Thursday, December 25, 2008

mental resilience

In these challenging times, how can we build up mental resilience to counter stress?

On 10 December 2008, three experts from various disciplines shared with the National University of Singapore (NUS) community their perspectives on this question, in the NUS Lunchtime Forum: Mental Resilience in Times of Crisis presented by the NUS Development Office and the Department of Psychological Medicine, Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine. The forum was chaired by the department's Head, Prof Kua Ee Heok.

Our guest speaker was Dr Alan Wallace, renowned scholar of Buddhism and Founding President, Santa Barbara Institute for Consciousness Studies, who shared the Buddhist way to building mental resilience. On the panel with him were NUS professors Dr Jonathan Marshall, a psychologist who presented a case study of a patient suffering from stress, and Dr Frank C T Voon, an anatomist and psychotherapist who spoke on the neurological processes that take place when we encounter stress.

To watch the speech given by Alan Wallace, click HERE

To go to the main NUS Lunchtime Forum page, click HERE

Wednesday, December 24, 2008


Right concentration forms the heart of the path. The other factors of the path serve two functions. One is to get you into concentration; the other is to make sure you don’t get stuck there. In other words, concentration on its own is a state of becoming that’s useful on the path. Even though you eventually want to go beyond all states of becoming, if you don’t first master this state of becoming you’ll be wandering around in other states of becoming where it would be hard to see what’s going on in the mind. As the Buddha said, when your mind is concentrated you can see the four noble truths as they actually come to be. When it’s not concentrated, you can’t see these things clearly. Non‐concentration, he says, is a miserable path, leading nowhere useful at all.

Taken from Meditations, Thanissaro Bhikkhu

Read latest e-book taken from Thanissaro Bhikkhu's 2008 dhamma talks: Meditations

Monday, December 22, 2008

things as they are

"More wisdom is latent in things-as-they-are than in all the words men use."

Antoine de Saint-Exupery

Picture by: erlingsi @ Flickr

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Mind in the Balance

Forthcoming book by B. Alan Wallace in March 2009.

Columbia Univerity Press:

Our best-selling mind and consciousness scholar boldly corrects
the balance between empirical study and religion.
by bringing the meditative practices of Buddhism and
Christianity into a dialogue with the theories of modern phi-
losophy and science, B. Alan Wallace reveals their unified
approach to discerning the objective world. Wallace begins by
linking Christian and Buddhist meditative practices. He out-
lines a sequence of meditations for the reader to undertake
that show, though Buddhism and Christianity differ in their
belief systems, their methods of cognitive inquiry provide
similar insight into the nature and origins of consciousness.
From this convergence Wallace approaches contemporary
cognitive science, quantum mechanics, and the philosophy
of the mind. He connects Buddhist and Christian views to
the provocative theories of Hilary Putnam, Charles Taylor,
and Bas van Fraassen, and he seamlessly integrates the work
of Anton Zeilinger, John Wheeler, and Stephen Hawking.
Combining a concrete analysis of consciousness with a guide
to cultivating mindfulness and profound contemplative prac-
tice, Wallace takes new strides in the mapping of the mind.

B. alan wallace spent fourteen years as a Buddhist
monk, ordained by H. H. the Dalai Lama. He earned his
undergraduate degree in physics and the philosophy of
science at Amherst College and his doctorate in religious
studies at Stanford University. He is author most recently
of Hidden Dimensions: The Unification of Physics and
Consciousness and founder and president of the Santa
Barbara Institute for Consciousness Studies (

Sunday, December 07, 2008

meaning of 'mindfulness'

Alan Wallace explains the correct understanding of the term 'mindfulness' and its implications for practice.


While mindfulness (s a t i) is often equated with bare attention, my conversations with—and recent studies of works by—the learned monks Bhikkhu Bodhi and Bhikkhu Analayo, and Rupert Gethin, president of the Pali Text Society, led me to conclude that bare attention corresponds much more closely to the Pali term manasikara, which is commonly translated as “attention” or “mental engagement.” This word refers to the initial split seconds of the bare cognizing of an object, before one begins to recognize, identify, and conceptualize, and in Buddhist accounts it is not regarded as a wholesome mental factor. It is ethically neutral.

The primary meaning of sati, on the other hand, is recollection, nonforgetfulness. This includes retrospective memory of things in the past, prospectively remembering to do something in the future, and present-centered recollection in the sense of maintaining unwavering attention to a present reality.

The opposite of mindfulness is forgetfulness, so mindfulness applied to the breath, for instance, involves continuous, unwavering attention to the respiration. Mindfulness may be used to s u s t a i n bare attention (manasikara), but nowhere do traditional Buddhist sources equate mindfulness with such attention.

Right mindfulness has to occur in the context of the full Noble Eightfold Path: For example, it must be guided by right view, motivated by right intention, grounded in ethics, and be cultivated in conjunction with right effort. Without right view or right intention, one could be practicing bare attention without its ever developing into right mindfulness. So bare attention doesn’t by any means capture the complete significance of vipassana, but represents only the initial phase in the meditative development of right mindfulness.

Tricycle, Spring 2008

Read full interview: A Mindful Balance by Alan Wallace

genuine happiness

Alan Wallace on the pursuit of understanding and genuine happiness.

Alan Wallace website

Alan Wallace podcasts

Saturday, December 06, 2008

through the lens of mindfulness

Taken from Bangkok Post:

Seeing Barack Obama's historic campaign in a Buddhist light


It is my belief that Barack Obama's successful presidential campaign, which was based on the concept of "change we can believe in," and its underlying message are synonymous with Buddhist self-transformation. In Buddhism, people who are transformed become selfless and dedicated to serving others. This is what many people felt when they watched the broadcast of Obama giving his somber, determined victory speech in Chicago on election night.

Something in the back of our minds said that we were witnessing history, and that we seemed to have arrived at the dawn of another chapter in a more principled humanity. In the candidate himself, there is a powerful lesson that we can learn from. It is not just for politicians who dream of running a successful campaign and a landslide victory; the lesson is equally valuable for the rest of us. It would be ideal, though, if the world's politicians could learn the underlying message that Obama delivers, and the values that drove him and shaped his character.

Read more...The Mindful Candidate

Monday, December 01, 2008

towards wholeness

when we live, what dies?
when we die, what lives?

Picture: All Rights Reserved ® aml.2008

Thursday, November 27, 2008

peeling off our layers

Dharma practice is not a matter of learning more and more, studying more and more... It's a matter of emptying out, peeling off layer after layer. We're already so full of junk, so stuffed to the top, that first we need to empty out... We need to start peeling off all our opinions, all our ideas, and all over cleverness and just remain very naked, in the moment, just seeing things as they are, like a small child.

Tenzin Palmo

Picture by: tina_manthorpe @ Flickr

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

the paradox of becoming

A new book by Thanissaro Bhikkhu:

The topic of becoming, although it features one major paradox, contains other paradoxes as well. Not the least of these is the fact that, although becoming is one of the most important concepts in the Buddha’s teachings, there is no fullscale treatment of it in the English language. This book is an attempt to fill that lack.

The importance of becoming is evident from the role it plays in the four noble truths, particularly in the second: Suffering and stress are caused by any form of craving that leads to becoming. Thus the end of suffering must involve the end of becoming. The central paradox of becoming is also evident in the second noble truth, where one of the three forms of craving leading to becoming is craving for non‐becoming—the ending of what has come to be. This poses a practical challenge for any attempt to put an end to becoming. Many writers have tried to resolve this paradox by defining non‐becoming in such a way that the desire for Unbinding (nibbana) would not fall into that category. However, the Buddha himself taught a strategic resolution to this paradox, in which the four noble truth—the path to the end of suffering—involves creating a type of becoming where the mind is so steady and alert that it can simply allow what has come into being to pass away of its own accord, thus avoiding the twin dangers of craving for becoming or for non‐becoming.

Thanissaro Bhikkhu

Available in pdf for download:
The Paradox of Becoming

To listen to a talk by Thanissaro Bhikkhu on this subject:
Dhamma Talk on The Paradox of Becoming in Oct 2008

Picture: All Rights Reserved ® aml.2008

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Interview with Thanissaro Bhikkhu

Being A Monk

As an Oberlin student, Geoff was introduced to meditation during a winter-term seminar in 1969. He graduated in 1971, and then served as a Shansi rep in Thailand for two years. After returning there in 1976, he was ordained a monk and spent the next 15 years immersed in the Forest monastery tradition of Theravada Buddhism (see sidebar). He returned to the United States in 1991 to establish the Metta Forest Monastery, an American equivalent of the Thai Forest retreats.

Known informally as "Than Geoff," Thanissaro Bhikkhu has written several books on Buddhism and Vipassana (Insight) meditation. Fluent in Thai and Pali, the languages of early Buddhist writings, he has translated the writings of two noted Thai abbots and four volumes of the Pali Canon. In short, he knows his Buddhism.

Although I was anxious during our first phone call, Than Geoff was relaxed and friendly. He started me on an exploration into Buddhism that I've both embraced and tried to avoid almost every day since. Over the years, we've had lengthy conversations about almost everything. But I still had countless questions for him–personal questions I suspected other people also would like to ask a monk. When I suggested an interview, Than Geoff replied instantly, "Sounds like fun." A few months later, on a warm September afternoon at his monastery, Than Geoff and I began to talk.

Read more - A Conversation with Thanissaro Bhikkhu (Geoffrey DeGraff '71)

More writings by Thanissaro Bhikkhu:

Wat Metta Forest Monastery

Friday, November 07, 2008

true freedom

Spiritual freedom, as the opposite of this condition of bondage, must therefore mean freedom from lust, hatred, and delusion. When lust, hatred, and delusion are abandoned in a man, cut off at the root so that they no longer remain even in latent form, then a man finds for himself a seat of autonomy from which he can never be dethroned, a position of mastery from which he can never be shaken. He dwells in the world among the things of the world, yet stands in perfect poise above the world's ebb and flow. If pleasant objects come within range of his perception he does not yearn for them, if painful objects come into range he does not recoil from them. He looks upon both with equanimity and notes their rise and fall. Toward the pairs of opposites which keep the world in rotation he is without concern, the cycle of attraction and repulsion he has broken at its base.

Read more: The Taste of Freedom by Bhikkhu Bodhi

Picture by: wufgaeng against censorship @ Flickr

Monday, October 06, 2008

your heart must be large

"If your cup is small,
a little bit of salt will make the water salty.
If your heart is small,
then a little bit of pain can make you suffer.
Your heart must be large."

Thich Nhat Hanh

Thursday, October 02, 2008

one yet two

The tame bird was in a cage, the free bird was in the forest.
They met when the time came, it was a decree of fate.
The free bird cries, "O my love, let us fly to wood."
The cage bird whispers, "Come hither, let us both live in the
Says the free bird, "Among bars, where is there room to spread
one's wings?"
"Alas," cries the cage bird, "I should not know where to sit
perched in the sky."

The free bird cries, "My darling, sing the songs of the
The cage bird says, "Sit by my side, I'll teach you the speech of
the learned."
The forest bird cries, "No, ah no! songs can never be taught."
The cage bird says, "Alas for me, I know not the songs of the

Their love is intense with longing, but they never can fly wing
to wing.
Through the bars of the cage they look, and vain is their wish to
know each other.
They flutter their wings in yearning, and sing, "Come closer, my
The free bird cries, "It cannot be, I fear the closed doors of
the cage."
The cage bird whispers, "Alas, my wings are powerless and dead."

The Gardener, R. Tagore

Picture: All Rights Reserved ® aml.2007

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

your questioning eyes

Your questioning eyes are sad.
They seek to know my meaning
as the moon would fathom the sea.

I would have bared my life before your eyes from end to end,
with nothing hidden or held back.
That is why you know me not.

If it were only a gem, I could break
it into a hundred pieces and string them into a chain
to put on your neck.
If it were only a flower, round and small and sweet,
I could pluck it from its stem to set it in your hair.

But it is a heart, my beloved.
Where are its shores and its bottom?
You know the limits of this kingdom,
still you are its queen.
If it were only a moment of pleasure
it would flower in an easy smile,
and you could see it and read it in a moment.
If it were merely a pain
it would melt in limpid tears,
reflecting its inmost secret without a word.

But it is love, my beloved.
Its pleasure and pain are boundless,
and endless its wants and wealth.
It is as near to you as your life,
but you can never wholly know it.

R. Tagore

Picture: All Rights Reserved ® aml

Tuesday, September 09, 2008


"Let me ask you. Have you ever held a position in an argument past the point of comfort? Have you ever defended a way of life you were on the verge of exhausting? Have you ever given service to a creed you no longer utterly believed? Have you ever told a girl you loved her and felt the faint nausea of eroding conviction?

What is Doubt? Each of us is like a planet. There's the crust, which seems eternal. We are confident about who we are. If you ask, we can readily describe our current state. What was your father like? Do you believe in God? What do you want? Yours answers are your current topography, seemingly permanent, but deceptively so. Because under that face of easy response, there is another YOU. And this wordless Being moves just as the instant moves; it presses upward without explanation, fluid and wordless, until the resisting consiousness has no choice but to give way.

It is Doubt (so often experienced initially as weakness) that changes things. When a man feels unsteady, when he falters, when hard-won knowledge evaporates before his eyes, he's on the verge of growth. The subtle or violent reconciliation of the outer person and the inner core often seems at first a mistake, like you've gone the wrong way and you're lost. But this is just emotion longing for the familiar. Life happens when the tectonic power of your speechless soul breaks through the dead habits of the mind. Doubt is nothing less than an opportunity to reenter the Present.

There is an uneasy time when belief has begun to slip, but hypocrisy has yet to take hold, when the consciousness is disturbed but not yet altered. It is the most dangerous, important and ongoing experience of life. The beginning of change is the moment of Doubt. It is that crucial moment when I renew my humanity or become a life.

Preface of "Doubt", a play by John Patrick Shanley

Available at: Amazon

Picture: All Rights Reserved ® aml.2008

Thursday, September 04, 2008

wish we were heroes

Somewhere down the line
We found the riddle and the rhyme
Like two notes fade out of time
Now we don't feel as whole... no no

Somehow through the years
We let the laughter turn to tears
And all those feelings weren't so clear
Just aren't here anymore... anymore
And sometimes, I...

Wish we were heroes in the setting sun
Ride off together when the story's done
No sad goodbyes, no alibis... just
Two heroes waving from the back of a train
Two heroes never feeling all of the pain
Heartbreak in rending
Of knowing the ending is here
And it's time for goodbye

But so much for heroes
We could never be heroes
Because heroes don't cry

Wish We Were Heroes* - Melissa Manchester/David Gates

Wednesday, September 03, 2008


"What is your life? It is even as a vapor that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away."

98. I suppose few people reach the middle or latter period of their age, without having, at some moment of change or disappointment, felt the truth of those bitter words; and been startled by the fading of the sunshine from the cloud of their life, into the sudden agony of the knowledge that the fabric of it was as fragile as a dream, and the endurance of it as transient as the dew. But it is not always that, even at such times of melancholy surprise, we can enter into any true perception that this human life shares, in the nature of it, not only the evanescence, but the mystery of the cloud; that its avenues are wreathed in darkness, and its forms and courses no less fantastic, than spectral and obscure; so that not only in the vanity which we cannot grasp, but in the shadow which we cannot pierce, it is true of this cloudy life of ours, that "man walketh in a vain shadow, and disquieteth himself in vain."

Sesame and Lilies, John Ruskin

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Tuesday, September 02, 2008

it always comes back to you

"If you become a fisherman," said the little bunny, "I will be a bird and fly away from you."

"If you become a bird and fly away from me," said his mother, "I will be a tree that you come home to."

The Runaway Bunny, Margaret Wise Brown

Picture: All Rights Reserved ® aml.2007

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Documentary film on contemporary Tibet

The documentary examines and questions the state of the Tibetan people.

To watch video clips of the film, click here: Recollecting Tibet

Wednesday, August 27, 2008


Time present and time past
Are both perhaps present in time future,
And time future contained in time past.
If all time is eternally present
All time is unredeemable.
What might have been is an abstraction
Remaining a perpetual possibility
Only in a world of speculation.
What might have been and what has been
Point to one end, which is always present.
Footfalls echo in the memory
Down the passage which we did not take
Towards the door we never opened
Into the rose-garden. My words echo
Thus, in your mind.

But to what purpose
Disturbing the dust on a bowl of rose-leaves
I do not know.

T.S. Eliot

Picture: All Rights Reserved ® aml.2008

Sunday, August 24, 2008

being with dying

"Being with Dying" is a phrase that aptly describes the human condition. We may be unique among species in being aware of our mortality. Although the capacity to contemplate death is an essential human trait, most people actively eschew thinking about how their life might end.

While the dominant orientation of Western culture toward death is avoidance, for over 2500 years Buddhists have studied the question of how one can best live in the presence of death. In a sense, a life-threatening injury or disease makes Buddhists of us all, waking us from the illusion of immortality, suddenly and from that time forth...

Life-threatening illness calls us to a place - metaphorically a desert or mountain peak - where, as we sit, the hard wind of reality strips away all the trappings of life. We are left naked, only "me" with my in-breath and out-breath in this moment, here and now. Illness reveals that at every moment of every day we are - and have always been - merely a heartbeat away from death. This incontrovertible fact need not be depressing. Instead, as Roshi Joan Halifax eloquently conveys in this remarkable book, our readiness to die can inform and enliven how we live and how we relate to one another.

Ira Byock, in the Foreword of the book "Being with Dying" by Joan Halifax

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Buddhism n homosexuality

Homosexuality is the tendency to be sexually attracted to persons of the same rather than the opposite gender. According to the ancient Indian understanding, homosexuals were thought of simply as being ‘the third nature’ (trtiya prakti), rather than as perverted, deviant or sick. With its emphasis on psychology and cause and effect, Buddhism judges acts, including sexual acts, primarily by the intention (cetana) behind them and the effect they have. A sexual act motivated by love, mutuality and the desire to give and share would be judged positive no matter what the gender of the two persons involved. Therefore, homosexuality as such is not considered immoral in Buddhism or against the third Precept, although this is not always understood in traditional Buddhist countries. If a homosexual avoids the sensuality and licence of the so-called ‘gay scene’ and enters into a loving relationship with another person, there is no reason why he or she cannot be a sincere practising Buddhist and enjoy all the blessings of the Buddhist life.

Venerable Dhammika: Read more at Buddhist Channel

A Gay Tragedy by Ven. Dhammika

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

quiet minds - contemplative photography

Miksang Contemplative photography.

Miksang is a Tibetan word that translates as ‘Good Eye’, and is based on the Shambhala and Dharma Art teachings of the late meditation master, artist, and scholar Chögyam Trungpa, Rinpoche.

‘Good’ here doesn’t mean good as we usually use the word, as in good or bad. Good here means that our mind is uncluttered by preoccupation, relaxed and open. Its innate nature is clear, brilliant, and extremely precise. When steady mind, clear vision and soft heart come together in one single moment, ‘Good Eye’ manifests. It is vision that is inherently pure, unobstructed, unblocked, free of depression, free of aggression, free of interpretation. Free altogether. When we synchronize eye and mind, we abandon all concepts and predispositions and become completely present in the moment. The world becomes a magical display of vivid perception. We can develop the ability to experience and express these experiences precisely through the practice of contemplative photography

Miksang, at its most basic level, is concerned with uncovering the truth of pure perception. We see something vivid and penetrating, and in that moment we can express our perception without making anything up—nothing added, nothing missing. Totally honest about what we see—straight shooting. As we allow ourselves to become more available to the things around us without the biases, filters and formulas often associated with photography, our experience and expression of day-to-day moments becomes more rich and endlessly varied—beyond what we think. One moment, one shot. Graceful Appearance.

Taken from: Miksang Photography

Tuesday, August 12, 2008


A Bodhisattva epitomises compassion and self-sacrifice. A Bodhisattva refuses to enter the nirvana of absolute quiescence until he saves everyone in this world. This self-giving spirit is well expressed by one of the six perfections which a Bodhisattva is expected to cultivate, namely, the perfection of giving. Charity does not mean to give to others when one has more than enough. Rather it means to give away whatever one has, even one's own life. Also insofar as one thinks of himself as a giver of charity, one thereby negates the spirit of charity itself. An act attains perfection when it is realised that no practice whatsoever has an intrinsic nature. If charity is seen as having an intrinsic quality, it is not perfect. When it is seen to be empty of any nature, then the act of charity is said to be perfect.

Likewise is the case with enlightenment. If an intrinsic quality is attached to it, it turns out then to be a mere illusion. The attainment of perfect wisdom means to realise that nothing has permanent nature: everything is emptiness.

Sunyata - The Essence of Mahayana Spirituality
by Moti Lal Pandit

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Monday, August 11, 2008

only with the heart

It is only with the heart that one can see rightly;
what is essential is invisible to the eye.

Antoine de Saint-Exupery

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Monday, August 04, 2008

Julian Jaynes' theory on consciousness and bicameral mind

Excerpt from Reflections on the dawn of consciousness, edited by Marcel Kuijsten

"According to Jaynes, consciousness, as we know it today, is a relatively new faculty, one that did not exist until as recently as 2000 B.C. He holds that a basic difference between contemporary and ancient man is in the process of decision-making. When faced with a novel situation today, man considers alternatives, thinks about future circumstances, makes a final decision, ruminates over it, and finally acts. He then reconsiders his action, evaluates it, worries about it, feels good or bad about it, makes resolves about future decisions, and so forth. The cerebral activity that precedes and follows an action response is consciousness. Jaynes believes that man of antiquity had no consciousness - that when faced with novel situation, he simply reacted. He reacted without hesitation by following the directions of a personal voice that old him exactly what to do. Ancient man called this voice God; today it is called auditory hallucination. To ancient man, God was not a mental image or a deified thought but an actual voice heard when one was presented with a situation requiring decisive action.

Prior to 2000 B.C., according to Jaynes, man was governed entirely by this authoritative voice, but by 500 B.C. man had, for the most part, lost this faculty and was learning to make his own decisions consciously. - John Hamilton"

"I shut my eyes and even if I try not to think, consciousness streams on, a great river of contents in a succession of different conditions which I have been taught to call thoughts, images, memories, interior dialogue, regrets, wishes, resolves, all interweaving with the constantly changing pageant of exterior sensations of which I am selectively aware. - Julian Jaynes"

"When Jaynes describes early civilizations as being populated by people who have not yet developed conscousness, he is not implying these were civilizations of 'zombies'. A clear understanding of Jaynes' definition of consciousness dispels this notion. When Jaynes compares the bicameral mentality to the state of somnambulism, this is meant only to illustrate the lack of a sense of self, a lack of introspection and internal dialogue, and an inability to think about time in a linear fashion. Bicameral man was intelligent, had language, was highly social, and could think and problem-solve; only these processes took place in the absence of an introspectable internal mind-space. - Marcel Kuijsten"

Find out more:
The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind by Julian Jaynes

Reflections on the Dawn of Consciousness - Julian Jaynes's Bicameral Mind Theory Revisited Edited by Marcel Kuijsten

Julian Jaynes Society

Picture taken from

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Like a dream

The most common use of dreams in the literature of the Mahayana, or “Northern School” of Buddhism in China, Tibet, Japan, Korea, and Vietnam is to see dreams as a simile for sunyata, (emptiness) the hollow core at the heart of all component dharmas (things). For example, in the well-known Vajra (Diamond) Sutra, the Buddha taught that:

“All conditioned dharmas, are like a dream, like an illusion, like a bubble, like a shadow, like a dewdrop, like a lightening flash; you should contemplate them thus.”

Dreams symbolize the changing and impermanent nature of all things known to the senses. Sights, sounds, smells, flavors, sensations of touch and thoughts are all dream-like, fleeting, and ultimately unobtainable. By pursuing and grasping material things or ephemeral states, we create the causes for misery and suffering. Those desire-objects are not real and permanent. When they break up and move on, we will experience grief, if we can’t let go. The hallmark of living beings is that we are “sleeping, “ unawakened to the truth of the emptiness and impermanence at the nature of conditioned things. This covering of sleep and lack of awareness is called “ignorance,” and it makes us in our waking state, from the Buddha’s viewpoint, look as if we are dreaming.

Bubbles burst, shadows run from light, dewdrops vanish by noon without a trace, lightning roars and vanishes, and dreams leave us at dawn. To continually perceive such things as real locks us into the endless cycle of birth and death. The Buddha was not simply giving us an evocative metaphor, a literary device or a philosophical point. He felt related to all beings, and in his compassion he was pointing out to his family a way to escape the prolonged misery of affliction and death. The dream simile occurs over and over in the sutras to teach about emptiness.

In the Ta Chih Tu Lun dreams occur as a didactic teaching device. Sariputra, the foremost Arhat in wisdom, learns the true application of the emptiness theory through the simile of dreams. Dreams are like ordinary waking reality in that both are empty and false. There is nothing gained by seeking out or clinging to any thought or mark that distinguishes the two states.

With the exception of message-dreams and portent dreams, two categories that we will look at below, for the Buddha’s monastic disciples who were intent on cultivating the mind full-time, dreams were considered as illusory and false, no different from the illusions of waking-time reality.

A Buddhist Approach to Dreams by Rev Heng Sure

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Tuesday, July 08, 2008

our true face

"Our true faces
Are said to reveal
Their true faces
When we lose clothes, food and houses
At the limits of experience."

Sumako Harada,
Kobe earthquake survivor

Picture by: sgluskoter @ Flickr

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

quality of attention

In ORDINARY meditation, attention is not a quality of mind that we BRING to experience, but something that occurs, rather haphazardly, as our organism becomes momentarily more interested in some inner or outer sequence of phenomena. Ordinary attention comes and goes without our consent; it is not something we do, but something that happens to us. For most of us most of the time, "attention" is stimulated, conditioned, and led by mobilizations of energy along the habit-pathways within our organism so that when it confronts its object it is always faced, as it were, by a fait accompli.

The attention at which contemplative exercises aim, then, may be distinguished not only from sheer inattention but from ordinary discursive attention as well. It is, instead, sustained, non-discursive, active attention which is, in fact, quite extraordinary. For there are many of us who in all our uncountable billions of mental moments and in all their variety, have never known such a moment of truly active attention. Such a moment curtails the autonomous activities of ordinary psychological activity. If the reader doubts this, he may perform a simple experiment. Take up a "speak-I-am-listening" attitude of acute attention toward the screen of consciousness, standing close guard, as it were, at the place where the contents of consciousness are born. For as long as one is able to hold this posture of intense active attention, the inner dialogue and flow of images will be stopped.


Taken from: The Practice of Attention by Philip Novak in The Inner Journey: Views from the Buddhist Tradition

Picture by: Sara Heinrichs @ Flickr

Tuesday, July 01, 2008


Continued from previous post on "Seeing through":

"Looking at these figures I was suddenly, almost forcibly, jerked clean out of the habitual, half-tied vision of things, and an inner clearness, clarity, as if exploding from the rocks themselves, became evident and obvious.

The queer evidence of the reclining figure, the smile, the sad smile of Ananda standing with arms folded. The thing about all this is that there is no puzzle, no problem and really no "mystery". All problems are resolved and everything is clear. The rock, all matter, all life is charged with dharmakaya... everything is emptiness and everything is compassion. I don't know when in my life I have ever had such a sense of beauty and spiritual validity running together in one aesthetic illumination.."

Thomas Merton,
The Asian Journals of Thomas Merton

Picture by: Temple of Dawn by revenui @ Flickr

Monday, June 30, 2008

Thanissaro Bhikkhu

Thanissaro Bhikkhu (Geoffrey DeGraff) is an American Buddhist monk of the Thai forest kammathana tradition. After graduating from Oberlin College in 1971 with a degree in European Intellectual History, he traveled to Thailand, where he studied meditation under Ajaan Fuang Jotiko, himself a student of the late Ajaan Lee. He ordained in 1976 and lived at Wat Dhammasathit, where he remained following his teacher's death in 1986. In 1991 he traveled to the hills of San Diego County, USA, where he helped Ajaan Suwat Suvaco establish Wat Mettavanaram ("Metta Forest Monastery"). He was made abbot of the monastery in 1993. His long list of publications includes translations from Thai of Ajaan Lee's meditation manuals; Handful of Leaves, a four-volume anthology of sutta translations; The Buddhist Monastic Code, a two-volume reference handbook for monks; Wings to Awakening; and (as co-author) the college-level textbook Buddhist Religions: A Historical Introduction.

His important works can be found here:
Access to Insight

A directory of his talks available in mp3 format can be found here:
Dhamma Talks by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

Metta Forest Monastery

Thursday, June 26, 2008

seeing through

"Polonnaruwa with its vast area under trees.. I am able to approach the Buddhas barefoot and undisturbed, my feet in wet grass, wet sand. Then the silence of the extraordinary faces. The great smiles. Huge and yet subtle. Filled with every possibility, questioning nothing, knowing everything, rejecting nothing, the peace not of emotional resignation but of Madhyamika, of sunyata, that has seen through every question without trying to discredit anyone or anything - without refutation - without establishing some other argument. For the doctrinaire, the mind that needs well-established positions, such peace, such silence, can be frightening."

Thomas Merton,
The Asian Journals of Thomas Merton

Picture by: Heen Ekaa @ Flickr

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Cylone Nargis: The Children's Perspective

The drawings in this slideshow were made by children ages 6 through 13 whose lives were devastated when Cyclone Nargis hit the Burmese/Myanmar Irrawaddy Delta on May 2, 2008. While their parents were waiting to receive food and supplies from private teams of volunteers, the children were given crayons and paper and asked to express their fears about the storm by drawing their experiences. The drawings were then collected by Gitameit Music Center, a not-for-profit community center and music school in downtown Yangon devoted to teaching music, nurturing artists, and offering exchange programs for Burmese students to study abroad.

One positive trend to emerge in the wake of the disaster is that volunteers have been establishing relationships with a particular area, group of villages, clinic, or monastery, and continuing to deliver supplies to these people and help them cope with the storm's after-effects. Since so many schools were destroyed, several projects in Burma's Dedaye, Gonkyangun, Labutta, Bogale, Letkoko, and Heingyi Island areas are attempting to heal the children afflicted by Cyclone Nargis, and give them a personal connection to the volunteers, through activities like drawing, reading, singing, and theater games.

Click here to view drawings

Monday, June 23, 2008

mental proliferation

The Buddha identified 'papanca' or 'mental proliferation' as a universal mental tendency common to all unenlightened beings. Briefly, it can be summarized as referring to the propensity for our mental processes to indulge in complex chains of emotionally-charged thought patterns triggered by particular sensory or mental experiences.

Peace in the Buddha's Discourses
by Dennis Candy

Available at: Buddhist Publication Society

Picture by: shadowplay@Flickr

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

what matters

"What really matters to the world? What matters to me?" Isabel Allende

What Matters was created by New York Times best-selling author/editor David Elliot Cohen to be published in September 2008.

What Matters contains 18 searing, socially-conscious photo-essays by the great photo-journalists of our generation including James Nachtwey. Each photo-essay is accompanied by a passionate, polemical essay written by well-known experts such as Jeffrey Sachs (The End of Poverty), Samantha Power (Pulitzer Prize Winner for A Problem from Hell: American in the Age of Genocide) and Bill McKibben (The End of Nature).

Photography advances public discourse and demands action.

A very powerful book that will move you and inspire you.

Official Website: What Matters

Advance Release of electronic copy: Download

Pre-Order book from: Amazon

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

God, Buddhism and Tsunami

God, Buddhism and the Tsunami
The recent tsunami, the greatest natural disaster in living memory, has given rise to a great deal of soul-searching, not to say ‘theological’ searching. People are struggling to explain the disaster within the context of their religious beliefs. The English papers in Singapore have published several articles and letters on this issue, so far only from the Christian perspective. I would like to make a contribution to this discussion from the Buddhist point of view. There are two sides of this issue - the first is how religions respond to terrible disasters. In this sense we see that all the world religions have much in common. Hindus, Muslims, Christians, Buddhists and Taoists have opened their hearts and their wallets to help the afflicted without regard to their religious affiliations. Buddhists have helped Muslims who have assisted Christians who have helped Hindus.
The second aspect of this issue is how religions explain the tsunami. In this sense there is little agreement between the different religions. In the Straits Times,1st January, Andy Ho wrote an article called ‘Where God was When the Tsunami Struck?’ and on the 9th January it ran an article by Tan Tarn called ‘Evil? No Way, Come Hell and High Water’. Both authors say that disasters like the tsunami cast doubts on the notion that there is a benevolent God. Thus they have raised very legitimate moral and philosophical doubts that have existed ever since people started believing in God. On the 29th January, Edmond Chew wrote to the Straits Times trying to answer the questions raised by Ho and Tarn and also to give his explanation of why God would let the tsunami happen.

Chew’s explanation is a simple one. ‘Actually, the simple reason why God allows evil is that if He did not, then a lot of good would be lost.’ In support of this opinion he quotes Thomas Aquinas; ‘If there is no evil there is no God. For there would be no evil, if the order of goodness were taken away…’ And again; ‘Hence many good things would be taken away if God permitted no evil to exist; for fire would not be generated if air was not corrupted, nor would the life of a lion be preserved unless the ass were killed.’

I would like to examine Chew’s argument from the Buddhist perspective. Continue reading...

Friday, May 30, 2008

Mae Tao Clinic

The Mae Tao Clinic (MTC), founded and directed by Dr. Cynthia Maung, provides free health care for refugees, migrant workers, and other individuals who cross the border from Burma to Thailand. People of all ethnicities and religions are welcome at the Clinic. Its origins go back to the student pro-democracy movement in Burma in 1988 and the brutal repression by the Burmese regime of that movement. The fleeing students who needed medical attention were attended in a small house in Mae Sot... Read more...


Mae Tao Clinic is a well-established facility offering comprehensive health care services, which always benefits greatly from the generous support of volunteers. One of MTC’s main principles, and reasons for its successes, is an emphasis on sustainability. For this reason, MTC requires that volunteers be available for a minimum of six months, with the exception being English teachers, and public health workers, who must be available for a minimum of three months. A longer stay is encouraged for all volunteers.

The types of volunteers beneficial to MTC include: doctors, public health workers, laboratory technicians, pharmacists, epidemiologists, social workers, health managers, and English teachers.

If you are able to make the time commitment, we warmly welcome your application at: Please forward a copy of your CV, and an estimate of the length of time and dates that you would be available to MTC. If we have a volunteer placement for you, we will then request two letters of reference, a copy of your passport, and a copy of your medical license if applicable.

MTC is unable to offer any financial support or accommodations, but living in Mae Sot can be accomplished on a fairly small budget.

Read Tom Buckley's blog about his experience as a volunteer at Mae Tao Clinic

Mae Tao Clinic's Annual Reports

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Jihad on Horseback by Nabil Kassem

Two years ago, Al Arabiya producer Nabil Kassem was asked to put together a documentary film on Darfur. What he witnessed there, and recorded in this film, were scenes of unspeakable brutality and untold suffering, scenes he thought would surely wake up an Arab public all too willing to let Darfur pass by. But 'Jihad on Horseback' never made it across the airwaves. Watch part 1 of the film to see perhaps the most provocative Arab documentary ever made.

To watch the film: Jihad on Horseback Part 1
and Jihad on Horseback Part 2

MAY, 2007. Two years on, Nabil Kassem is still profoundly affected by his experiences in Sudan. Back in 2005, the documentary film maker was given the job of producing a $50,000 film for Al Arabiya about the crisis in Darfur. What he witnessed there, and recorded in his film, were scenes of unspeakable brutality and untold suffering, scenes he thought would surely wake up an Arab public all too willing to let Darfur pass by. But such was the indictment his film made on the Sudanese government and Arab Janjaweed militias, the final cut of Jihad on Horseback (Jihad ala Al Jiyad) never made it across the airwaves. In this highly charged interview with Co-Editor and Publisher Lawrence Pintak, Kassem speaks of how with the help of a telephone Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir prevented the broadcast of perhaps the most provocative documentary film ever made by an Arab director. Listen here.

Pintak: The documentary has been very controversial. Why is that? What is so controversial about covering Darfur for an Arab media outfit?

Kassem: I think it was the testimonies I got in Chad from the refugees. I found a woman holding a baby, she’d been raped. And the baby belonged to one of the Arabic attackers. She told me that this son’s father was from the Janjaweed. I found too many pregnant women who’d been raped from the Janjaweed.

Controversial—I don’t think it’s controversial. I think the Arab countries, especially the Sudanese, who are following the government now, they’re not ready to see the truth. What’s going on there—it is the truth. You know why? Because if you are an American, and two million of your people are sent away and thrown in the desert with no food and no water, I think there is a problem.

You have to feel. You have to see. You have to say no.

Most of the Arabic—Sudan is Arabic—they are living and denying what is going on in Sudan for the African tribals, and they are Sudanese also.

Pintak: What about Arabs, what about Arab governments and Arab media?

Kassem: They’re living in denial also. They don’t want to see. I think they thought the conflict is between the African and Arabs there in Darfur. I think they have to know that the conflict is between one people who hold one identity—all of them are Muslim—and sharing the same religion. The African tribes are Sudanese and they have their Sudanese identity and passports, and the Arab tribes they are also Sudanese.



Documentary by Brien Steidel: The Devil Came On Horseback

Darfur: Covering the "forgotten" story

No issue in Arab journalism today is more controversial than how the region's media cover Darfur. From Arab Media & Society.

By Lawrence Pintak for Arab Media & Society (25/05/07)

Not Iraq, where, according to a new report from the Arab Archives Institute, 52 Arab journalists have lost their lives since 2001; not Palestine, where journalists are caught between Israel and the Palestinians and between Fatah and Hamas; nor Lebanon, where reporters have been in the cross-hairs of rival factions and governments.

Darfur is a hot-button issue in the newsroom not because of the physical danger but because the issue bores right to the heart of the mission of Arab journalism and the self-identity of those who practice it.

That was vividly apparent at a one-day workshop on the crisis organized by the International Crisis Group and hosted by the Center for Electronic Journalism at The American University in Cairo in April this year and it was evident again, two weeks later, at the 2007 Arab Broadcast Forum, the annual gathering of Arab television executives.

The central issue: "The Arabs see the victims are not Arabs, and we don't care," Khaled Ewais, Al Arabiya's political producer, told the Cairo gathering, which brought together reporters and editors from across the Arab world. Fayez el Sheikh Saleik, Khartoum correspondent of Al-Hayat, concurred: "Sudan is a marginal country when it comes to the Arab region."

Darfur "not a popular topic" in the Arab world

Some pointed to an even more insidious issue: In other regional conflicts, Arabs are the victims. In Darfur, Arab militias are the perpetrators. That's not a popular topic.

"The media are directly responsible for this crisis," an angry representative of the Liberation Front of Darfur told those assembled in Cairo. While few of the journalists were willing to go quite that far, there was widespread acknowledgement that Darfur has been the biggest untold story of the Arab world. Read More...

Also read Five Years On - Apr 2008 Report from Human Rights Watch and
Letter to the United Nations Security Council from Justice for Darfur

Human Rights Watch

Save Darfur

Eyes on Darfur

Darfur Peace and Development

Q&A on Darfur Crisis from Human Rights Watch

Saturday, May 24, 2008


To see the world as a continual flux, to see its dynamic nature, its perpetual impermanence, should not seem to be so very difficult to people who are used to discriminate. Yet most of those who even scientifically accept universal impermanence make a double exception, thereby breaking down their own logic. First of all there are those who are firmly convinced of the impermanent nature of all things, but who maintain at the same time an underlying substance that unchangingly supports the ever-changing phenomena. Secondly there are those who place themselves outside the field of observation, thus imagining to judge the phenomena objectively, as if they were the only fixed point in this raging ocean of change.

Touching the Essence by Bhikkhu Dhammapa

Picture: Stilt fishing in Sri Lanka -

Thursday, May 22, 2008

I am a guilty bystander

Ordinary Burmese people are dying even as we speak,
Yet - the world watches in helplessness.


Picture by: BBC at

Wednesday, May 21, 2008


There is an interesting simile which illustrates the nature of a fetter.

If there is a white bull and a black bull tied together by a rope, the question is asked, whether the white bull is a fetter to the black bull or the black bull is a fetter to the white bull. In fact neither is a fetter to the other; the fetter is the rope by which they are tied together. Similarly the desire we have for external objects is the fetter that binds us.

Nibbana as Living Experience by Lily De Silva

Picture by: Rickydavid@Flickr

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

death and birth gate

A gate is both an exit gate and an entrance gate according to the standpoint of the observer. If he sees anyone coming out of it he regards it as an exit gate. But if some other observer sees the same man entering through that gate, to that observer it is an entrance gate, yet in both cases it was the same gate that was made use of.

According to Buddhism birth and death are merely communicating doors from one life to another, the continuous process of consciousness being the medium uniting the different lives of man. As Dahlke says, "“Dying is nothing but a backward view of birth, and birth is nothing but a forward view of death. In truth, both are the same, a phase of unbroken grasping.”"

For full article, goto: Rebirth by V.F. Gunaratna

Picture: All Rights Reserved ® aml.2007

Monday, May 19, 2008


Effect of death on body
Man is a psychophysical unit, a mind-body combination, (náma-rúpa). The body and the mind co-exist in a close association with each other, like the flower and its scent. The body is like the flower and the mind is like the scent, and death is merely the separation of these two co-existing items. When a man is on the point of dying, his body and mind (náma-rúpa) are weak. It may be that right up to the point of death he was strong in every way, but at the very point of death he is weak. This is because from the seventeenth thought-moment reckoned backwards from the point of death, no renewed physical functioning occurs. This is just like a motorist releasing the accelerator before stopping, so that no more pulling power is given to the engine. Similarly no more material qualities born of kamma (kammaja rúpa) arise, while those which have already come into being before the stage of that thought moment, will persist till the time of death-consciousness (cuti citta), and then they will cease. As there is no more renewal of material qualities the whole process becomes weaker and weaker. It is like the fading light of an oil lamp when no more oil is found.

When the mind-body combination ceases to exist as a combination, neither body nor mind is destroyed or annihilated. These combining parts continue separately without a break, their respective processes of changing from one condition or state to another, from moment to moment, although the two processes have now parted company. The bodily part (like old clothes once worn but now discarded by the owner) will start a separate process of change, a process of gradual decay (rúpaí jirati—the body decays), but there is no annihilation. Matter is energy and cannot be lost or destroyed. The constitutes of the body, as mentioned in an earlier chapter, will change into the elements that composed it, some into “air” as gases, some into “water” as fluids and others into “earth” as minerals. The elements too cannot be destroyed or lost but only their form will change. In this manner the process of change will persist so far as the bodily counterpart of man is concerned.

Effect of death on mind
Now what of the mental counterpart (náma)? The mental counterpart also, like the physical counterpart, continues without interruption its process of changing from one condition or state to another, though no more in association with its physical counterpart. Thought, like matter, is energy and cannot be destroyed or annihilated. We have learnt that the mind is not
anything permanent or fixed, that it is not a unity but is a series (santati) of thoughts one following the other with such a rapidity that it gives the illusion of permanency and fixity. Death is no interruption to the progress of this series and no bar to the continuity of this process. This principle of thought following thought does not end with death, because in the last thought-process before death, the terminal thought-moment, known as maraóásaññá javana citta (death-proximate mind), though weak by itself and unable to originate a thought, derives a great potency by reason of the appearance of one of three powerful thought-objects that enter the threshold of the dying mind.

These thought-objects the dying man is powerless to resist. These powerful thought-objects are certain death signs and will be explained later. Thus the dying mind, although it lacks the power to originate a thought, gets a powerful push or drive by reason of the appearance of one of these three powerful thought-objects or death signs, and is thereby able to cause another thought to arise. This succeeding thought is paþisandhi viññáóa (rebirth consciousness or re-linking consciousness). Where it arises and how will be considered later.

For full article, goto: Rebirth by V.F. Gunaratna

Picture from: Human Anatomy Posters

Sunday, May 18, 2008


"Trees are sanctuaries. Whoever knows how to speak to them, whoever knows how to listen to them, can learn the truth. They do not preach learning and precepts, they preach undeterred by particulars, the ancient law of life."

- Hermann Hesse, Wandering

To see photo essay on trees by Stuart Franklin, go to: In The Time of Trees

Friday, May 16, 2008

Burma cyclone devastation

A group of volunteers from around the world trying to help the victims of Cyclone Nargis in Myanmar raising:

(1) awareness of the plight of victims in the worst hit areas;
(2) funds to help bring water purification tablets, rice and other basic supplies.

They are in contact with people on the ground helping the victims. Help us help them!

Blog site: Moe Gyo - meaning thunder in Myanmar, reflects the speed of which help is needed in Myanmar in aftermath of recent catastrophic Cyclone Nargis.

BBC Forum: How should the world respond?

Picture: BBC

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Top 10 Most Under-reported Humanitarian Stories

Humanitarian Aid Restricted in Burma

Isolated from the outside world since the ruling military junta came to power in 1962, the people of Myanmar (formerly named Burma) suffer from the consequences of repression and neglect.

The crackdown on monks marching for democracy in September brought international attention to this long-suffering population, but it did not expose what ordinary Burmese go through every day. Faced with high malaria and HIV rates, the impoverished population is provided with little assistance—only 1.4 percent of the regime's budget supports health-care services.

In spite of the overwhelming need, there are few humanitarian aid groups working in the country and, for those on the ground, operating in an independent and impartial manner is difficult. Moreover, donor governments and agencies are reluctant to fund programs that might support the regime. Travel inside the country can require time-consuming visas, which can make responding to emergencies impossible and needs assessments challenging. In some regions, such as those gripped by armed conflict involving Karen and Mon rebels along the eastern border with Thailand, government restrictions have stymied humanitarian aid efforts, including MSF's.

Some of the largest gaps in health services are in the western Rakhine state, where MSF treated 210,000 people for malaria in 2006. Muslims from Rakhine state, known as Rohingyas, live in particularly precarious circumstances. Denied citizenship rights by the state, this group suffers numerous forms of abuse. MSF provides basic medical care and HIV/AIDS treatment to Rohingyas.

The slow response to the country's HIV/AIDS epidemic has fueled the spread of the disease. In Yangon, Rakhine, Kachin, and Shan states, MSF offers comprehensive HIV/AIDS programs, but these meet just a fraction of the need. While there is little independent information to shed light on the number of Burmese in clinical need of life-prolonging antiretroviral (ARV) treatment, of the UN-estimated 360,000 people who are living with HIV, only 10,000 are believed to be receiving ARVs. MSF provides ARV therapy to 8,000 of them. And even fewer have access to care for complicating diseases like tuberculosis. As a result, the UN estimates that 20,000 people die annually from HIV/AIDS.

Displaced Fleeing War in Somalia Face Humanitarian Crisis

As violence in Somalia escalated this year to some of the worst levels in over 15 years, both assistance for and attention to one of the most challenging and acute humanitarian situations in the world seemed to wane. Ethiopian troops and Transitional Federal Government forces, supported by international partners such as the United States and the European Union, clashed with a range of armed groups, including remnants of the Islamic Courts Union. The fighting caused an unknown number of civilian casualties and the displacement of hundreds of thousands of people from the capital, Mogadishu.......

Read more here: Most Under-reported Humanitarian Stories of 2007 by Doctors Without Borders

Picture by: Doctorw Without Borders

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

realm of knowledge

"O son of a noble family, in the Bodhisattvas' realm of knowledge, there is no place for speculations about the aeons; therein will not be experienced or known either long duration of Samsara or short duration of Samsara; nor will there be experienced or known either depravity of aeons or purity of aeons, or smallness of aeons or greatness of aeons, or multitude of aeons or diversity of aeons, or variety of aeons. For what reason is that so? Because, O son of a noble family, the Bodhisattva's realm of knowledge is pure in its very nature, is free from all the trammels of ideation, is beyond all the mountains of veiling obstructions. This knowledge arises in the pure intention of the Bodhisattvas and sheds its radiance on all the beings who will in time be led to spiritual maturity by different means according to their different dispositions.

In the same way, O son of a noble family, as in the disk of the sun the distinction of day and night cannot be found, nor does it reside there, but when the sun has set, night is known and experienced, and when the sun has risen, day is known and experienced - so also, O son of a noble family, in the Bodhisattvas' realm of knowledge (which is like unto the disk of the sun and) which knows not of ratiocination, one cannot find any thought constructions as to the aeons, nor can one find there any ideas about lives in this world, or about any paths (that one might walk). On the contrary, it is due to the fact that it takes time until all the beings have attained to spiritual maturity (ie, Buddhahood) that in the ratiocinationless realm of knowledge, ideas and calculations as to lives in the aeons, and as to the world in general, are found."

Samantabhadracaryapranidhana, Gandavyuha

Taken from: Tibetan Buddhism in Western Perspective by Herbert V. Guenther

Death of a Pioneer

Picture by: postpurchase@Flickr

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Everest Peace Project

Filmed on location in Nepal, Tibet, Israel, Palestine, Jordan, U.A.E, and the United States, the film chronicles the spectacular journey of 9 'peace climbers' from different faiths and cultures as they climb to the summit of the tallest mountain in the world. The focus is on Palestinian Ali Bushnaq and Israeli's Dudu Yifrah and Micha Yaniv. They come together and set aside their differences to forge a path of teamwork and cooperation to attempt to summit the world’s highest peak. This however, is easier said than done. Their nations have been embroiled in a brutal war for years; each believes they are on the right side of that war and each knows that on Everest the cooperation of your teammate is a matter of life and death.

"If I have done my job as a filmmaker - and I believe that I have - then people can expect to be educated, moved, and inspired by what they see on screen. I believe that it is through actions of peace that peace is spread, and I truly hope that this film will inspire people to create and accomplish their own actions across the globe." Lance Trumbull

Everest Peace Project Official Site

Saturday, May 10, 2008


“It’s more difficult to get publications to focus on issues that are more critical, that do not provide people with an escape from reality but attempt to get them deeper into reality. To be concerned about something much greater than themselves. And I think people are concerned. I think quite often, publishers don’t give their audience enough credit for that.

In fact, at the end of the day, I believe people do want to know when there’s some major tragedy going on; when there’s some unacceptable situation happening in this world. And they want something done about it. That’s what I believe. We must look at it. We’re required to look at it. We’re required to do what we can about it. If we don’t, who will?”

James Nachtwey

Read more: Could YOU be a war photographer?

The Face of War in a Child

The Face of War in a Child: Mark Brecke's photography and the crisis in Darfur

With a web address of, one is not quite sure what to expect. And at first glance of the home page, it becomes readily apparent that Mark Brecke is no wedding photographer. Amidst the soothing green background and the innocent script font is a black and white photo that tells the story of millions, a story of despair – complete and utter loss. Gazes are lowered, heads rest in hands as mothers wonder what to do, where to go, what is happening. Your eyes move to the children in the picture. You want to help, hug, tell them all it will be ok.

“Children are the hardest to see – the face of war in a child reads so different…” Mark softly says of the complex crisis in Darfur. From October to December 2004 Brecke lived in refugee camps on the eastern border of Chad, and for five of those weeks traveled the broken country of Sudan with members of the Sudanese Liberation Army (SLA), one of two rebel groups fighting the government-backed militia known as the Janjaweed. Armed only with a messenger bag containing a change of clothes, camera, first aid kit, bubbles, and a few pieces of paper quite resembling US twenty dollar bills, Mark lived, breathed and documented yet another war.

Read full article here:
The Face of War in a Child

Mark Brecke's Website

Friday, May 09, 2008

solitary obsession

Monet's solitary obsession:
"I am chasing a dream. I want the unattainable. Other artists paint a bridge, a house, a boat and that's the end. They've finished. I want to paint the air which surrounds the bridge, the house, the boat: the beauty of the air in which these objects are located, and that is nothing short of impossible. If only I could satisfy myself with what is possible!"

Picture: aml2007 ® All Rights Reserved

Wednesday, May 07, 2008



(An English translation):

As flowers are brilliant but inevitably fall,
who could remain constant in our world?

Today let us transcend the high mountain of transience,
and there will be no more shallow dreaming, no more drunkenness.

(An alternative English translation by Professor Ryuichi Abe):

Although its scent still lingers on
the form of a flower has scattered away

For whom will the glory
of this world remain unchanged?

Arriving today at the yonder side
of the deep mountains of evanescent existence

We shall never allow ourselves to drift away
intoxicated, in the world of shallow dreams.

Iroha from Wiki

Picture: aml2008 ® All Rights Reserved

Saturday, May 03, 2008

rude awakenings

The book finally arrives from Amazon...

"No one walks around the Buddhist holy land. Not today. They go by bus between the holy sites. And with good reason. But wildlife ecologist Nick Scott and Buddhist monk Ajahn Sucitto decide to do just that: to walk for six months and for over one thousand miles, sleeping out at night and living on alms food, just as Buddha would have done."

"Their journey takes us from the place of the Buddha's birth in Lumbini to the site of his enlightenment in Bodh Gaya. But to say where they went says little about the core of their experience of pilgrimage. For theirs is a journey into the heart of the human condition, a condition displayed in all its beauty and horror, compassion and violence, simplicity and complexity in the impoverished parts of India and Nepal through which they lead us. And it is a journey into themselves, a test, at times severe, of their commitment to what the Buddha taught."

Stephen Batcherlor in the Foreword

Rude Awakenings - Two Englishmen on Foot in Buddhism's Holy Land

Forest Sangha