Friday, 18 April 2014

What Can Washington Learn From a Buddhist Monk?

I recently spotted this piece by Arthur C. Brooks in the New York Times..................

WHAT can Washington learn from a Buddhist monk?

In early 2013, I traveled with two colleagues to Dharamsala, India, to meet with the Dalai Lama. His Holiness has lived there since being driven from his Tibetan homeland by the Chinese government in 1959. From his outpost in the Himalayan foothills, he anchored the Tibetan government until 2011 and continues to serve as a spiritual shepherd for hundreds of millions of people, Buddhists and non-Buddhists alike.

Very early one morning during the visit, I was invited to meditate with the monks. About an hour had passed when hunger pangs began, but I worked hard to ignore them. It seemed to me that such earthly concerns had no place in the superconscious atmosphere of the monastery.

Incorrect. Not a minute later, a basket of freshly baked bread made its way down the silent line, followed by a jar of peanut butter with a single knife. We ate breakfast in silence, and resumed our meditation. This, I soon learned, is the Dalai Lama in a nutshell: transcendence and pragmatism together. Higher consciousness and utter practicality rolled into one.

That same duality was on display in February when the Dalai Lama joined a two-day summit at my institution, the American Enterprise Institute. At first, his visit caused confusion. Some people couldn’t imagine why he would visit us; as Vanity Fair asked in a headline, “Why Was the Dalai Lama Hanging Out with the Right-Wing American Enterprise Institute?”

There was no dissonance, though, because the Dalai Lama’s teaching defies freighted ideological labels. During our discussions, he returned over and over to two practical yet transcendent points. First, his secret to human flourishing is the development of every individual. In his own words: “Where does a happy world start? From government? No. From United Nations? No. From individual.”

But his second message made it abundantly clear that he did not advocate an every-man-for-himself economy. He insisted that while free enterprise could be a blessing, it was not guaranteed to be so. Markets are instrumental, not intrinsic, for human flourishing. As with any tool, wielding capitalism for good requires deep moral awareness. Only activities motivated by a concern for others’ well-being, he declared, could be truly “constructive.”

Tibetan Buddhists actually count wealth among the four factors in a happy life, along with worldly satisfaction, spirituality and enlightenment. Money per se is not evil. For the Dalai Lama, the key question is whether “we utilize our favorable circumstances, such as our good health or wealth, in positive ways, in helping others.” There is much for Americans to absorb here. Advocates of free enterprise must remember that the system’s moral core is neither profits nor efficiency. It is creating opportunity for individuals who need it the most.

Historically, free enterprise has done this to astonishing effect. In a remarkable paper, Maxim Pinkovskiy of M.I.T. and Xavier Sala-i-Martin of Columbia University calculate that the fraction of the world’s population living on a dollar a day — after adjusting for inflation — plummeted by 80 percent between 1970 and 2006. This is history’s greatest antipoverty achievement.

But while free enterprise keeps expanding globally, its success may be faltering in the United States. According to research from Pew’s Economic Mobility Project, men in their 30s in 2004 were earning 12 percent less in real terms than their fathers’ generation at the same point in their lives. That was before the financial crisis, the Great Recession, and years of federal policies that have done a great deal for the wealthy and well-connected but little to lift up the bottom half.

The solution does not lie in the dubious “fair share” class-baiting of politicians. We need to combine an effective, reliable safety net for the poor with a hard look at modern barriers to upward mobility. That means attacking cronyism that protects the well-connected. It means lifting poor children out of ineffective schools that leave them unable to compete. It entails pruning back outmoded licensing laws that restrain low-income entrepreneurs. And it means creating real solutions — not just proposing market distortions — for people who cannot find jobs that pay enough to support their families.

In other words, Washington needs to be more like the Dalai Lama. Without abandoning principles, we need practical policies based on moral empathy. Tackling these issues may offend entrenched interests, but this is immaterial. It must be done. And temporary political discomfort pales in comparison with the suffering that vulnerable people bear every day.

At one point in our summit, I deviated from the suffering of the poor and queried the Dalai Lama about discomfort in his own life. “Your Holiness,” I asked, “what gives you suffering?” I expected something quotably profound, perhaps about the loss of his homeland. Instead, he thought for a moment, loosened his maroon robe slightly, and once again married the practical with the rhapsodic.

“Right now,” he said, “I am a little hot.”

Monday, 14 April 2014

FULL MOON – Monday 14th April 2014

Quality Being

One who refrains from causing harm 
by way of body, speech or mind, 
can be called a great being.

Dhammapada v. 391

Greatness could be defined in terms of the power we have or the possessions we own, but in the mind of the Buddha it is better determined by how people conduct themselves. This is a very practical way of assessing how trustworthy a person may be. Are they restrained in how they act and in what they say? Are they kind? We can’t tell what is happening inwardly, but we can observe the influence they have on the world around them.

With Metta,
Bhikkhu Munindo

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Happy Hanamatsuri

Hana-Matsuri refers to the memorial service performed at temples throughout Japan to celebrate the birth of Buddha on April 8th. It is formally called Kanbutsue. On this day, small buildings decorated with flowers are made at temples and a tanjobustu (baby Buddha figurine) is placed inside. This figurine is sprinkled by worshippers using a ladle with ama-cha, which is a beverage made by soaking tealeaves in hot water Some people take this ama-cha home and drink it as holy water.

Friday, 4 April 2014

Two New Talks

We have just posted two new talks in our Audio Section, one by Rodney Smith on the "Thursday Talks" page entitled "The Flame Of Now" and another by Vicky Beeching on the "Importance of Silence" on the "Thought for the Day" page.

Rodney's talk emphasises the need to quieten the constant dialogue which creates and reinforces the form that we take to be "us". Vicky speaks of the need to escape the noise of our technology and find a space in silence.

Monday, 31 March 2014

Japan Told to Stop Whaling

Breaking news!!!!!

The United Nation's top court has ordered Japan to stop its annual whale hunt in the Antarctic.

"Japan shall revoke any existant authorisation, permit or licence granted in relation to Jarpa II [research programme] and refrain from granting any further permits in pursuance to the programme," the International Court of Justice's Judge Peter Tomka said.

Japan had argued that the suit brought by Australia, in May 2010, was an attempt to impose its cultural norms on Japan.

But Canberra said since 1988 Japan has slaughtered more than 10,000 whales under the programme, allegedly putting the Asian nation in breach of international conventions and its obligation to preserve marine mammals and their environment.

In its application before the world court, Australia accused Japan of failing to "observe in good faith the zero catch limit in relation to the killing of whales".

Meanwhile, here in the UK, The Tory Government was considering amending the Hunting Act, which would have made it almost impossible to enforce, signalling a return to hunting with dogs "by the back door".

However, thanks to a public outcry at the news, the Government has announced it will not now attempt to do this. Mr. Cameron in Prime Minister's Questions on Wednesday 26 March said that the Government has dropped plans to amend the Hunting Act on the issue of the number of dogs that can be used in "exempt hunting".

A growing number of Conservative MPs had warned David Cameron that he risked losing the Commons vote if he pushed ahead with what they believed was an attempt to weaken the ban on hunting to woo rural voters away from Ukip.

Sunday, 30 March 2014

NEW MOON – Sunday 30th March 2014


While in the midst
of those who hate,
to dwell free from hating
is happiness indeed.

Dhammapada v. 197

Usually we equate happiness with getting what we want. Might there be other forms of happiness? For all of us there are times when we don’t get what we want, or we get what we definitely do not want. In this verse the Buddha is pointing to a quality of happiness which arises independent of whether or not we get what we want; a happiness which arises with wisdom. Wisdom knows that some conditions can be changed and some cannot. We can’t for instance stop someone else feeling hatred. But we can make the effort to not be pulled into their anger. And despite what some may say this is not quietism. This is taking responsibility for what is ours and maintaining equanimity towards that which is not.

With Metta,
Bhikkhu Munindo

Saturday, 29 March 2014

Newport Meditation Retreat

Yesterday a couple of us from the West Wight Sangha traveled into Newport to join the Soto Zen group for a days meditation retreat.

The talk that I took along was "What You Think is Not a Help for Realization" by Ed Brown.

Sunday, 16 March 2014

China Abstains on Ukraine's "Tibet"

At yesterday's meeting of the UN Security Council Russia vetoed a draft resolution criticising
today's secession referendum in Ukraine's Crimea region - the only member to vote against the measure.

China, usually a Russian ally on moves to counteract the diplomatic and economic might of the West, abstained from the vote.

Beijing is sensitive about issues of territorial integrity, because of fears it could send a message to its own restive regions of Tibet and Xinjiang.

Now, the Crimea was "given" to Ukraine On 19 February 1954. The Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the Soviet Union issued a decree transferring the Crimea from the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic to the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic. The transfer has been described as a "symbolic gesture," marking the 300th anniversary of Ukraine becoming a part of the Russian Empire. The General Secretary of the Communist Party in the Soviet Union was at the time the Ukrainian Nikita Khrushchev.

The Crimea was not invaded by Ukraine, unlike Tibet was by China.

The Ukrainian's didn't try to destroy the religion of Crimea, they're both Eastern Orthodox. Unlike the Chinese in Tibet where before the Chinese occupation, there were 6,000 monasteries, after the Cultural Revolution, there were six.

Hundreds of thousands of Monks, Nuns and civilians were imprisoned or killed for wearing traditional hairstyles and clothing, engaging in traditional song or dance, or voicing their religious beliefs. Rituals such as prostrations, mantras, prayer wheels, circumambulation, throwing tsampa and burning juniper or incense were strictly prohibited. Anything representing the cultural identity of the Tibetan people was eradicated.

And the Ukrainians haven't killed over 250,000 Crimeans in prisons and labour camps.

China does not want to alienate its strategic partner, Russia, which has lobbied heavily for China’s support for its intervention in Ukraine. Yet it cannot be seen as supporting a referendum in Crimea, which Russia backs, on the peninsula’s possible secession from Ukraine. For Beijing, that comes uncomfortably close to approving a vote on independence for Tibet.