Tibet Update 5

Posted in Buddhism, Events, HH Dalai Lama at 7:20 am by Marion


It could only happen under totalitarianism: the world’s most iconic mountain is under the heavy hands today of Chinese police.

The Associated Press reports that Chinese officials say they are targeting crime at base of the mountain, which lies on the border between China and Nepal. It is part of the mythic Himalayan Mountains, which encircle several nations including India and Tibet. Still, the move smacks of something more sinister: Since when do we have armed police surrounding Yellowstone?

BEIJING – China’s border police have significantly beefed up their presence at the base of Mount Everest amid rising visitor numbers and increasing cases of theft, prostitution and gambling, state media reported Tuesday.

The influx of people to the area has brought increased crime to the north face of Everest, and Chinese authorities last year pledged to boost the police presence following reports of thefts of food, oxygen tanks and climbing gear.

Visitors to Everest also complain about unethical guides, tricksters selling defective oxygen bottles, prostitution and gambling on the Tibetan side.

A former police post housed in a trailer has been upgraded to a full police station, complete with a modern 19,375-square-foot (1,800-square-meter) facility situated at 17,060 feet (5,200 meters), according to the report on the Tibet Daily’s Web site.


Meanwhile, Tibetans in India are asked to show extraordinary patience as they recommit to the “Middle Way” as encouraged by His Holiness the Dalai Lama.




Special Tibet Update 4

Posted in Buddhism, Events, HH Dalai Lama at 7:00 am by Marion

Tuesday, Nov. 25: Special Update from Tibet

Chinese police appeared in force in a Tibetan village, determined to show China’s intentions to control the country on the heels of a week-long conference of Tibetan exiles in northern Inida.

This story comes from the Associated Press, by Harles Hutzler, AP writer —

XIAHE, China – Chinese paramilitary police with riot shields and batons abruptly took up posts Monday on the main street of this Tibetan town, disrupting the bustle of Buddhist pilgrims in a reminder of China’s determined control of the region.

With some Tibetans pushing harder against Chinese rule, the communist government is determined to pacify the area.

The show of force Monday was meant to deter unrest while a local court sentenced a group of Tibetans for taking part in large anti-government protests in March in Xiahe, a small town abutting a sprawling complex of golden-roofed temples. MORE

Read the story here

UPDATE: Read another AP account here, with map of the area


Tibet Update 3

Posted in Buddhism, Events, HH Dalai Lama at 8:24 am by Marion

On Sunday, His Holiness the Dalai Lama repeated what he calls the Middle Path for Tibet, that is, resisting the call for independence but pressing for autonomy.

This Middle Path, he says, is the only way for now, but he warns that the next 20 years could be a time of great danger if Tibetans make the wrong decisions.

He also said yesterday that he had no plans to retire. That is great news for the world. He is 73 years old, and says, “It is my moral responsibility till my death to work for the Tibetan cause.”

It reminded me of the words I heard from him, spoken with fierceness, that he would work for others “until my death.”

Since 1950, the Chinese have brutally subjugated Tibet and now are infiltrating the land of snows with junk culture — similar to the way we have infected the world with fast-food restaurants and franchises. China has brought the globe its own oppressive “first-world”-type hegemony, which combines totalitarianism with capital and wealth. As the world becomes richer, it becomes much more dangerous and potentially bad. Let’s face it: Evil with money is genocide.

You get similar results whenever you combine ignorance, spiritual and intellectual, with riches. Among those Gandhi noted in his Seven Blunders of the World that Lead to Violence: Wealth without Work, Commerce without Morality and Politics without Principle.

To read more about His Holiness, visit www.dalailama.com and click on “news.”

MSNBC has several articles: update on conference here

HH rules out retirement here


Tibet Update Day 2

Posted in Buddhism, HH Dalai Lama at 8:12 am by Marion

The news from Dharmsala, India, today is not unexpected as a group of Tibetans living in exile continues a week-long summit on the future of Tibet.

Younger Tibetans call for independence and standing up to China, while older Tibetans continue to support His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s traditional “Middle Way” approach.

His Holiness is leaving the summit discussions to the participants, and will meet with them on Sunday.

China meanwhile is threatening that any calls for independence will be doomed.

Chinese forces invaded shortly after the 1949 communist revolution and the Dalai Lama fled to India in 1959 amid an unsuccessful uprising.

Large numbers of Tibetans remain fervently Buddhist and loyal to the Dalai Lama. If the exiles choose a more confrontational approach, Tibetans living under Chinese rule would bear the brunt of any government response.

The Dalai Lama’s envoys to the recent talks with Beijing said in a statement that they had presented China with a detailed plan on how Tibetans could meet their autonomy needs within the framework of China’s constitution.

The plan calls for the protection for the Tibetan language and culture, restrictions on non-Tibetans moving into Tibet and the right of Tibetans to create an autonomous government.

To read more, here is the Associated Press article by Ashwini Bhatia


Tibet Update

Posted in Buddhism, HH Dalai Lama at 9:51 am by Marion

Today marks the first of a week-long series of meetings for Tibetans living in exile in Northern Tibet. During the next few days, about 500 of that nation’s leaders-in-exile will discuss, with His Holiness the Dalai Lama, their political and spiritual leader, what next steps they might undertake.

Last summer’s Olympics were a time of sadness for many reasons. Those long two weeks showed the world that bullying and oppression were good spectacle. No way could I sit and enjoy anything about them, from the Olympic Village, to the opening and closing ceremonies, when I knew they were created from blood and iron.

Now that the dust has finally settled on those horrible games, His Holiness the Dalai Lama is at last speaking again about his profound sadness at the outlook for his native Tibet. Since his forced escape in 1959, he has longed for a better situation for Tibet and Tibetans. Instead, the Chinese government has moved in more ethnic Han Chinese people, bombed and bulldozed sacred Buddhist temples in Lhasa, beaten and harassed monks and commercialized the Tibetan lands once known as Shangri-La.

His Holiness the Dalai Lama has watched and suffered. He has heard from Tibetans who call for the use of force to reclaim their land. Yet he has consistently advocated a peaceful solution worked out with Chinese officials known as the Middle Way.

A few days ago, His Holiness issued a message announcing that talks had collapsed, and a meeting of Tibetan people would take place soon. Those meetings began today.

His message said, in part,

Taking into account the inspiring courage being shown by people all over Tibet this year, the current world situation, and the present intransigent stance of the government of the PRC, all the participants, as Tibetan citizens should discuss in a spirit of equality, cooperation and collective responsibility the best possible future course of action to advance the Tibetan cause. This meeting should take place in an atmosphere of openness, putting aside partisan debate. Rather, it should focus on the aspirations and views of the Tibetan people. I appeal to everyone concerned to work together to contribute as best as they can.

This Special Meeting is being convened with the express purpose of providing a forum to understand the real opinions and views of the Tibetan people through free and frank discussions. It must be clear to all that this special meeting does not have any agenda for reaching a particular predetermined outcome.

His Holiness has demonstrated to the modern world that saints and prophets live among us, but they are unfortunately as routinely scorned and put to death as in ancient times.


Excessive Desire, Excessive Harm

Posted in Buddhism, Figuratively Speaking at 10:24 am by Marion

Figuratively Speaking Friday

In all the world, one human trait is to be feared above them all: Greed.

So today, let’s look at that simple word, and figure out why it covers such a tangle of lethal drives.

Greed is one of the Seven Deadly Sins, holding a place of dishonor with Envy, Lust, Gluttony, Anger, Sloth and Pride.

Mohandas Gandhi, also known as Mahatma or “great souled” spoke of the Seven Blunders of the World that Lead to Violence. Among them are “Wealth without Work” and “Commerce without Morality.” Aka, Greed.

Greed is also known as avarice, and is one of the Ten Things to be Avoided in Tibetan Buddhism.

The great-souled Milarepa, one of Tibetan Buddhism’s holy teachers (1052- 1135 c.e.) writes,

If ye do not obtain the Light of Inner Peace,
Mere external ease and pleasure will become a source of pain.

If ye do not suppress the Demon of Ambition,
Desire of fame will lead to ruin and to lawsuits.

The desire to please exciteth the Five Poisonous Passions,
The greed of gain separateth one from dearest friends,
The exaltation of the one is the humiliation of the others.

As often the case, this word Greed, so harsh and full of consonant sounds, has a Germanic origin. It is derived from the primary word greedy, from the Old English graedig, from the German.

Greed means and intense and selfish desire for something, especially wealth, power or food. Greedy means an intense and selfish desire for something.

The operative qualifier here seems to be “selfish.” We all like having things, making money, enjoying material pleasures. But, however, when a person places desire for material pleasure or gain, especially excessive gain, above other human welfare, it becomes greed. That’s where the danger lies — in causing harm to others. Not harming others (ahimsa) is a another basic principle valued throughout the world.

Avarice is extreme greed for wealth or gain. It comes from the Old French, from the Latin avaritia, from avarus “greedy.”

As if regular greed weren’t bad enough!!!


‘Empty Words’ Part 2

Posted in Buddhism, Figuratively Speaking, HH Dalai Lama at 11:19 am by Marion


Today, more words from the Buddhist tradition.

In his introduction to Buddhist thought appearing in The Essential Dalai Lama, His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama describes two types of reality.

There is the immediate physical reality, which is apparent reality or relative truth, and absolute reality, or absolute truth.

One describes the world that’s seen, felt and tasted — apparent reality. One describes the unseen world, which as Christians we might call the spiritual world, or even the world where miracles occur. This is absolute reality, with absolute truth.

Components of apparent reality include what’s called the 18 constituents, the 12 sources, the five aggregates, and describe the qualities of what we see, feel, taste, hear — the sensuous world.

Absolute reality begins with the idea that everything changes — and consequently, it has no permanent, or real, nature. This is what the Buddhists call “emptiness.”

Some of us feel uncomfortable with this eastern insistence on emptiness, but really, there’s nothing to be afraid of. Emptiness in the Buddhist sense doesn’t mean nothing’s there: Instead, emptiness means there is nothing that doesn’t change. Therefore, there is nothing with one nature — and consequently, there is nothing, because it’s all changing, all the time.

As a simple example, consider an ordinary object, your desk or home phone. What could be more unchanging?

But look closely. My phone was bright white when I bought it; now it’s yellowed. It was once sterile and new; now it’s dusty. There is grime on the cord; the buttons don’t work.

What’s more, there’s static, the volume comes and goes and the wall cord is nearly shot.

So what is the true nature of that phone? In the sense of apparent reality, the nature of the phone is white plastic.

But as for absolute reality, well, it just goes “poof” when you try to pin it down. There is no absolute nature to the phone, and therefore it is empty.

So if you try to call me today, don’t be surprised if no one answers. It is Friday, you know.


‘Empty’ Words

Posted in Buddhism, Figuratively Speaking, Kerouac at 8:59 am by Marion


If you’ve ever spent more than 10 seconds with Buddhist teachings you’ve come across them.

The words.

Buddhism has a complex language and dense vocabulary that work together in a rich interplay to create a world of concepts that has no toehold in the seen world. For that reason, it rivals philosophy for complicated concepts that require page after page of descriptions. Yet many of these words aim to describe not meaning, but lack of precise meaning: that is, emptiness.

It’s not for the feint of heart. For that reason, Jack Kerouac, with his trademark verve and energy, put together a compendium of ideas, definitions and examples from his Buddhist studies. It was published in 1997 as Some of the Dharma, and at more than 400 pages, it’s a dense book … and as Kerouac says, only “some.”

Let’s start with the term karma. It’s part of our ordinary language, but what does it really mean — and how is it commonly used?

In the Buddhist sense, karma has to do with the sum of actions taken by a person, not just in this lifetime, but over several lifetimes — forever. That explains why bad things happen to good people — and vice versa — there are ghosts in our closets.

In popular usage, karma usually refers to performing acts of kindness, doing right by other people, helping out dogs and defenseless animals, with the hoped for possibility that something good will come back to you. Not a bad way to live.

Call me a true believer of karma. Once in the early 90s, in a new job, new town, not a lot of money, I accidentally walked out of a store without paying for my chocolate-covered raisins. Ka-ching! I thought. I win!!

That night, my car was broken into. Ka-I-ching!! Karma. I pay for everything now, and if I find a dime on the street, usually I’ll either leave it or give it to someone else.

Karma brings up the idea of reincarnation, which to the Buddhists is an integral part of the relative, or physical, world and the authentic, or unseen, one.

There is the concept that at death, a person’s soul or consciousness passes into another life form. To have human form is a supreme achievement, showing that a person’s past live has been noble and good. That’s why His Holiness the Dalai Lama is so greatly respectful of any other human being, even the Chinese leaders who torment him and his fellow Tibetans.

Yet even for those of us who don’t ascribe precisely to this idea can find meaning in the concept of rebirth and reincarnation. In my nearly half a century, I have been many people — school teacher, graduate student, 4-year-old, 14-year-old drama queen, moody 20-year-old, preppy (sorry, it was the ’80s) and waitress.

These incarnations are episodes and experiences that are long gone, not to return (especially the waitress days, but out of karma-awareness, I always leave big tips!)

There are other terms, for other Figuratively Speaking posts — paramita, tathagata, buddhadharma, ahimsa, parinama, samadhi ….



Brothers, Sisters

Posted in Buddhism, HH Dalai Lama at 7:55 am by Marion

One of the first messages you’ll read in most books by His Holiness the Dalai Lama is his recommendation that we all remain faithful to the religion of our family, our childhood, our culture.

When I first read that line, I thought: What, you don’t want me as a Buddhist?

At the same time, it was incredibly refreshing. No pressure to convert!! No doom of damnation hanging over me!!

Having grown up in the Bible Belt I was used to people trying to “save” me. Never mind that I was baptized as a Christian; there are hundreds of people on any given day trying to tell me, well, where to go.

So HH the Dalai Lama basically sets us free from requirements of terrestrial religion. But he does not release us from our obligation to respect other living beings and to make sure we cause no harm (ahimsa). He commonly refers to his audience as “Dear Brothers and Sisters.”

He asks us to be humble and modest, and never to take credit for our good deeds; but rather to be mindful of the many good people who have gone before us and who will come after us.

One of the meditations he recommends is to imagine ourselves at our worst, our most clutching and greedy (Yes, try it sometimes. It’s quite humbling).

We imagine this greedy self to one side of us, then, at the other side, we imagine someone who’s desperately poor, starving, homeless or sick.

The first time I did this mediation I nearly wept. It is still one of the most grounding meditations I can do.

In keeping with His Holiness’s guidance, I have not given up my Christian faith. Rather, it is now a larger spiritual practice, multi-dimensional, because it includes meditations on compassion. Larger in meaning because I now include great teachers like Buddha, Zoroaster and other prophets in my meditations on good. More profound because I think on great leaders like St. Frances, Mohandas Gandhi, Dr. Martin King and Nelson Mandela.

Recently, attending church, I have found new enlightenment in the sanctuary, among my companions in faith worshiping together. This connection arises, doubtless, because I better see our unity in light of the struggling monks in Tibet, China and Burma, who are willing to be jailed and beaten for their faith.

I attend the Episcopal Church because I believe we are deeply faithful to the teachings of Christ. My church welcomes people of all backgrounds and walks of life, and have ordained an openly gay minister, which for me, represents Christ’s instructions to include and embrace each other.

Having spent many hours with my Buddhist books, His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s teachings last year and his books regularly; and my readings of Old and New Testament scripture, I no longer see conflict among them, only an ever-growing picture of the human desire for the divine.


A Prayer

Posted in Buddhism, HH Dalai Lama at 9:22 am by Marion

Today, some words from a prayer by His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama. You can find the entire poem in The Essential Dalai Lama, (Viking, 2005).

I believe we can feel deep affinity and kinship as human beings with the People of the Land of the Snows. In this poem they represent our unified struggle to remain peaceful and compassionate in the face of brute strength and the bullying of power and wealth.


… Please consider the truth of my anguished pleas…

O holders of the Dharma: scholars
and realized practitioners;

May your tenfold virtuous practice prevail.

Humble sentient beings, tormented
by sufferings without cease,

Completely suppressed by seemingly endless
and terribly tense, negative deeds,

May all their fears from unbearable war, famine,
and disease be pacified,

To freely breathe an ocean of happiness and well-being,
and particularly the pious people

of the Land of Snows who, through various means,

Area mercilessly destroyed by barbaric hordes
on the side of darkness,

Kindly let the power of your compassion arise,
to quickly stem the flow of blood and tears.

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