatized by being left on a bus because he wasn't able to communicate where his home was to the driver.  This left his scarred but with a service dog, who could bark if the driver missed their house, this could be prevented.  An autistic man dying from being left in a car because of neglectful parents or caretakers may not happen because the dog's bark could alert people walking by the car that someone is locked in there.

Second Opinion: Dogs have the ability to tell if humans are telling the truth or not.  Dr. Andrew Wakefield produced counterfeit evidence last year suggesting that vaccines are the cause of autism.  Several autism "charities" also pay more money to their executives then they do to services for people with autism.  This unfortunately drains communities of their ability to provide services for people with autism.  If a service dog was around a person such as Dr. Wakefield or an organizer of a charity that didn't give it's money's worth, they could bark or growl to alert people to their dishonesty. 

Monday, February 6, 2012

Strife in the Heart of Africa: The World's Deadliest Modern War

The conflict in the Congo is one of the most complex conflicts to take place in the world, between Rwandan and Ugandan backed rebels, and the weak transitional government of the Congo backed by soldiers from Chad, Angola, Namibia and Zimbabwe.  The rebels include militias such as the Movement for the Liberation of the Congo and the Rally for Congolese democracy who Rwanda and Uganda use to control most of eastern Congo and it's lucrative cobalt, diamonds, copper, zinc, manganese, niobium, tantalum and uranium, the last of which was used in making the atomic bombs that were dropped in Hiroshima and Nagasaki Japan in World War II.  The conflict, which rages on in the east has taken over five million civilian lives, mostly from disease, starvation and malnutrition, since the government of the Congo has become so weak that it is unable to provide services for it's people.  The rebels have resorted to using rape as a weapon as war.  Pygmy hunters of the Ituri rainforest have been hunted down and eaten as if they were animals.
Currently the East is ruled by the Ugandan and Rwandan backed militias the Movement for Liberation of the Congo and the Rally for Congolese Democracy.  Other cross-border militias also play a key in fighting the government such as the Angola backed UNITA, an insurgent group based in Angola who are fighting to overthrow the Angolan government, and who frequently stage attacks from the rebellious Namibian province of Caprivi.  The conflict began during the rule of the thirty year ruling U.S. backed dictator, Joseph Mobutu also known as Mobutu Sese Soku.  During the last few years of his rule, refugees from Rwanda and Uganda entered the Congo, including both innocent civilians and the perpetrators of the 1994 Rwanda Genocide which killed over half a million people in about one hundred days.  Also entering the Congo was the Lord's Resistance army which operates in Uganda, South Sudan and the Central African Republic and has been at war with the Ugandan government of president Yoweri Museveni since he took office in 1987.
In 1994, the Rwandan Patriotic Front, a Tutsi-dominated group commanded by current Rwandan president Paul Kagame, shot down the plane carrying then Rwandan president Juvenal Habyarimana which sparked a horrific consequence: the Rwanda Genocide.  Hutu militias, such as the Interahamwe started killing Rwandan Tutsis and moderate Hutus, and when the Rwandan Patriotic Front took over Rwanda from neighboring Uganda, Paul Kagame invaded the Congo to go after these Hutu gunmen.  Under the cover of a small Tutsi militia, Rwanda and Uganda overthrew the rule of Mobutu Sese Soku in order to gain control of the Congo and it's vast resources.  Laurent-Desire Kabila, a long time opponent of Mobutu, came to power backed by Rwanda and Uganda.  Soon after however, Laurent realized that he was merely a prop for Rwanda and Uganda and he ordered the Rwandan and Ugandan troops to leave the Congo.  
This move was not well received by Rwanda and Uganda.  Rwanda formed an ethnic Tutsi militia called the Movement for Liberation of the Congo and Uganda formed the Rally for Congolese Democracy lead by Congolese Warlord Jean-Pierre Bembe.  These two groups went to war with Laurent.  With no real army of his own, Laurent received help from Chad, Zimbabwe, Namibia and Angola, the last country which has been at war with the militia UNITA, which functions in southeastern Congo and attacks Angola from Namibia's Caprivi Strip, which has been at war with the Namibian government.  Talks between government and rebels were held at Lusaka, Zambia, the Congo's neighbor to the south.  Unfortunately, the American-picked Zambian peace-broker, Frederick Chiluba, was not a neutral candidate in this agreement.  Chiluba had in fact allowed UNITA to operate in Zambia where it staged attacks on Angola.
The Lusaka Peace Agreement was signed in 1999 but the fighting restarted.  President Laurent Kabila was assassinated and his son Joseph took over.  Fighting continued between the army of Democratic Republic of Congo and the Rwandan and Ugandan backed rebels and women throughout eastern Congo are raped by HIV-infected militias and the conflict continues to be driven by importation of Congolese minerals.

It seems to me that socially engaged Buddhists, already intent in helping Tibet and Burma, really ought to take a stand in the Congo.

Lojong in Hard Times

One of the greatest spiritual practices for me is a practice from the Tibetan Buddhist tradition called Lojong where the practitioner creates several of his or her own slogan-like saying to remind them of their spiritual path in hard times.  Several times when I was stressed about something related to school, work and other ventures of my life, I said this saying that I wrote down, The best way to be prepared for anything in the future is to be fully aware in the present.  Here are some other lojong slogans of mine.

Happiness is only a few breathes away 
When we are in times of confusion or unhappiness, we can change our situation by simple deep breathing.  This reminds me to do some conscious breathing whenever I feel like there is not enough in my life or when I am stressed or anxious.
The heart can solve the most complex of problems. 
I used to have problems with my feelings that if I found a partner, I would get bored with her rather quickly.  The thought of being with the same person throughout my life seemed impossible.  I always felt that the first time to people love each other could never be replicated.  Then looking at love and relationships from a Buddhist perspective, I realized that love, like everything else, dies and gets reborn.  Sometimes I may not feel the same passion towards a lover that I felt when we first met or started dating, but I realized that after it 'died,' it could always be rediscovered or 'reborn.'
Karma always comes around. 

Apart from helping my love life, I realized that I often used lojong without realizing it.  When I remembered having a college professor who I found to be a total ass, I use to calm myself by saying to myself, "Karma always comes around."  I know this to be true for Third World dictators and other people who have ever infuriated me by doing something wrong.  This reminded me that justice would always come to these people.
You are all that you are in each moment.

At times I also felt, like everyone else in this world has, stupid because of some mistake I made in my life.  But then I would tell myself, "You are all that you are in each moment."  This reminded me that even when I made a mistake, however big, I was still the person who does all the great things I do and am.  

You will always reimburse what you invest
This is sort of similar to the saying, "you reap what you sow."  This reminds me when I don't feel satisfied with my life that I can do more to make myself satisfied or that I must simply wait to reap the satisfaction of my efforts.  I realized soon that this was very much the same as Karma always comes around.

Every suit of armor has a weak spot
This reminds me when I feel as if certain people who get in my way are too powerful to overcome, that they to have weaknesses and they to can fall victims of them.  I used to think of how it seems certain people, who cause great problems for autistic people, are too powerful.  Despite it's reputation, the group has also been the center of many controversies.  Even though I am free to speak my voice, many autistic people are not.  To much money is spent these days trying to find a cure for autism, causing money to fly out of the hands of people who provide services for autistic people in health, education and living, so that they often end up uneducated, unemployed or living in institutions.  And as time goes by, autistic people being consulted on autism issues has been an exception, when it should be a rule.  I remind myself that these people who cause such great problems to, are not superhuman and are subject to their own weaknesses.

All things come around at some point
This was always good whenever anything happened that left me upset or confused if I remembered to say this slogan at the time.  One practice that would help me in times of uncertainty was the ancient Celtic practice of making up your own affirmations and saying them whenever you went into a troublesome situation.  The Celtic people used to do this and doing it is said to really improve one's outlook on life when going into a troubling situation.  When I went to my job for example, I would say to myself:

I will not become bored, I will not be stressed, I will not be too tired.
nor shall I lose sight of my Buddha-nature or what is important to me
I will not hurry for this moment to be over, nor shall I become distracted by boredom.
I will know that the best way to face any situation in the future is to be fully aware in the present.