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Buddhism

George Takei marries longtime partner Brad Altman

By SANDY COHEN, AP Entertainment Writer

LOS ANGELES – George Takei and his longtime partner, Brad Altman, have agreed to live long and prosper together.

Takei, 71, and Altman, 54, were married Sunday in a multicultural ceremony at the Japanese American National Museum that featured a Buddhist priest, Native American wedding bands, a Japanese Koto harp and a bagpipe procession.

The couple, both clad in white dinner jackets with black pants, made a grand entrance to the tune of “One Singular Sensation” from the Broadway musical “A Chorus Line.” They stepped into a circle of yellow roses and lilies, where they shared a traditional Japanese tea ceremony and were wed by a Buddhist priest.

The couple, who have been together for 21 years, wrote their own vows.

Altman said that he had called Takei many things during their two decades together — “life partner, significant other” — but that their marriage represented “a dream come true for me.”

“I can add ‘my husband’ to the list of things I call you,” he said.

Takei called his longtime partner an “organized, detail-obsessed, punctuality-driven control freak.”

“I’m easygoing with details, so we’re a good fit,” he said in the trademark baritone recognizable to all “Star Trek” and Howard Stern fans.

“I vow to care for you as you’ve cared for me … and to love you as my husband and the only man in my life,” Takei said as he held Altman’s hands.

The priest then pronounced them “spouses for life.” A bagpiper played as the newlyweds walked out, followed by friends, family and a few members of the press.

Takei said he and Altman chose to make their wedding public — and have been outspoken gay-rights advocates for years — for the sake of democracy.

“We have a relationship that’s been stronger and longer-lived than some of our straight friends, and yet we were not equal,” Takei told The Associated Press before the ceremony. “What this does is give us that dignity; (it’s) being part of the American system and being whole. We’re making the American system whole as well, as America is becoming more equal.”

Such activism is nothing new for Takei. He participated in the civil rights movement, served as a Democratic delegate in 1972 and fought for redress for those — like his own family — who were forced into internment camps after World War II.

“I grew up determined not to be marginalized,” he said. “That served as an incentive for me to be proactive.”

He and Altman were among the first couples to receive a marriage license in West Hollywood when the state began granting licenses to gay couples on June 17.

“A quarter century ago, when I first met Brad, (marriage) was the farthest thing from our imagination,” Takei said. “But what seemed impossible at one time becomes, over the passage of time, more and more ‘what if’ and ‘why not.’ We have to participate in moving society along to be a better democracy.”

Wedding guests included “Star Trek” stars Walter Koenig and Nichelle Nichols, who served as best man and best lady, Hollywood executives, local and national government officials and the couple’s relatives from around the world.

Keeping with the multicultural theme, guests dined on Asian/Baja Californian fusion cuisine and took home Japanese tea-ceremony treats in boxes printed with the phrase: “May sweet equality live long and prosper.”

The “Star Trek” star and his manager plan to honeymoon in Argentina and Peru.


Came to Believe…

It is really hard to try and explain to some readers that unless you have walked a day or a week or a month and quite possibly a year in my shoes, NO ONE has the right to judge me or leave nasty comments on this blog, thinking that I would even entertain posting those comments here.

The other night I wrote on the seven deadly sins, as I did a nightly inventory of my sobriety and I prayed for some wisdom in posting that post and I even PAGED it as well so that it can be readily accessed from the front page.

Illness forces one who is ill to grow up, faster than usual. It asks of us to persevere through the illness and to hope and pray that one will live through adversity and come victoriously to the other side. 162 of my friends went into that dark night with me. They are all dead, I am still alive. I must be doing something right.

People who think they know God, come here and tell me about their God and they share with me their warped views of Christianity. They leave nasty comments with vile judgments and accusations. How could I possibly know God, be a Christian and be Gay? My God does not care that I am gay and he doesn’t care that you are straight. My God tells me that I must walk this path, and I must pray and I must respect the station of God, and I do that. I am sure that every Christian who reads this blog has a different conception of God, and you may not agree with me and that’s ok. What a bore it would be if we all agreed on every note of Christianity.

When I got sick, and doctors told me that I had, at best, 18 months to live, that I better make good use of that time, I took that diagnosis home with me and I was alone. Because I would be Coming Out again, and AIDS was the great leveler. It surely separated the boys from the men, and the girls from the women. I tell this story again because it is who I am – what I am – and where I came from.

I had to come to believe that I was going to live, when all of my friends were dying. Against all odds, a group of men rallied round me and forced me to think, they begged me to believe in them, if I could not believe in myself or in God at that present moment. I cried for days. I worked my ass off and I listened to every word that was spoken to me in that first 18 months. I listened to the men who made sense of living. I listened to men encourage me through the toughest time of my life. Were THEY wrong???

The path lies ahead of you. What you choose to do with that knowledge is up to you. I had a choice, I could stay on the path and follow the leader, or I could go it alone. I chose to follow the leader. When Christianity turned its back on the sick and the dying, WE were still there. When the Christians were condemning us, and labeling us, WE were still there, we walked through that hell. I accuse many for what they did to me and my friends. I accuse you for turning your back on so many, families, friends, lovers, churches, congregations, funeral parlors, office workers, hospital workers and doctors and nurses.

You have not a shred of experience on what we lived through. You have not a leg to stand on when you speak your vile accusations and judgments. God as my witness, You have no idea who I am, you did not see with thine own eyes the horror I witnessed. You did not weep at the bodies laid wasted by those who abandoned them. I reckon, you did not shed one guilty tear of remorse for your actions.

And God Wept…

I counted the days, one by one, on paper, in my house, in my heart and in my mind. I sewed my own memorial quilt with the others and when they died I wept for my friends and those who loved them to the end. I worked night and day to care for the sick and the dying. I worked night and day to keep myself alive. And I was sober as well. I experienced rehab and I read my Big Book, I worked my steps and I let go of my resentments and my ego. Because let me tell you, there is no EGO when it comes to mortality. You beg God for one more day, one more week, one more month. You tell me if you’ve ever knelt before God, knowing that your life is in his hands, and you don’t let go of your EGO pretty damned fast.

God does not deal is egos and attitudes, although you wouldn’t know that by the actions of some Christians I run across on this blog. You’d think that God stepped out of his heaven to tell some Christians that it is their duty and responsibility to speak for the almighty!

I beg to differ…

I do not know of any Christian, priest, minister, pastor or the like who has ever heard from the Almighty and has access to the 1-800 number to the heavenly host. Not one day goes by as of late that I don’t think about my mortality. Because we are quickly approaching my diagnosis anniversary. It has been 14 years and counting, and I am still here, 162 of my friends are DEAD!!!

The longer I lived the more I believed that I would make it – the more I walked the path, I learned about me, about others, I learned what true compassion was, because I watched people like you, HUMAN BEINGS become ANIMALS, un-compassionate and uncaring. I witnessed the worst that humanity threw at us, don’t think for one moment that I have forgotten after so many years. I have not…

I know very few noble men and women in my life. I know that the men and women who worked tirelessly to help me and others stay alive, did that because they had to. The believed in us when nobody else did. They hoped that we would survive the medications, the drugs, and or the lack there of. Those men and women stood at the gates of death and protected us to the best of their ability to see that no one would go alone and those who lived would not forget the kindness shown to them in their darkest hours.

YOU who think you know God. YOU who think God has anything to say about me. YOU who think that you can prance around your little churches proclaiming “Jesus Saves” on Holy Sunday and at prayer meetings and revivals, out of one side of your mouth, and from the other you spout such vitriol and hatred!!! How could you possibly be in communion with the same God who created heaven and earth and all that you see before you!

May God have mercy on your souls.

In 40 years of life, I know who I am today. I survived. I lived. I persevered. I broke all the records and markers that my doctors gave me. I survived a family that turned their backs on me. I survived loosing my friends, my fellows, my boyfriend at the time. I survived finding my lovers corpse 5 days after he killed himself, rather than telling me that he was sick. I survived the curse that his mother said to me as I signed his body out of the coroners office to send his rotted corpse home to his family when she spoke those words:

“I Hope that every night when you close your eyes, that you see my dead sons body before you until the day that you die…”

Not a night goes by that I don’t pray for his soul and for mine. Not a day goes by that I am not reminded that this body is but a shell that I happen to inhabit for this lifetime. Not a day goes by that I am not reminded that I could die at any moment because my constitution is not that of a 26 year old boy any more. Not a day goes by that I don’t start my day with prayer and pray during the day and before I go to sleep at night that i don’t thank God for that day and pray that there is air in my lungs when I get up the next morning. It seems that God listens to my prayers, because there is still air in my lungs tonight.

You must concede that I know of what I speak of. You must concede that somewhere in God’s heaven are millions of souls who have gone before me, who speak to God on my behalf. You must concede that Sister Georgette, my sainted Grey Nun aunt, isn’t up there speaking to Mere D’Youville on my behalf. You must concede that after all these years, that I know how to pray. You must concede that probably I have prayed prayers for myself and my friends that YOU have never thought about praying for yourself or your families.

Death and Dying is not just a spectator sport for those who live and die with illness. You look at a child who is sick, and you feel pity for them, yet you spurn the lot of us who are sick and dying. There was no pity on your face, only recriminations and condemnation. Until you face your appointed hour could you ever utter one single word against me, my friends or our family.

We learn a great deal about life in the pursuit of death. We learn a great deal about prayer when the chips are down and we have to utter those “Hail Mary” prayers. I don’t think that YOU could shine a light on my prayer life with the certainty that you think you have. I don’t believe that YOU could even imagine what it is that I pray for on a nightly basis. I don’t believe that YOU could ever know the relationship that I have with God, because of the way you treat others. Humans are imperfect beings.

Religious men and women across the board for centuries have prayed to God, studied the finer points of God and they speak about theologies and religions, and nobody has the definitive word on God, what He thinks and what He believes of anyone on earth. Scripture, Talmud, the Qu’ran, the Bible, the Upanishads and the Vedas all speak of spiritual nature and spiritual truth. Words written by man, inspired by God are open to interpretation by the best scholars and religious leaders. Centuries of collected works are borne into a system of belief for the masses because YOU need to believe in something, and far be it from me to tell you what to believe, and As God as my witness, YOU have no right to tell me what to believe, how to live my life, or who I can love.

Matthew 7:1-5

Judging Others

“Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.

“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye?

You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brothers eye.”

On top of 40 years of lived experience on this earth, and 14 years balancing the fine art of the living and the dead, I have spiritual truth on my side. I have years of sober time under my belt. I have worked to become selfless and ego-less. We have a reading called the Promises in AA that we believe will come to pass if one works the program of recovery to the best of their ability.

“If we are painstaking about this phase of our development, we will be amazed before we are half way through. We are going to know a new freedom and a new happiness. We will not regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it. We will comprehend the word serenity and we will know peace. No matter how far down the scale we have gone, we will see how our experience can benefit others. That feeling of uselessness and self-pity will disappear. We will lose interest in selfish things and gain interest in our fellows. Self-seeking will slip away. Our whole attitude and outlook upon life will change. Fear of people and of economic insecurity will leave us. We will intuitively know how to handle situations which used to baffle us. We will suddenly realize that God is doing for us what we could not do for ourselves.

Are these extravagant promises? We think not.

They are being fulfilled among us – sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly.They will always materialize if we work for them.”

Every week at my home group meeting we read this passage from the Big Book. And I can tell you that I have come to believe because I have watched God walk into our meeting and rest and I have seen his grace fall on the souls of those who come to that meeting week in and week out. I have seen God move in ways that probably YOU will never see in your lifetime. I have been blessed and my friends have been blessed by God because we come together to learn, to change, to work and to share our message with those who might need to hear it.

Over the last five years I have worked on my religious truth. I have studied God INTIMATELY. I know who God is and I know who God is not. I have prayed simple prayers in some of the most beautiful churches on the earth. I have walked the staircase to the roof the Pinnacle of the Holy Catholic Church. I have stood in awe of the expanse of Rome and I have looked down into Papal Gardens where I am sure, centuries of Popes have communed with God in their time.

I have spoken to Pontiffs, I have worshiped in the greatest Church that exists on the planet. I have communed with the bones of saints and prophets. I have stood in the place of honor where the disciple Peter’s bones rest beneath the cuppola of the Vatican. I have walked the hallowed halls of the catacombs beneath the Vatican and I have seen the early Christian catacombs on Rome where the first Christians worshiped God.

There is not one egotistical bone in my body. I have worked tirelessly for years to share a message of hope and love with my readers. I have worked with the sick and the dying. I have spent a lifetime learning how to die. I have spent a lifetime studying the path to righteousness. I don’t care one bit for righteousness, I DO care about Holiness. I care that I live a holy and blessed life. I care that those I listen to live holy and blessed lives. I care that the religious authority that I follow RESPECTS me for WHO I am and are not bothered by WHAT I may be.

The world is so caught up in labels. What good have labels done to people in the past? The Nazi’s believed that labeling people and putting them in extermination camps was useful. To route the world of Jews, Gypsies, Christians, (oh yes they exterminated Christians too), homosexuals, the Polish and the sick and dying. MILLIONS of people WERE MURDERED because they were labeled as useless and dirty.

I once believed, as a young person that I wanted to carry a label, but 40 years of experience has taught me that once you label someone, they are as good as dead. Once you label someone, they loose something of themselves. The uniqueness of the soul is tarnished by those who would see them labeled. In centuries of time gone by, we have seen what labels do to human beings. Because if YOU can label us, then You believe that you can separate us from the whole, and section us off from the normal human population. You do not own that power any longer.

My Husband, my friends, and my fellows love me for the man I am today. One who gives freely of his soul every day that I live. One who writes with such passion and strength. One who lives with determination that I can safely say that probably YOU will never see in your lifetime. Because faced with imminent death, I am sure you would not rise to the level of enlightenment that I have seen in my lifetime.

Ah, you might get sick, get cancer, or some other disease, you will say a prayer here or there, and maybe you just might see the face of God before he takes you, but you will still be as judgmental and vile as you are today. Nothing will change.

Because a sick heterosexual is far better in Gods eyes than a sick homosexual.

Because you believe that God will hear and harken your prayer before he does mine. Well, I wonder about that. What do you think? YOU who sputter unchristian words now need God’s grace, because like me, now you are sick and you need God to heal you and make you better. Do you think that you are going to walk a different path than I have? Do you think that your illness might be better than mine? Do you believe that a heterosexual should be pushed up the line of healing before God, before someone like me?

You have no idea what it feels like to face your own death, several times over in my case. And lived to tell the tale. And you think that I am prideful or have one ounce of hubris in my soul? You think that I am arrogant and that I come from a place of ego rather than a place of selflessness???

I have come to believe…

One day YOU will stand before God, and on that day YOU will reckon for all that you have done on this earth, and for me it is this last thought that keeps me going in my pursuit of Christian faith, that at the end of my life when I stand before God I will hear him say:

“Well done, good and faithful servant.”

Will God say the same words to you???


Dalai Lama reiterates support for Beijing Olympics…

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by Lobsang Wangyal 

DHARAMSHALA, India (AFP) – The Dalai Lama, Tibet’s exiled spiritual leader, on Saturday said he backs China‘s right to host the Olympics after Beijing reportedly charged he was trying to sabotage the summer Games.

The statement came after media reports on Friday said China’s top official in Tibet, Zhang Qingli, had accused the Dalai Lama of trying to “sabotage this important event and spread rumours.”

In a statement issued in Dharamshala, the northern Indian hill station where the spiritual leader’s government-in-exile is located, the Nobel peace prize winner said “it is common knowledge that His Holiness the Dalai Lama has consistently supported the right of China to host the 2008 Olympic Games.

The Dalai Lama called the Chinese official’s accusation “highly inflammatory.”

The spiritual leader said the Chinese official had quoted from a “distorted interview” with a British television network carried out in January to accuse him of seeking “to sabotage the forthcoming Beijing Olympics.”

Referring to questions about whether he backed calls by Tibet support groups for a Games boycott, the Dalai Lama said he had already stated “that it was too radical.”

However, the Dalai Lama said Tibet support groups “could remind the international community, including the Chinese people, about the repression and urgency of the situation in Tibet.”

The Dalai Lama is frustrated by China’s refusal to discuss “cultural” autonomy for Tibet, but sees a window to sway public opinion ahead of the Olympics in August, analysts say.

His statement came a day after Chinese authorities warned preparations had been made to stop campaigners opposed to China’s rule of Tibet from protesting in the Himalayan region before and during the Olympics.

Pro-Tibetan independence groups have sought to use the Olympics as a platform to publicise their cause with publicity stunts in Tibet and Beijing.

In April last year, five Americans from Students for a Free Tibet were expelled from China for staging a demonstration on Mount Everest in which they called for Tibetan independence.

In August, during celebrations to mark the one-year countdown to the Games, another six foreign free-Tibet activists staged a two-hour protest on the Great Wall near Beijing and were promptly kicked out of the country.

China has ruled Tibet since 1951, a year after sending troops in to “liberate” the devoutly Buddhist region, and has violently suppressed a number of uprisings since then.

The Dalai Lama, who fled Tibet in 1959 after a failed revolt against Chinese rule, has set up his government-in-exile in Dharamshala.

The Dalai Lama has accused China of what he called “demographic aggression,” saying his people had been reduced to a minority in Tibet under Beijing’s rule.

He also says he wants autonomy for Tibet rather than independence, a demand that China rejects.


Jerome – Cosmology …

In Jain cosmology, the heavens are set up in a multi level system with the lower heavens and the upper heavens.
Jain Cosmology from Religion Facts Online


Jains believe that the universe and everything in it is eternal. Nothing that exists now was ever created, nor will it be destroyed. The universe consists of three realms: the heavens, the earthly realm and the hells.

There are seven levels of heaven in Jain cosmology. The top level, “the Realm of the Jinas” is reserved for liberated souls. The next level down is the realm of the gods.

The earthly realm, or jambudnoa (“Continent of the Rose-Apple Tree”) is divided into seven regions by six mountain ranges. Deliverance and religious merit is possible in three of these regions: India in the south, airavat in the north, and mahavideha in the middle.

The eight hells become progressively colder as they go down.

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I had a visual dream today about the heavens. It was multileveled like Jain cosmology, yet it has a very Buddhist twist. I was standing on this plane, and I was taken up to the next plane of existence. I understood that when you die on one plane, you move to the next in an ever present ever changing world of existence.

Each plane of existence was not so much grander than the one before it, but there were clear differences in them as you moved from one level to the next. I was told that you cannot move between the existence planes or influence what was going on below. I had the ability to see cities and towns, and move from place to place, and space to space. I found myself navigating through apartments and gardens. I was able to move from one level [plane] to the next as if floating between the spiritual levels.

It was a technicolor dream of grand proportions. The colors were vivid the sky was bright blue and the temples were incredibly amazing with their sculptures and decorated statues and gardens. There was life and there was death.

I looked upon a calendar like structure, it was almost as if each life was documented and as the soul moved through each plane, they would come to the time where they would leave [each] plane of existence moving upwards towards the uppermost level. At the end of your time of existence on each plane there were temples to celebrate your life and mourn your death.

I do not know if there was an earthbound soul that corresponded to a spiritual soul making their way up through the many spiritual levels, rising to the top most level of shrines and gardens. I could not see below, I was focused on what was going on around me.

You exist on each level in successive and once you complete your time on each level you die, and that is not a bad thing. Eventually you end up on the final level where you find a huge temple with a gigantic Buddha and lakes and rivers, and temples and places to live.

I am familiar with Jain cosmology and with Buddhist tradition. They do not share the same afterlife cosmology which is strange because what I saw was very Jain, but what was the Buddha doing there? Jain and Buddhist tradition are very similar in many ways as when I studied Jainism, Buddhist writings were consulted.


Gratitude

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“If I profess to a spiritual man on the inside, I must be that spiritual man on the outside, for if I am not, then I am a lie, and I would not be true to myself or my spirit.”

I went to have coffee with my friends, like I do every Tuesday. I set up the meeting like I do every Tuesday. I spent time with the people that matter the most to me in my sobriety. I take time out of my schedule each week to stand and be counted amongst my friends walking this path into sobriety. We are all on this journey we call life, for better or for worse, in sickness and in health, till death do us part…

I have tools in my trusty little toolbox. Several themes have been recurring over the last month that I took notice of today when I shared at the meeting. Staying in my day is at the top of this list, living in the moment comes in second, gratitude third, and humility fourth. Next comes I am not God, and I don’t have all the answers, but I do have some.

I am reading again, “Many Lives Many Masters” by Brian L. Weiss once again. For some reason I have been drawn to this text again. Am I learning my lessons? Am I making karmic headway into my commitment to this life I am living? Am I sharing what I know with all of you to the best of my ability? Am I a good steward of my peers? What lessons are left for me to learn on this earthbound plane? And what am I missing?

I’ve never been this Sober in my life. I’ve never felt so free as I feel today. I’ve never been this sober for so long in my life, and I would never give this up for all the booze in Montreal. I have learned so much over the last six years and I’ve written about this journey over the years for you to read and to maybe identify.

Then little things start to happen when you least expect it. The work that you do day in day out pay off when one of your readers comes back to say thank you. That it made a difference that I reached out a hand to someone in the dark and offered my candle to them, and we walked, and that I had that kind of impact on one of my readers, that is what we call “grace.”

Through the vehicle of sobriety I am mindful of others on the path. Through my study of religion(s), I know that we are all on the same journey, for all of us are born of a tradition whether we name it or not. Whether we embrace it or not, we are all born into a tradition. And I have been heard to say that if I was not a Christian I surely would be a Jew.

There were times on this journey when Judaism spoke to my heart and beckoned me to hear her. She has a beautiful voice, sweet and warm, welcoming and embracing. I have mentioned recently that one of the most moving times in my life over the last five years was spending Passover at a shul here in Montreal, during my religious studies.

We all follow the same God, no matter what you call him or her. We are all born of the creator, formed from the breath of that god and formed by his hand, he knows us and loved us into being and he counts every hair on our heads and he counts every tear that we shed. How many of us stop to thank that creator for watching over us and loving us?

I find that in being one of you, that I want to become more of you. Life is Life is Life, we cannot change the past, but we surely can influence the future. If there is something we must learn, then learn it. The quicker the better, because suffering in that area will end.

If we are repeating mistakes, then it is a forgone conclusion that we need to change that way of being, so that we start learning new lessons. Because until we learn all the lessons we need to learn, we will not leave this mortal coil, and move into our next emanation. It is written that many of us reincarnate together, that we have agreed to be here in this life together. That we knew each other in a past life, and we signed on for this journey before we got here together.

One of my professors of Buddhism once told a class of students, that I was part of that semester that as she looked out across the room, she said that what an amazing group of people, that we chose to be together in that room, in that class, for a specific reason. That we were destined to walk together at that point in time.

I like to think that every person on my read list is part of my journey. We agreed to be here together, that we have lessons to learn from each other, and that if we don’t reach out a hand, that we might miss something that we are supposed to learn or know about us or anyone else in our respective read groups.

I am reminded of this bible passage from the book of Luke 17 :11-19

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Now on his way to Jerusalem, Jesus traveled along the border between Samaria and Galilee. As he was going into a village, ten men who had leprosy met him. They stood at a distance and called out in a loud voice, “Jesus, Master, have pity on us!”

When he saw them, he said, “Go, show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were cleansed.

One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him—and he was a Samaritan.

Jesus asked, “Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” Then he said to him, “Rise and go; your faith has made you well.”

We all have our issues, our illnesses, our own problems, big and small, I for sure have my own concerns, but you know, it ain’t that bad. I could be a lot worse. I could be as sick as I once was.

But when “They” came for me and took me to that place some years ago, and “They” told me that I would be healed and that I would live, I believed “Them,” and so it was. And when “She” came to me and wrapped her arms about me and “She” soothed my aching heart because I prayed to “Her” I was healed, body and soul. I have always tried to remember gratitude. It is something I teach all of you too…

I don’t know what to say except thank you. Thank you for coming to read, and for being part of my journey. Maybe you will understand some of this message and maybe some of it will speak to your journey. Maybe we are to be awakened to see others on the path, and maybe we are being called to reach out and touch others however possible. We are all on this journey, and isn’t it better to walk together than walk alone.

We are all blessed to be here together, and we are called to be here together. We are called to be fishers of men, spreaders of the good news. And by that I mean, we may not ascribe to one gospel or one teaching, but we must share what is good in our lives, with whom ever will spend some time with us.

We all carry a gospel within us, we all carry a tradition within us, whether we acknowledge it or not, whether we respect it or not, whether we want to or not. Each of us is a walking memory of tradition, for we all live and breathe and as so long as we do, it is our calling to share that tradition with others, because it is who we are.

Life is Life is Life, and if life was too easy, where would the challenge to live come from? We are called to do the best that we can with this life, even in our own suffering. And for a moment I reflect on this teaching from the Late Pontiff John Paul II:

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From: Rise let us be on our way, where he speaks about suffering.

“I have always been conscious of the fundamental importance of what the suffering contributes to the life of the church. I remember that at the beginning the sick initiated me. I needed a lot of courage to stand before a sick person and enter, so to speak, into his physical and spiritual pain, not to betray discomfort, and to show at least a little loving compassion. Only later did I begin to grasp the profound meaning of the mystery of human suffering. In the weakness of the sick, I saw emerging ever more clearly a new strength – the strength of mercy. In a sense, the sick provoke mercy. Through their prayers and sacrifices, they not only ask for mercy but create a “space for mercy,” or better open up spaces for mercy. By their illness and suffering they call forth acts of mercy and create the possibility for accomplishing them.”

So we walk together and we suffer together and we lift each other up and that is our calling to the world. No matter how hard life gets, there is a purpose for each of us to bear our crosses, even if we hate them or how bad we want to rid ourselves of them, they are with us, and if we are walking together, then when that cross gets too heavy, one of us will help you carry it. And when we cannot walk another step, it will be God who carries us.

You never know when something you write will speak to a reader and to that end, I am grateful for the opportunity to write for you, to uplift you, to pray for you and to be your friend, even if we are miles apart, I think about each and every one of you every day as I run through my reads, every day. It humbles me to think that this little blog has become such a wonderful tool to reach out to you and to maybe help you, or bring a smile to your face, and even if you roll your eyes at me when i get preachy like this, I know that you will keep reading because once you start, you cannot stop. Because maybe at the bottom of the page there will be a tidbit for you, a piece of wisdom you might need, a prayer you might need at the moment. A light that you might need in your darkness.

19_zwirner_synagogue_de_cologne.jpg

There is the custom at Hanukkah of lighting the candles and the significance of the candles to the amount of oil that burned in the temple. At Christmas it is a custom in my house to give light [a candle] as a gift, because we are to spread that light where we can. With that thought I will close this post, with a simple: Thank You…

I hope that this holiday brings you all that you wish, all that you need, and all that you hope for. Goodnight from Montreal.

He has showed you, O man, what is good.
And what does the LORD require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God.

Micah 6:8


Silent Joy …

It is silent and humble. It is like water gushing from the earth. All at once we realize we are filled with joy. We don’t know where it came from but it is there.

It could happen that we are going along and all at once we feel serene, the faces we encounter appear beautiful, the way seems easy, and no evil thought darkens our minds. Even more, we feel more good-hearted towards others.

Usually, we cannot precisely determine the origin of such joy. It is very difficult to connect it to something external, because deep down we know that this silent joy depends on nothing outside itself for existence.

It could be awakened by something around us, but it is not dependent on it. What triggers it does not give it birth. Instead, this joy seems to belong to us, to be carried deep within us. It gushes forth unexpectedly and cannot be controlled or commanded. Unpredictably, it makes itself felt.

When we communicate under the influence of this joy, we speak as if we have been entrusted with something precious. Our tone of voice changes as when we are truly praying. We speak with attentiveness so as not to destroy what is so fragile and precious, not to encroach upon the other who is present and to whom we want to give attention.

Silent joy urges us to a greater respect for others and ourselves. Thoughts born of authentic joy are respectful and optimistic.

The philokalic Fathers called this “sobriety”: being sober and vigilant, staying focused on realities that are already tasted and secure moving from there, seeking traces of this joy in whatever we encounter. In a certain sense, this joy can be safeguarded. We do not have to return to precise experiences or special places to feel it. We carry it within ourselves, and it belongs to us.

*****

In my meditation time last night, I tried to focus in on this ‘silent joy’ to attempt to remember what it felt like as if recalling an old friend, a place where I had felt this joy, and what ‘silent joy’ felt like.

There were times in the past when ‘silent joy’ rose within me, and bubbled up from the surface, like water out of the earth. Like walking upon a spring just bursting from the rock, in the middle of the desert or a mountain-scape.

When is it that I feel this ‘silent joy?’ Silent joy is not connected to a ‘place’ but maybe a time. I can separate myself from bubbly joy that is connected to a place. Joy is something that comes to me when I least expect it. But I am not consciously aware of joy all the time, and sometimes it escapes me and I forget to connect with it during my day.

Being ‘sober’ for me is a way of life. As written above:

“The philokalic Fathers called this “sobriety”: being sober and vigilant, staying focused on realities that are already tasted and secure moving from there, seeking traces of this joy in whatever we encounter. In a certain sense, this joy can be safeguarded. We do not have to return to precise experiences or special places to feel it. We carry it within ourselves, and it belongs to us.”

I live in my sober space in my daily life. I work to be vigilant in what I do, what I see and what I say to others. But also I am vigilant of others who cross my path at any given moment.

Each day I have an opportunity to feel joy, but for the most part, I fall short of feeling this joy, in reading these passages I am reminded of it. And I think of times when ‘silent joy’ creeps up on me like water rising from the ground around me…

I return in my mind to times in life when I have felt this joy, like a comfortable blanket wrapped around me, it is familiar and cozy. I can identify those moments and remember them as if they were here in the present moment.

Today, I reflect in my meditation the occurrence of ‘silent joy’ and I can share with you moments of silent joy. My home group is a place of joy, because that is where I give myself most freely to anyone and everyone. To see people come each week, brings joy. To see my friends walking their sober journey brings me joy. To know that in my own little way, I create for them a place to feel joy within themselves, brings me joy.

Sometimes joy rises on my face when I see people in the metro, I feel their life force and see their auras, that brief intermingling of spirits brings a sense of joy. It is infectious at times. And in some instances I can’t help myself but to smile and feel that tingle of presence within my body.

Each journey is different for each of us. We all have our burdens to bear and no one journey can be judged, but understood out of compassion and love. I do not take for granted where I am in my journey, because I have fought long and hard to get where I am today, and within that journey over years and decades, I can tap moments of ‘joy’ as they happened.

That ‘bank of joy’ is available to me at a moments recall. Living soberly reminds me that I must stay in my day and be vigilant at all times, and sometimes I slip into old behavior and old patterns, but not often. I have learned over the years how to stay pretty centered on the present moment. Staying in that moment takes work, and nobody is perfect, yet we work to be mindful of the present moment.

In keeping the mind focused we learn how to remain calm and to breathe, because for the most part, I forget to focus on my breathing. And I return to that moment in my meditation to encounter the sacred, the fount of all life, the breath and the heartbeat.

I walk the path of the Buddha. I work every day to bring peace to my life and peace to the lives of others, taking nothing for granted I do my best at avoiding negativity and doing harm. I have learned how to stay out of negative thoughts and situations that would cause me pain, or cause others pain. I choose not to battle others, I choose not to engage in painful thought or action, because that blocks the ability to feel that ‘silent joy.’

I spend time each night reading sacred texts and I pray to my God and then I get quiet and I steady myself to sit and listen. Prayer is the action of speaking and meditating is the action of listening. If I make time to speak my words to the universe, I should give ample time to listen for the answers, as they would come to me as the universe sees fit to give me.

Answers come when we least expect them, because the universe knows all and sees all. Be careful what you ask from the universe because IF the universe thinks you are ready for the answer you seek, it will be given to you and sometimes the answer is immediate, and appears right in front of you in one form or another. Be aware that an answer might come from someone other than yourself, so be vigilant to those around you, because you never know when something someone might say is directed to you for your benefit.

And sometimes the answer comes simply – NO.

I relate a story about staying in my day…

Once upon a time I was petulant and self centered. I was arrogant and prideful. I took for granted the air in my lungs and the gifts that I had been given. Early sobriety for me is littered with situations and lessons learned, which included the wreckage of who I was then.

I was new to the group, that is now my home group and I had plans. I had plans, I had maintained that so I stayed sober so I was supposed to granted ten wishes [read expectations] from God. Week after week I showed up at the hall with my ready list in hand, not so much as begging God for results but taunting God with my list of things I thought were important at that time.

I was missing some things in my life like patience, willingness and even joy. I wanted what I wanted and I wasn’t going to take NO for an answer. I was prideful and arrogant. Some say that I am still arrogant, and maybe I am, but that is one of my shortcomings.

Each week I presented my list to the universe, waiting for answers and they told me ‘keep coming back’ and to ‘stay in my day.’ I did not know how to do that. Until one day a teacher rose to my challenge and said to me three questions that I have shared about here in previous writings…

1. Do you have a roof over your head?
2. Is there food in your belly?
3. Do you have a warm bed to sleep in?

This was a lesson in patience, willingness and gratitude. I was sure that I needed more than I was given, I even went so far as to think that I was entitled to my life being fulfilled because I was staying sober, and that staying sober was all about ME.

There was no joy in my heart…

It took me a year to learn this lesson. Day after day, I pissed and moaned about not being given what I thought I wanted, but daily, I was being given what I needed. I did not see the forest for the trees. And that was my burden to see past.

Day after day, week after week, month after month people were patient with me and they taught me these lessons, the universe would conspire to help me, and one by one the universe ticked off my little list, No, No, Rethink the question, Maybe tomorrow, Not right now, and finally Definitely NOT…

The universe was speaking to me through the actions of others to help me become a better person. And the more they showed up the more I showed up, and I began to see that showing up was just as important for you as it was for me. It was no longer all about me. I was involved in too much drama, I wasn’t paying attention to the road signs and the universal signs. Over that first year I began to change.

My prayer became words of thanks and gratitude. My needs became less and less because I learned how to be ok with what I had, and I learned not to expect more from the universe than what I was due on a daily basis. As these lessons were learned I found joy. I found peace, I found love.

I began to serve others like they served me. I began to learn the lesson of compassion and I cultivated a heart of mercy and of forgiveness. I learned to “LET GO.” The more I let go, the more joy I was able to feel. Letting Go is not a one off occurrence. It is a continual lesson in willingness to change.

We are all a fantastic gems that come into being rough, dirty and sloppy. We have wants and we have needs, and we have expectations of others and of ourselves.

The world teaches us that we must take care of ourselves without taking notice of others around us, that life is a dog eat dog ritual of taking, using and corrupting. But in order to take care of others, we must first take care of ourselves. We cannot teach others, unless we are taught first. And we cannot love another, until we learn to love ourselves first, and finally we cannot offer wisdom to another, until we learn that wisdom for ourselves…

Each day that gem is offered to the universe to be cut, fashioned and polished. The more we resist the gem makers wheel the harder our lives will be. We will exist – but we will not live.

Letting Go under the auspice of sobriety offers the individual the ability to be polished. Life throws us people, places, and situations that for the most part we engaged, we chose to take part in and even situations that were not our making. We grow up in families that might have been toxic and painful, and we carry that baggage around with us for the rest of our lives.

But now, I offer you an out. A way to Let Go of that rock, as Kate has spoken of. The more rocks we collect along the way, the heavier the burden until one day we become immovable. We become stuck where we are unable to move forwards. We then have a choice, to stay where we are and remain hurt, emotional and resentful expecting that what we want is better than what we need or we let go of those rocks, we put them down and we walk way from them and we live as the universe wants us to.

Now, just because we have lain these rocks down and walked away from them, the residual energy still remains. Every memory we carry forward contains residual energy. And even though we desired to let go of that issue, to grow further, we find that the residual energy tends to rise within us that cause us momentary shifts in our breathing, acting and living. It causes us to react again, as if we were in that moment once again, reliving it over and over.

The universal gem polisher turns the gem ever so slightly on that wheel to clean an edge to cut another facet, to give us the opportunity to see that situation and/or pain from a different perspective. The original response to that old issue becomes less painful, we can look at it from another point of view. And we can begin to see the wisdom in the lesson and not the pain it might have once caused.

As we walk through life, issues pop up, and as they do, each time, we look at the memory and we see it for what it is. The residual pain that the memory used to trigger is no more. We learn over the years how to move past the past, and not allow the past to affect us in the present, because the past is the past, it can only affect you if you give it power. The less power you give to the past, the easier your life becomes. And what a powerful lesson this is for the masses.

Over the years as I practice the art of letting go, I have found that the past has become but a memory. I can recall both the good and the bad, and I can take from them new wisdom as I need it, as I grow as a universal being. And when I realized that this was possible I learned what joy was.

Water bubbling up from the earth …

******

That universal shift was necessary for me to grow, because the universe conspires to help us grow into precious gems that are constantly being shaped, polished and refined.

Then one day real joy came to me. I remember it as if it were yesterday, a woman I know was getting sober, and she was obstinate and petulant, and she fought the gem makers wheel. She used to come to meetings heavy laden with burdens and pains, and she would cry day after day, “God, I wish this day would end already!!!”

She uttered this prayer for almost a years time.

When one suffers we all suffer, until one day she walked into the meeting and the neon sign above her was dark, her arms fell to her side and I saw it, that silent joy… She was finished suffering, she had come to the end of her trial, and she said it…”Oh God, there are not enough hours in the day, could you please give me a few more hours?”

When one feels joy, we all feel JOY…

Water bubbling up from the earth…


The Art of Living: Vipassana Meditation

Vipassana Site Here: 

Everyone seeks peace and harmony, because these are what we lack in our lives. From time to time we all experience agitation, irritation, disharmony, suffering; and when one suffers from agitation, one does not keep this misery limited to oneself. One keeps distributing it to others as well. The agitation permeates the atmosphere around the miserable person. Everyone who comes into contact with him also becomes irritated, agitated. Certainly this is not the proper way to live.

One ought to live at peace with oneself, and at peace with all others. After all, a human being is a social being. He has to live in society–to live and deal with others. How are we to live peacefully? How are we to remain harmonious with ourselves, and to maintain peace and harmony around us, so that others can also live peacefully and harmoniously?

One is agitated. To come out of the agitation, one has to know the basic reason for it, the cause of the suffering. If one investigates the problem, it will become clear that whenever one starts generating any negativity or defilement in the mind, one is bound to become agitated. A negativity in the mind, a mental defilement or impurity, cannot exist with peace and harmony.

How does one start generating negativity? Again, by investigating, it becomes clear. I become very unhappy when I find someone behaving in a way which I don’t like, when I find something happening which I don’t like. Unwanted things happen and I create tension within myself. Wanted things do not happen, some obstacles come in the way, and again I create tension within myself; I start tying knots within myself. And throughout life, unwanted things keep on happening, wanted things may or may not happen, and this process or reaction, of tying knots–Gordian knots–makes the entire mental and physical structure so tense, so full of negativity, that life becomes miserable.

Now one way to solve the problem is to arrange that nothing unwanted happens in my life and that everything keeps on happening exactly as I desire. i must develop such power, or somebody else must have the power and must come to my aid when I request him, that unwanted things do not happen and that everything I want happens. But this is not possible. There is no one in the world whose desires are always fulfilled, in whose life everything happens according to his wishes, without anything unwanted happening. Things keep on occurring that are contrary to our desires and wishes. So the question arises, how am I not to react blindly in the face of these things which I don’t like? How not to create tension? How to remain peaceful and harmonious?

In India as well as in other countries, wise saintly persons of the past studied this problem–the problem of human suffering–and found a solution: if something unwanted happens and one starts to react by generating anger, fear or any negativity, then as soon as possible one should divert one’s attention to something else. For example, get up, take a glass of water, start drinking–your anger will not multiply and you’ll be coming out of anger. Or start counting: one, two, three, four. Or start repeating a word, or a phrase, or some mantra, perhaps the name of a deity or saintly person in whom you have devotion; the mind is diverted, and to some extent, you’ll be out of the negativity, out of anger.

This solution was helpful: it worked. It still works. Practicing this, the mind feels free from agitation. In fact, however, the solution works only at the conscious level. Actually, by diverting the attention, one pushes the negativity deep into the unconscious, and on this level one continues to generate and multiply the same defilements. At the surface level there is a layer of peace and harmony, but in the depths of the mind there is a sleeping volcano of suppressed negativity which sooner or later will explode in violent eruption.

Other explorers of inner truth went still further in their search; and by experiencing the reality of mind and matter within themselves they recognized that diverting the attention is only running away from the problem. Escape is no solution: one must face the problem. Whenever a negativity arises in the mind, just observe it, face it. As soon as one starts observing any mental defilement, it begins to lose strength. Slowly it withers away and is uprooted.

A good solution: it avoids both extremes–suppression and free license. Keeping the negativity in the unconscious will not eradicate it; and allowing it to manifest in physical or vocal action will only create more problems. But if one just observes, then the defilement passes away, and one has eradicated that negativity, one is freed from the defilement.

This sounds wonderful, but is it really practical? For an average person, is it easy to face the defilement? When anger arises, it overpowers us so quickly that we don’t even notice. Then overpowered by anger, we commit certain actions physically or vocally which are harmful to us and to others. Later, when the anger has passed, we start crying and repenting, begging pardon from this or that person or from God: ‘Oh, I made a mistake, please excuse me!’ But the next time we are in a similar situation, we again react in the same way. All that repenting does not help at all.

The difficulty is that I am not aware when a defilement starts. It begins deep in the unconscious level of the mind, and by the time it reaches the conscious level, it has gained so much strength that it overwhelms me, and I cannot observe it.

Then I must keep a private secretary with me, so that whenever anger starts, he says, ‘Look master, anger is starting!’ Since I cannot know when this anger will start, I must have three private secretaries for three shifts, around the clock! Suppose I can afford that, and the anger starts to arise. At once my secretary tells me, ‘Oh, master, look–anger has started!’ The first thing I will do is slap and abuse him: ‘You fool! Do you think you are paid to teach me?’ I am so overpowered by anger that no good advise will help.

Even supposing wisdom prevails and I do not slap him. Instead I say, ‘Thank you very much. Now I must sit down and observe my anger.’ Yet it is possible? As soon as I close my eyes and try to observe the anger, immediately the object of anger come into my mind–the person or incident because of which I become angry. Then I am not observing the anger itself. I am merely observing the external stimulus of the emotion. This will only serve to multiply the anger; this is no solution. It is very difficult to observe any abstract negativity, abstract emotion, divorced from the external object which aroused it.

However, one who reached the ultimate truth found a real solution. He discovered that whenever any defilement arises in the mind, simultaneously two things start happening at the physical level. One is that the breath loses its normal rhythm. We start breathing hard whenever a negativity comes into the mind. This is easy to observe. At subtler level, some kind of biochemical reaction starts within the body–some sensation. Every defilement will generate one sensation or another inside, in one part of the body or another.

This is a practical solution. An ordinary person cannot observe abstract defilements of the mind–abstract fear, anger, or passion. But with proper training and practice, it is very easy to observe respiration and bodily sensations–both of which are directly related to the mental defilements.

Respiration and sensation will help me in two ways. Firstly, they will be like my private secretaries. As soon as a defilement starts in my mind, my breath will lose its normality; it will start shouting, ‘Look, something has gone wrong!’ I cannot slap my breath; I have to accept the warning. Similarly the sensations tell me that something has gone wrong. Then having been warned, I start observing my respiration, my sensation, and I find very quickly that the defilement passes away.

This mental-physical phenomenon is like a coin with two sides. On the one side are whatever thoughts or emotions are arising in the mind. One the other side are the respiration and sensations in the body. Any thought or emotion, any mental defilement, manifests itself in the breath and the sensation of that moment. Thus, by observing the respiration or the sensation, I am in fact observing the mental defilement. Instead of running away from the problem, I am facing reality as it is. Then I shall find that the defilement loses its strength: it can no longer overpower me as it did in the past. If I persist, the defilement eventually disappears altogether, and I remain peaceful and happy.

In this way, the techniques of self-observation shows us reality in its two aspects, inner and outer. Previously, one always looked with open eyes, missing the inner truth. I always looked outside for the cause of my unhappiness; I always blamed and tried to change the reality outside. Being ignorant of the inner reality, I never understood that the cause of suffering lies within, in my own blind reactions toward pleasant and unpleasant sensations.

Now, with training, I can see the other side of the coin. I can be aware of my breathing and also of what is happening inside me. Whatever it is, breath or sensation, I learn just to observe it, without losing the balance of the mind. I stop reacting, stop multiplying my misery. Instead, I allow the defilement to manifest and pass away.

The more one practices this technique, the more quickly one will find one will come out of negativity. Gradually the mind becomes freed of the defilements; it becomes pure. A pure mind is always full of love–selfless love for all others; full of compassion for the failings and sufferings of others; full of joy at their success and happiness; full of equanimity in the face of any situation.

When one reaches this stage, the entire pattern of one’s life starts changing. It is no longer possible to do anything vocally or physically which will disturb the peace and happiness of others. Instead, the balanced mind not only becomes peaceful in itself, but it helps others also to become peaceful. The atmosphere surrounding such a person will become permeated with peace and harmony, and this will start affecting others too.

By learning to remain balanced in the face of everything one experiences inside, one develops detachment towards all that one encounters in external situations as well. However, this detachment is not escapism or indifference to the problems of the world. A Vipassana meditator becomes more sensitive to the sufferings of others, and does his utmost to relieve their suffering in whatever way he can–not with any agitation but with a mind full of love, compassion and equanimity. He learns holy indifference–how to be fully committed, fully involved in helping others, while at the same time maintaining the balance of his mind. In this way he remains peaceful and happy, while working for the peace and happiness of others.

This is what the Buddha taught; an art of living. He never established or taught any religion, any ‘ism’. He never instructed his followers to practice any rites or rituals, any blind or empty formalities. Instead, he taught just to observe nature as it is, by observing reality inside. Out of ignorance, one keeps reacting in a way which is harmful to oneself and to others. But when wisdom arises–the wisdom of observing the reality as it is–one come out of this habit of reaction. When one ceases to react blindly, then one is capable of real action–action proceeding from a balanced mind, a mind which sees and understands the truth. Such action can only be positive, creative, helpful to oneself and to others.

What is necessary, then, is to ‘know thyself’–advice which every wise person has given. One must know oneself not just at the intellectual level, the level of ideas and theories. Nor does this mean to know just at the emotional or devotional level, simply accepting blindly what one has heard or read. Such knowledge is not enough. Rather one must know realty at the actual level. One must experience directly the reality of this mental-physical phenomenon. This alone is what will help us to come out of defilements, out of suffering.

This direct experience of one’s own reality, this techniques of self-observation, is what is called ‘Vipassana’ meditation. In the language of India in the time of the Buddha, passana meant seeing with open eyes, in the ordinary way; but Vipassana is observing things as they really are, not just as they seem to be. Apparent truth has to be penetrated, until one reaches the ultimate truth of the entire mental and physical structure. When one experiences this truth, then one learns to stop reacting blindly, to stop creating defilements–and naturally the old defilements gradually are eradicated. One come out of all the misery and experiences happiness.

There are three steps to the training which is given in a Vipassana meditation course Firstly, one must abstain from any action, physical or vocal, which disturbs the peace and harmony of others. One cannot work to liberate oneself from defilements in the mind while at the same time one continues to perform deeds of body and speech which only multiply those defilements. Therefore, a code of morality is the essential first step of the practice. One undertakes not to kill, not to steal, not to commit sexual misconduct, not to tell lies, and not to use intoxicants. By abstaining from such action, one allows the mind to quiet down sufficiently so that it can proceed with the task at hand.

The next step is to develop some mastery over this wild mind, by training it to remain fixed on a single object: the breath. One tries to keep one’s attention for as long as possible on the respiration. This is not a breathing exercise: one does not regulate the breath. Instead one observes natural respiration as it is, as it comes in, as it goes out. In this way one further calms the mind so that it is no longer overpowered by violent negativities. At the same time, one is concentrating the mind, making it sharp and penetrating, capable of the work of insight.

These first two steps of living a moral life and controlling the mind are very necessary and beneficial in themselves; but they will lead to self-repression, unless one takes the third step – purifying the mind of defilements by developing insight into one’s own nature. This is Vipassana: experiencing one’s own reality, by the systematic and dispassionate observation of the ever-changing mind-matter phenomenon manifesting itself as sensation within oneself. This is the culmination of the teaching of the Buddha: self-purification by self-observation.

This can be practiced by one and all. Everyone faces the problem of suffering. it is a universal disease which requires a universal remedy–not a sectarian one. When one suffers from anger, it is not a Buddhist anger, Hindu anger, or Christian anger. Anger is anger. When one become agitated as a result of this anger, this agitation is not Christian, or Hindu, or Buddhist. The malady is universal. The remedy must also be universal.

Vipassana is such a remedy. No one will object to a code of living which respects the peace and harmony of others. No one will object to developing control over the mind. No one will object to developing insight into one’s own reality, by which it is possible to free the mind of negativities. Vipassana is a universal path.

Observing reality as it is by observing the truth inside–this is knowing oneself at the actual, experiential level. As one practices, one keeps coming out of the misery of defilements. From the gross, external, apparent truth, one penetrates to the ultimate truth of mind and matter. Then one transcends that, and experiences a truth which is beyond mind and matter, beyond time and space, beyond the conditioned field of relativity: the truth of total liberation from all defilements, all impurities, all suffering. Whatever name one gives this ultimate truth, is irrelevant; it is the final goal of everyone.

May you all experience this ultimate truth. May all people come out of their defilements, their misery. May they enjoy real happiness, real peace, real harmony.

MAY ALL BEINGS BE HAPPY


To Canada for His Holiness with no love from China

Tibetan spiritual leader Dalai Lama looks on during a function to commemorate the anniversary of the 1959 Tibetan uprising against China’s occupation of Tibet, at the Tsuglakhang Temple in Dharamsala, India, Wednesday, March 10, 2004. The Chinese occupation began in 1951. (AP Photo/Ashwini Bhatia)

CBC News

Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama, has been much in the news of late. This month his worldwide tour brings him here to Canada, where he is to meet the prime minister, a week after the United States bestowed on him the Congressional Gold Medal. There’s even a new movie out called 10 Questions for the Dalai Lama.

A year ago, Parliament named the Tibetan spiritual leader an honorary Canadian citizen, a rare acknowledgement with international repercussions.

Each time another honour is conferred on the cherubic 72-year-old spiritual and political leader of the Tibetan people, China, which regards him as a dangerous separatist, gets hopping mad, threatening all manner of rancorous retribution against those who praise him.

The Dalai Lama is on a world tour and this weekend visits Ottawa to speak to thousands of the faithful at Lansdowne Park. He will also have an audience with Prime Minister Stephen Harper before he heads to Toronto to speak to thousands more at the Rogers Centre.

When news leaked that Harper would meet the revered Tibetan Buddhist, Lu Shumin, China’s ambassador to Canada, warned that this would hurt relations between Canada and China. No details of where the meeting will be have been released, but when the Dalai Lama met with former prime minister Paul Martin in 2004, it was at the private residence of Ottawa’s Roman Catholic archbishop.

Chinese Olympics

Many interpret the Dalai Lama’s recent high-profile trips as a way to pressure China into taking a more conciliatory attitude toward Tibet, cognizant of the fact that China is especially sensitive to world opinion as it prepares for the Beijing Olympics next summer.

This interpretation will gain more credence on Sunday, when the “surprise” master of ceremonies at the gathering in Ottawa is expected to be none other than Canadian Olympic swimming champion Mark Tewksbury.

The 14th Dalai Lama was born Lhamo Dhondrub on July 6, 1935, to a peasant family in Taktser, a small village in northeast Tibet. He has lived in exile since 1959 in the Indian town of Dharamsala, the base of Tibet’s government-in-exile. Some 120,000 Tibetans have chosen to live in Dharamsala to be with their leader.

In 1937, when Lhamo Dhondrub was two years old, the Tibetan government appointed a mission to find a successor to the 13th Dalai Lama, who died in 1933. The mission found the boy in Taktser and determined he was the reincarnation of previous dalai lamas.

Tibet and China

He was installed as Dalai Lama on Feb. 22, 1940, taking the full name Lobsang Yeshe Tenzin Gyatso. Regents ruled Tibet while the boy began his education and training as a monk. In 1950, at 15, he was named head of state and government soon after 80,000 soldiers from China’s People’s Liberation Army entered Tibet.

In 1951, the Chinese army occupied Lhasa and forced Tibet to sign a treaty with Beijing recognizing China’s rule. Under the treaty, Tibet became a “national autonomous region” ruled by a Chinese commission, with the Dalai Lama as a figurehead ruler.

China began to suppress traditional Buddhist monasticism and much of the culture of Tibet. The young Dalai Lama was thrown into the midst of this crisis, and in 1954, he went to Beijing to meet Chinese leaders Mao Zedong, Zhou Enlai and Deng Xiaoping.

In March 1959, the People’s Liberation Army invited the Dalai Lama to visit an army camp outside the capital, Lhasa. Rumours spread through the city that the Chinese planned to kidnap and imprison the Dalai Lama.

Escape to India

On March 10, 1959, there was a huge demonstration in the Tibetan capital demanding the Chinese leave Tibet. The Chinese army attacked. On March 17, the Chinese began firing mortars at the Dalai Lama’s palace. The Dalai Lama disguised himself as an ordinary Tibetan soldier, slipped out of the palace and, with a band of loyalists, began a 500-kilometre trek through the Himalayas to India.

Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru allowed the Dalai Lama to settle in Dharamsala and establish a Tibetan government-in-exile. The Dalai Lama appeared before the United Nations in 1959, 1961 and 1965, calling on the Chinese to allow self-determination for Tibet. In 1963, the exiled leader proposed a democratic constitution for Tibet, combining Buddhist principles with Western concepts of human rights.

In 1966, China proclaimed Tibet as one the People’s Republic’s “internal autonomous regions.” In the late 1960s, Tibet was one of the main victims of the Red Guards, who attacked monks and nuns, wrecked monasteries and destroyed priceless religious relics. The government of Mao Zedong banned the practice of Tibetan Buddhism, a ban that lasted until 1976.

Nobel laureate

The Dalai Lama’s attempts to influence China met with little success. Tibet is still considered an autonomous region within the People’s Republic, but in the past 20 years many Chinese colonists have moved to Tibet, and now there are seven million Chinese and six million Tibetans.

The Dalai Lama received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989 for advocating “peaceful solutions based upon tolerance and mutual respect in order to preserve the historical and cultural heritage of his people.”


No ‘political agenda’ in meeting with PM: Dalai Lama

CBC News

The Dalai Lama said he will express reservations about Canada’s combat mission in Afghanistan if the topic comes up during his historic meeting with Prime Minister Stephen Harper on Monday.

But he added that his meeting has no “particular political agenda.”

“My main interest or main commitment is promotion of human values, promotion of religious harmony,” the Dalai Lama told reporters in Ottawa, hours before his scheduled meeting with Harper.

Asked about Canada’s role in Afghanistan, the Dalai Lama said he believes “non-violence is the best way [to] solve problems.”

“Using violence, counter-violence, sometimes it creates more [complications], he said.

The Dalai Lama said he didn’t attach any significance to meeting the prime minister on Parliament Hill, a move likely to cause friction with China.

For the first time, Tibet’s exiled Buddhist leader will greet the Canadian prime minister in that venue, lending the meeting a politically charged air compared to previous sessions with Canadian politicians.

The Dalai Lama said he’s no expert on diplomatic formalities.

“I don’t care. The important [thing] is meeting [the] person, that I consider is the most important. So whether meeting prime minister in [his] office or private house doesn’t matter so long as meeting with person face to face.”

The Dalai Lama gestures during a speech to an arena filled with well-wishers in Ottawa Sunday.

The Dalai Lama gestures during a speech to an arena filled with well-wishers in Ottawa Sunday.
(Fred Chartrand/Canadian Press)

When former Liberal prime minister Paul Martin met the Dalai Lama three years ago, for example, the encounter took place on what was described as politically neutral territory — the home of the Roman Catholic archbishop of Ottawa.

Tenzin Gyatso, a 72-year-old Buddhist monk who is the 14th Dalai Lama, arrived in Canada Sunday and addressed a crowd of 8,000 at the Ottawa Civic Centre.

His message at the sold-out venue was one of compassion.

“We all want happiness, happy life, successful life.”

But he also took time to express “reservations” about some American policies, including the war in Iraq. The Dalai Lama met with U.S. President George W. Bush in Washington last week.

Bush met with him privately in the White House. The monk also received Congress’s highest civilian honour, the Congressional Gold Medal.

The U.S. president and Harper join a growing group of Western leaders who have chosen to greet the Dalai Lama in official venues despite criticism from China.

China says the Dalai Lama is a separatist political leader and considers it interference in China’s domestic affairs whenever a world leader is seen to be offering support.

But Jason Kenney, the federal secretary of state for multiculturalism, said he is more concerned about what Canadians think than the Chinese.

‘Important world figure’

The Dalai Lama offers a white scarf, called a kata, as he is greeted at the Ottawa International Airport on Sunday. The kata offering is a traditional Tibetan greeting symbolizing purity of intention.

The Dalai Lama offers a white scarf, called a kata, as he is greeted at the Ottawa International Airport on Sunday. The kata offering is a traditional Tibetan greeting symbolizing purity of intention.
(Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

“As public opinion polls have indicated, the vast majority of Canadians believe the prime minister should meet with the Dalai Lama. He is an important world figure, a spiritual leader,” said Kenney.

Some experts warn, however, that the government should tread carefully during this visit because China is an emerging economic powerhouse and an increasingly important trading partner for Canada.

“Canada-China relations is somehow cool, if not the lowest point since the 1970s,” said Wenran Jiang, acting director of the University of Alberta’s China Institute.

He said if the goal is to help Tibetans, Canada should have a more balanced approach when dealing with China — using moral statements rather than “political theatre” meant to grab votes.

China invaded Tibet shortly after the 1949 Chinese Revolution. The Dalai Lama has lived in exiled since staging a failed uprising against Chinese rule in 1959.

The Dalai Lama is scheduled to travel to Toronto on Tuesday, where he will hold a public talk Wednesday night on “The Art of Happiness” at Rogers Centre.


No 'political agenda' in meeting with PM: Dalai Lama

CBC News

The Dalai Lama said he will express reservations about Canada’s combat mission in Afghanistan if the topic comes up during his historic meeting with Prime Minister Stephen Harper on Monday.

But he added that his meeting has no “particular political agenda.”

“My main interest or main commitment is promotion of human values, promotion of religious harmony,” the Dalai Lama told reporters in Ottawa, hours before his scheduled meeting with Harper.

Asked about Canada’s role in Afghanistan, the Dalai Lama said he believes “non-violence is the best way [to] solve problems.”

“Using violence, counter-violence, sometimes it creates more [complications], he said.

The Dalai Lama said he didn’t attach any significance to meeting the prime minister on Parliament Hill, a move likely to cause friction with China.

For the first time, Tibet’s exiled Buddhist leader will greet the Canadian prime minister in that venue, lending the meeting a politically charged air compared to previous sessions with Canadian politicians.

The Dalai Lama said he’s no expert on diplomatic formalities.

“I don’t care. The important [thing] is meeting [the] person, that I consider is the most important. So whether meeting prime minister in [his] office or private house doesn’t matter so long as meeting with person face to face.”

The Dalai Lama gestures during a speech to an arena filled with well-wishers in Ottawa Sunday.

The Dalai Lama gestures during a speech to an arena filled with well-wishers in Ottawa Sunday.
(Fred Chartrand/Canadian Press)

When former Liberal prime minister Paul Martin met the Dalai Lama three years ago, for example, the encounter took place on what was described as politically neutral territory — the home of the Roman Catholic archbishop of Ottawa.

Tenzin Gyatso, a 72-year-old Buddhist monk who is the 14th Dalai Lama, arrived in Canada Sunday and addressed a crowd of 8,000 at the Ottawa Civic Centre.

His message at the sold-out venue was one of compassion.

“We all want happiness, happy life, successful life.”

But he also took time to express “reservations” about some American policies, including the war in Iraq. The Dalai Lama met with U.S. President George W. Bush in Washington last week.

Bush met with him privately in the White House. The monk also received Congress’s highest civilian honour, the Congressional Gold Medal.

The U.S. president and Harper join a growing group of Western leaders who have chosen to greet the Dalai Lama in official venues despite criticism from China.

China says the Dalai Lama is a separatist political leader and considers it interference in China’s domestic affairs whenever a world leader is seen to be offering support.

But Jason Kenney, the federal secretary of state for multiculturalism, said he is more concerned about what Canadians think than the Chinese.

‘Important world figure’

The Dalai Lama offers a white scarf, called a kata, as he is greeted at the Ottawa International Airport on Sunday. The kata offering is a traditional Tibetan greeting symbolizing purity of intention.

The Dalai Lama offers a white scarf, called a kata, as he is greeted at the Ottawa International Airport on Sunday. The kata offering is a traditional Tibetan greeting symbolizing purity of intention.
(Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

“As public opinion polls have indicated, the vast majority of Canadians believe the prime minister should meet with the Dalai Lama. He is an important world figure, a spiritual leader,” said Kenney.

Some experts warn, however, that the government should tread carefully during this visit because China is an emerging economic powerhouse and an increasingly important trading partner for Canada.

“Canada-China relations is somehow cool, if not the lowest point since the 1970s,” said Wenran Jiang, acting director of the University of Alberta’s China Institute.

He said if the goal is to help Tibetans, Canada should have a more balanced approach when dealing with China — using moral statements rather than “political theatre” meant to grab votes.

China invaded Tibet shortly after the 1949 Chinese Revolution. The Dalai Lama has lived in exiled since staging a failed uprising against Chinese rule in 1959.

The Dalai Lama is scheduled to travel to Toronto on Tuesday, where he will hold a public talk Wednesday night on “The Art of Happiness” at Rogers Centre.


Does the Dalai Lama Still Matter?

dalai-lama-01.jpg

By AUSTIN RAMZY/BEIJING Wed Oct 17, 2:15 AM ET

“Do you write about the Dalai Lama?” It was an unexpected question, coming from a Chinese PR official walking me out of an entirely unrelated interview. It’s not often that the name of the Tibetan spiritual leader is raised in China, and I assumed that what I would hear next was some version of the official Chinese line, painting the Dalai Lama as a swindler who wants to divide China. But I was surprised again. “I respect the Dalai Lama very much,” the person said. The Dalai Lama is in the news again, in part because he’s about to be awarded the U.S. Congressional Gold Medal on Capitol Hill in a ceremony to be attended by President George W. Bush – much to China’s chagrin.

Since he fled Tibet almost a half century ago, the Dalai Lama has become an internationally recognized figure, won the Nobel Peace Prize and made the plight of his people a cause celebre. But his goal of an autonomous Tibet seems further from being realized now than it ever has been. Not only does Beijing harshly crack down on anyone who pushes for a freer Tibet, but it is using China’s rapidly growing economy to bind the region ever closer. In 2006, Beijing opened a rail connection to the Tibetan capital, Lhasa, and 1.5 million passengers have ridden it to Tibet since then. Luxury hotels are opening up in the Tibetan capital to handle the influx. A booming Chinese quarter with discos and department stores give parts of the city the feel of a generic mainland boomtown, and it’s easier to find a Sichuan restaurant than it is to find authentic Tibetan food.

Given the changes that are unfolding in Tibet now, it’s worth wondering whether the Dalai Lama really matters any more. Beijing announced earlier this year that it will have the final say on the naming of his reincarnation, and the idea of an atheist, authoritarian government holding final say in a religious matter elicited condemnation in the West. Meetings in July between his representatives and Chinese authorities aimed at improving dialogue between the two sides produced no concrete results. State-run Chinese news organs have given heavy play in recent days to stories claiming that the Dalai Lama is a supporter of the Japanese doomsday cult Aum Shinrikyo and a betrayer of Buddhism.

Beijing also seeks to marginalize him abroad. After German Chancellor Angela Merkel met with the Dalai Lama last month, Chinese government representatives canceled a series of meetings with German officials, including a discussion on human rights planned for December. The news that President George W. Bush will meet with the Dalai Lama on Tuesday, and will, along with First Lady Laura Bush, attend a ceremony on Wednesday at which the U.S. Congress will present the Dalai Lama with the nation’s highest civilian honor, prompted an angry response from Beijing. Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao said, “The Chinese Government strongly opposes the U.S. Congress giving the Dalai Lama a so-called award.”

Despite China‘s importance as a trading partner, and as a positive diplomatic force on issues such as North Korea’s nuclear program, Bush seems willing to risk irritating Beijing to honor the Dalai Lama. White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said, “We would hope that the Chinese leader would get to know the Dalai Lama as the President sees him, as a spiritual leader and someone who wants peace.” That’s not going to happen any time soon. But Bush has made it clear to the Chinese that he respects the Dalai Lama. And while the Chinese government may loathe the Tibetan spiritual leader, their defensiveness in recent weeks show that in their own way they respect him too.

View this article on Time.com