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News on China and Burma May 15, 2008

Posted by Sarah Todd in Burma, News.
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Heartbreaking updates on China and Burma in today’s New York Times. In China, the Times notes, many of the dead appear to be children, “in a country where most families are allowed to have only one.” Meanwhile, farmers in Burma fear they will miss the fall harvest, having lost seeds, livestock, rice stock, and draft animals in the cyclone. The deputy country director for the World Food Program estimates that at least 50,000 tons of rice are needed for the next six months, and 50,000 more will be necessary if farmers are not able to plant within the next few weeks.

Kristof on Amdo May 15, 2008

Posted by Philip Ryan in News, Tibet.
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Nicholas Kristof on violence against monks in Amdo:

At Labrang Monastery in Xiahe, almost 10,000 feet high in the mountains, more than 220 Buddhist monks were arrested and beaten, local Tibetans said. The great majority have been released, but some are still hospitalized because of injuries. Some monks are hiding in the mountains, and they are all terrified.

“I was beaten for two hours with sticks, and kicked all over,” said a monk who was released after one night of imprisonment.

Last month, the Chinese authorities ushered a group of journalists here on a tightly scripted tour to show that Labrang was calm — and then 15 monks rushed up to the group. One was crying, and all said that their human rights were being systematically violated.

After the reporters left, those who joined that peaceful protest were imprisoned, beaten and in some cases subjected to electric shock torture, the monks here say. That is impossible to confirm, and Tibetan versions of events are sometimes exaggerated.

Nepal prepares to abolish the monarchy.

Aid Stolen in Burma May 14, 2008

Posted by Philip Ryan in Burma.
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It’s a growing problem: The Burmese military continues to steal international aid packages sent to aid victims of cyclone Nargis. An estimated 1.5 million Burmese face — (UPDATE: 2.5 million) — disease and starvation and little aid is reaching them.

And the death toll continues to rise in China.

A Buddhist man woman who converted to Islam in Malaysia can go back to being Buddhist, the courts say. Previously it was extremely difficult bordering on illegal to convert from Islam to another religion.

Words for Buddhist Livin’ May 13, 2008

Posted by Sarah Todd in Books.
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Three quotations from Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche, from Ocean of Dharma: 365 Teachings on Living Life with Courage and Compassion.

The Lion’s Roar

The lion’s roar is the fearless proclamation that any state of mind, including the emotions, is a workable situation, a reminder in the practice of meditation. We realize that chaotic situations must not be rejected. Nor should we regard them as regressive, as a return to confusion. We must respect whatever happens in our state of mind. Chaos should be regarded as extremely good news.

(more…)

Tibetan Tectonics May 13, 2008

Posted by Philip Ryan in Burma, News, Tibet.
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The twin disasters continue to unfold.

The storm is over in Burma but the humanitarian nightmare continues. And the constitutional referendum went ahead despite being “blatantly rigged.”

Meanwhile ABC says “Tibetan tectonics triggered China quake.”

The violent quake that shook China’s Sichuan province this week is linked to a shift of the Tibetan plateau to the north and east, researchers say.

Hmm. And some inside China didn’t take kindly to the cheery spectacle of the Olympic torch jogging along as if nothing were wrong.

David Brooks on “neural Buddhism” May 13, 2008

Posted by Philip Ryan in General.
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David Brooks discusses the “militant materialism of some modern scientists” then says:

Over the past several years, the momentum has shifted away from hard-core materialism. The brain seems less like a cold machine. It does not operate like a computer. Instead, meaning, belief and consciousness seem to emerge mysteriously from idiosyncratic networks of neural firings. Those squishy things called emotions play a gigantic role in all forms of thinking. Love is vital to brain development.

Researchers now spend a lot of time trying to understand universal moral intuitions. Genes are not merely selfish, it appears. Instead, people seem to have deep instincts for fairness, empathy and attachment.

Scientists have more respect for elevated spiritual states. Andrew Newberg of the University of Pennsylvania has shown that transcendent experiences can actually be identified and measured in the brain (people experience a decrease in activity in the parietal lobe, which orients us in space). The mind seems to have the ability to transcend itself and merge with a larger presence that feels more real.

This new wave of research will not seep into the public realm in the form of militant atheism. Instead it will lead to what you might call neural Buddhism.

If you survey the literature (and I’d recommend books by Newberg, Daniel J. Siegel, Michael S. Gazzaniga, Jonathan Haidt, Antonio Damasio and Marc D. Hauser if you want to get up to speed), you can see that certain beliefs will spread into the wider discussion.

First, the self is not a fixed entity but a dynamic process of relationships. Second, underneath the patina of different religions, people around the world have common moral intuitions. Third, people are equipped to experience the sacred, to have moments of elevated experience when they transcend boundaries and overflow with love. Fourth, God can best be conceived as the nature one experiences at those moments, the unknowable total of all there is.

In their arguments with Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins, the faithful have been defending the existence of God. That was the easy debate. The real challenge is going to come from people who feel the existence of the sacred, but who think that particular religions are just cultural artifacts built on top of universal human traits. It’s going to come from scientists whose beliefs overlap a bit with Buddhism.

This seems to be the “Buddhism is the religion of the future” meme again.

Rescuers Struggle to Reach Quake Survivors May 13, 2008

Posted by Philip Ryan in News.
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There are as many 12,000 dead in China after the quake, plus hundreds of thousands injured and homeless, and there may be more quakes to come in the region. Those suffering here are not the ones who ordered troops into Lhasa or tanks into Tienanmen Square, but even if they were, in a previous life, whether you take that literally or not, each one of them was your mother, and in yet another life, your child.

China Quake May 12, 2008

Posted by Philip Ryan in News.
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Terrible death and suffering in Sichuan Province.

An Open Appeal on Behalf of the People of Burma by Jack Kornfield May 12, 2008

Posted by Philip Ryan in Burma.
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Dear Dharma Friends,

I want to ask you to consider help for the people of Burma. As you know the blessings of many of our Buddhist teachings have come from the tradition and generosity of the people of Burma. Now the devastating cyclone Nargis has plunged an already impoverished nation into chaos. The most effective was to help that I know of is The Foundation for the People of Burma (FPB), a U.S. registered charity I support. The Foundation already has 70 staff and volunteers on the ground and working to relieve suffering in sites across Burma right now, while most foreign aid workers are still waiting at the border for visas. Because FPB has worked in Burma for many years, it has been able to quickly mobilize its Burmese staff and partner networks to address emergency needs in target areas. To date, the in country staff has mobilized to provide basic survival supplies, including water purification tablets, food, mosquito nets, tarps and rebuilding and sanitation supplies to thousands of people in Rangoon and targeted Irrawaddy Delta areas. They are organizing local medical teams and businessmen as well.

Your tax-deductible contribution will enable the Foundation to continue this life saving work, and will enable us to be there for the long process of rebuilding lives. If you can, please contribute now. Your gift will go directly to the affected population in the bowels of this disaster.

Feel call or email the Foundation if you need more information. The website is foundationburma.org; the phone is 415-217-7015.

Thank you for your generosity.

Jack Kornfield
Spirit Rock Center

Burma help May 12, 2008

Posted by tricycleblog in Burma.
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Hal Nathan, who launched the Foundation for the People of Burma in 1999, was in northern Burma when the cyclone struck. You could say he found himself in the right place at the right time. His non-political charitable organization is devoted to providing humanitarian aid of all sorts to the Burmese people. According to Nathan, what gives his group a leg up in efficiently delivering desperately needed aid is the infrastructure his organization has built over the years.

“We can distribute goods and services through the monasteries and temples and other community centers, and have good relations with people on the ground,” he told me this afternoon. His wife and fellow board member, Gail Seneca, adds, “While most foreign aid workers are waiting at the border for visas, the foundation has already mobilized in Rangoon and around the Irrawaddy Delta and is delivering services and food to approximately 8,000 people.” With an estimated 1-1/2 million people in need Seneca acknowledges this is just a start, but a good one considering the obstacles aid organizations face. The foundation’s existing infrastructure makes it well-positioned to do far more.

If you have difficulty getting to the Foundation’s heavily visited home page, you can contact them at the below address and number:

Foundation for the People of Burma
225 Bush Street, Suite 590
San Francisco, CA 94104

Phone: (415) 217-7015
Fax: (415) 477-2787
Email: info@foundationburma.org

We will keep you posted on the foundation’s efforts. For now, this is a wonderful way to support the people of Burma in their time of need.

James Shaheen, Editor