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Ladyhawk549's Metaphysical Store
08.13.10 (11:07 am)   [edit]
This is the best store around .... http://stores.ebay.com/ladyhawk549s-Anam-Cara More about ladyhawk549 and her store .... http://anamcarazenbuddhistchurchofenlightenment.bravehost.com/

 
Ladyhawk549's Metaphysical Store
08.13.10 (11:07 am)   [edit]
This is the best store around .... http://stores.ebay.com/ladyhawk549s-Anam-Cara More about ladyhawk549 and her store .... http://anamcarazenbuddhistchurchofenlightenment.bravehost.com/

 
Ladyhawk549's Metaphysical Store
08.13.10 (11:06 am)   [edit]
This is the best store around .... http://stores.ebay.com/ladyhawk549s-Anam-Cara More about ladyhawk549 and her store .... http://anamcarazenbuddhistchurchofenlightenment.bravehost.com/

 
Ladyhawk549's Metaphysical Store
08.13.10 (11:04 am)   [edit]
This is the best store around .... http://stores.ebay.com/ladyhawk549s-Anam-Cara More about ladyhawk549 and her store .... http://anamcarazenbuddhistchurchofenlightenment.bravehost.com/

 
Ladyhawk549's Metaphysical Store
08.13.10 (11:04 am)   [edit]
This is the best store around .... http://stores.ebay.com/ladyhawk549s-Anam-Cara More about ladyhawk549 and her store .... http://anamcarazenbuddhistchurchofenlightenment.bravehost.com/

 
Ladyhawk549's Metaphysical Store
08.13.10 (11:04 am)   [edit]
This is the best store around .... http://stores.ebay.com/ladyhawk549s-Anam-Cara More about ladyhawk549 and her store .... http://anamcarazenbuddhistchurchofenlightenment.bravehost.com/

 
Ladyhawk549's Metaphysical Store
08.13.10 (11:03 am)   [edit]
This is the best store around .... http://stores.ebay.com/ladyhawk549s-Anam-Cara More about ladyhawk549 and her store .... http://anamcarazenbuddhistchurchofenlightenment.bravehost.com/

 
My New Online Store For Pagans, Celts, Druids, Those Following The Wicca Path, Green Witches & More
02.10.10 (11:28 am)   [edit]
Great prices! New items added daily! http://www.amazon.com/shops/A1DQPYIZKZN6E2

 
Canaan Online - Jewish Gifts - Gifts Made In Isreal
07.25.08 (3:35 am)   [edit]
Your Destination for Extraordinary Handcrafted Judaica and Israeli Gifts. Sometimes the ordinary simply won't do. That's why Canaan-Online offers a stunning, hand-picked selection of unusual Judaica and distinctive Israeli gifts for all occasions, including exclusive items you won't find anywhere else. All Items Made In Israel http://www.idevaffiliate.com/31223/idevaffiliate.php?id=108

 
DailyOM: Under The Hood - Importance Of Looking Deeper
07.11.08 (6:38 pm)   [edit]
July 11, 2008 Under The Hood Importance Of Looking Deeper It’s easy to get caught up in examining our actions instead of really deeply examining ourselves. This can be deceiving because our actions may be very spiritual—we meditate, are nice to people, take care of ourselves and others—and yet, we may not be penetrating to the issues below the surface. It’s as if we’ve washed and shined the surface of our car without taking the time to check under the hood. We may appear to be in great shape, but if we aren’t engaging in the deep, inner work of self-examination, the chances are good that we are not deeply aware of the real substance of our lives. We live in a very appearance-oriented, externally focused world, so it makes sense that we place a lot of value on how our lives look, sometimes to the detriment of noticing how our lives really feel. When we get too caught up in what we are doing and lose track of our core, we sometimes begin to feel dissociated, as if we are not fully awake, alive, and grounded. This is a sure sign that it’s time to engage in the hard work of going deep within to rediscover the foundation of our lives. Without the substance that comes from looking at ourselves deeply, and working through the difficult things we find, our spiritual lives can start to feel hollow or shallow, as if there’s nothing at the center holding it all together. Of course, the peace that comes with meditation and spiritual practice is an essential part of the whole picture of our development, but it serves us best in conjunction with the less settling, more chaotic work of digging around below the surface to see what needs to be healed, owned, or released. Then our actions are more than just an attempt to keep everything in control, looking pretty and nice. Fueled by the energy of a life in transformation, they become powerful expressions of courage and faith, further inspiring our own inner work and that of those around us.

 
A Lesson A Day - Day 93 - Admonishing The Speaker
07.07.08 (12:32 am)   [edit]
A Lesson A Day 4 Tammuz, 5768 / July 7, 2008 SEFER CHOFETZ CHAIM Day 93 – Admonishing the Speaker The commandment, you shall reprove your fellow (Vayikra 19:17), requires a Jew to inform a sinner that his behavior is improper, and attempt to convince him to mend his ways. In voicing his disapproval, one must be prepared to endure embarrassment and insult and should continue to protest. Only in a case where one knows that his reproof would cause the sinner to react by committing more serious offenses is he to refrain from speaking up. (Reproof must be administered with respect and understanding, and should be done in private whenever possible – see Rashi to Vayikra 19:17). Generally speaking, one is required to interrupt and reprove the speaker of loshon hora, and do his best to ensure that he put a halt to his sinful speech. As mentioned, this does not apply when the speaker would likely react by expressing yet greater negativity towards the person he was speaking about, as a way of defending his sinful talk. Another situation where reproof would be out of place is when: The speaker does not realize that the information he is conveying is loshon hora, or is totally unaware that loshon hora is prohibited by the Torah; and it is obvious that the speaker will continue speaking loshon hora even after being told that this is forbidden. In such a case, reproof would transform the speaker from an inadvertent sinner into one who sins intentionally. Hence, it is better not to reprove him. SEFER SHMIRAS HALOSHON Choose Your Company One should avoid association with a given group unless he knows that its members are careful to avoid forbidden speech. If circumstances demand such association, one should limit it to a minimum, and maintain silence whenever possible. Even one sinner can ruin an entire group and make it necessary to avoid being in its company. Sefer Rosh HaGivah writes: Be alert, my son, regarding that which King Shlomo said: ”In the ears of a fool do not speak, lest he disparage the wisdom of your words” (Mishlei 23:9). Beware of a gathering of one hundred men among whom is found even one scoffer or fool, and certainly if [one of the fools] is a wise man in his own eyes, for he is the quintessential fool ...1 Strengthen yourself to sit in silence at such a gathering, do not discuss anything at all. Even if you will speak all sorts of wisdom, they [the scoffers and fools] will best you and grant you disgrace, as it is written,”Iniquity appears and disgrace follows” (ibid. 11:2). If you wish to converse [at such a gathering] with a man like yourself, be careful that your words not reach their [the scoffers’] ears. Thus does Scripture advise:”In the ears of a fool do not speak,’’ rather than, ”Do not speak with a fool.’’ See Mishlei 26:12. A fool who considers himself wise has no hope of acquiring wisdom, and thus is the greatest fool of all (Metzudos ad loc.).

 
A Very Interesting Vid
07.07.08 (12:30 am)   [edit]
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2aW2N46vf4Q

 
A Very Interesting Vid
07.07.08 (12:29 am)   [edit]
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2aW2N46vf4Q

 
Tricycle's Daily Dharma - July 6, 2008 - The Responsibility Of Kindness
07.06.08 (10:58 pm)   [edit]
July 6, 2008 Tricycle's Daily Dharma The Responsibility of Kindness Responsibility does not only lie with the leaders of our countries or with those who have been appointed or elected to do a particular job. It lies with each of us individually. Peace, for example starts within each one of us. When we have inner peace, we can be at peace with those around us. When our community is in a state of peace, it can share that peace with neighboring communities, and so on. When we feel love and kindness towards others, it not only makes others feel loved and cared for, but it helps us also to develop inner happiness and peace. And there are ways in which we can consciously work to develop feelings of love and kindness. For some of us, the most effective way to do so is through religious practice. For others it may be non-religious practices. What is important is that we each make a sincere effort to take seriously our responsibility for each other and for the natural environment. -The Dalai Lama, “Nobel Peace Prize Lecture,” in The Dalai Lama: A Policy of Kindness, edited by Sidney Piburn

 
Mayanot - Balak - The Power Of A Curse
07.06.08 (8:33 pm)   [edit]
The Power of A Curse Although this week's Torah portion is named "Balak" after the Moabite king who initiated the dramatic incidents recorded in it, the story itself really belongs to Bilaam, the evil prophet Balak hired to curse the Jews and destroy them. The prophecies of Bilaam recorded in the Parsha have the status of a separate work within the Torah (Talmud, Baba Batra, 14b). Moses was commanded to record Bilaam's words, which are not considered part of his Torah in the same manner as Pharaoh's words which he was also commanded to record. The Pentatuach (in Greek) or Chumash (in Hebrew) is referred to as Moses' Torah, (Malachi 50:22) but Bilaam's prophecies do not fit this description. Even after having been incorporated into the Five Books of Moses, they retain a separate integrity as the Parsha of Bilaam. This Parsha is considered Bilaam's Torah, not Moses'. The special weight attached to Bilaam's words can be traced back to Bilaam's exalted status as a prophet; his level of prophecy is considered to be on par with Moses' own in some sense. "Never again has there arisen in Israel a prophet like Moses" (Deut. 34:10). In Israel there never arose such a prophet again; but there was a prophet of such stature among the nations, so that the nations should not be able to claim that had they had a prophet of Moses' stature they also would have become God's servants. Who was this prophet who arose among the nations who had the stature of Moses? Bilaam ben Beor. (Bamidbar Rabba 14:20) Just as Moses' prophecy was on a level we call Torah, so was Bilaam's; his prophetic message also became an integral part of God's Torah. We refer to Moses by the title of rabeinu, "our teacher," because he initiated us Jews into God's service by teaching us God's laws. Bilaam had the potential to provide the same sort of inspiration and initiate the other nations of the earth into God's service. God arranged for them to have a Bilaam Rabeinu just as He provided us with a Moshe Rabeinu. In fact, Bilaam is actually described as a teacher of sorts by the Mishna in Avoth (5:22), though in somewhat negative terms: Whoever has the following three character traits is among the disciples of our forefather Abraham. If he has the three contrary traits he is among the disciples of the wicked Bilaam. Those who have a generous eye, a humble spirit, and modest expectations are among the disciples of our forefather Abraham. Those who have an evil eye, an arrogant spirit, and greedy expectations are the disciples of the wicked Bilaam. How can such harsh words be written about Bilaam, a prophet described as being on a par with Moses himself? * * * THE DESCRIPTION OF A PROPHET This is a sample of the spiritual qualities that Maimonides lists as prerequisites of prophecy: Prophecy is bestowed only upon a very wise sage of a strong character who is never overcome by his natural inclinations in any regard. Instead with his mind he overcomes his natural inclinations at all times. He must [also] possess a broad and correct perspective.... (Yesodei HaTorah, 7,1) Bilaam was not only a prophet, but a great prophet; his character obviously measured up to Maimonedes' list of prerequisites. How can we possibly reconcile this glowing description of Bilaam's character with the negative portrait drawn by the Mishna in Avoth? The clue we require to unravel the mystery of Bilaam is provided by the following passage of Talmud: Rabbi Yochanan said in the name of Rabbi Yose: "From where do we know that one should never attempt to appease a person at the moment of his anger? It is written 'My face will go and I will give you rest' (Exodus 33:14). God said to Moses, 'Wait until My countenance of anger passes, then I shall give you rest, (that is, then I will be appeased).' Is there ever anger before God? Yes, as we learned: "God is angered every day" (Psalms 7:12) and how long does His anger last? A moment ... and no creature can determine precisely when this moment occurs except for Bilaam the Rasha. For it is written, regarding Bilaam "The one who knows the mind of the Supreme One" (Numbers 24:16). If he did not even know what was in the mind of his own donkey, how could he possibly have known what was on the mind of the Supreme One? The meaning of this passage is that he knew how to ascertain the exact moment in which God becomes angry. (Talmud, Brachot 7a) Bilaam is compared to Moses because they both managed to connect with God on the highest level but that does not mean they connected in the same fashion. God specifically told Moses to avoid connecting with Him while His anger was on display, while Bilaam was the only person in human history capable of identifying the exact moment of God's anger, and it was this angry aspect of God that he was a specialist in connecting with. Is there any way we can understand the idea of connecting with God's anger a bit more clearly? * * * THE FACE OF ANGER The truth is that although we do not realize it, we are all quite familiar with the idea of connecting with God through the power of rage. The common perception of mankind is that the attainment of holiness requires silent contemplation and meditation, separation from ordinary life and its mundane activities. Holy people of all sects and religions all over the world tend to lead segregated lives. They live in monasteries or ashrams, they practice humility by subsisting on charity; they do not establish families. The concept of Holiness is associated with the severance of the very powerful bonds that tie the common human being to his social surroundings. It is obvious that these drives are all basic to human nature and people striving to reach holiness feel them no less than the rest of us do. They need to sever themselves by force from these mundane aspects of life that would prevent them from attaining holiness. The emotional energy required to succeed at severing yourself from the rest of humanity is rage. But withdrawal from ordinary life is the route to spirituality and holiness with which we are all familiar; it is therefore true to say that we all know how to reach out to God through the power of rage. Obviously this does not in any way imply that holy people suffer from an excess of rage. The contrary is usually the case. Having given up on the mundane 'prizes' of living most people compete with each other to obtain, holy people are relatively envy free and feel less rage than others. Nevertheless, the emotional fuel required to maintain a life based on self-denial is the power of rage. Perhaps we can clarify the point by illustrating how all of us bring the spiritual power of rage to bear on a personal level. Most of us have had the following common spiritual experience. Some traumatic event in our lives causes us to wonder: 'why is this happening to me', and leads us to introspection. Our soul searching leads to the discovery that we are functioning far beneath the level of spirituality that we find acceptable; we suddenly become impatient and angry with ourselves. Not everyone reacts in the same fashion to such an experience but some people convert the emotional energy of this spiritual impatience and anger into a firm resolution to disassociate from their present social framework and life-style entirely and institute drastic changes in their lives. They are overtaken by the conviction that the re-attainment of holiness depends on leaving their ordinary selves with which they are familiar behind them entirely. It is clear that the original impetus for such change is the power of rage. Each time Bilaam searched for contact with the Divine presence, he left Balak and his associates standing over the sacrifice and went off by himself: "stand by your Burnt-offering while I go ... He went alone" (Bamidbor 23:3:); Bilaam's ability to connect with God was only present when he was in a state of disassociation from others. * * * THE FACE OF LOVE A totally different way to connect to God is to reach out through the power of love. The aim of this method is not to escape into a more spiritual realm. The aim is to insert spirituality and closeness to God into every aspect of everyday life. Thus, every activity is dedicated to God and executed with the perception that God is present and watching, even participating by supplying the energy to complete the task at hand. For the person who follows this perception, separation from people is counterproductive to holiness. God created the world for people and gave each person a soul so that he or she can attach him/herself to God. The greater the number of human souls that choose to attach themselves, the more God's presence is manifest in the world and the easier it becomes to attain holiness through the activities of everyday life. Attaching your soul to the soul of others engaged on the same quest enhances your spiritual powers. The highest level of prophetic vision is only available to someone who is a member of a unified loving social group. In this system of attachments, the establishment of a family is a necessary step in the attainment of holiness. The union between male and female can result in the highest expression of spirituality in our world; a brand new human soul that is the embodiment of a freshly established connection with God. This union was fashioned by God as the most effective tool in the human arsenal you can use to climb out of your own narrow self and attach yourself to another soul and thereby to God. Dedicating yourself to this method of connecting to God means dedicating yourself to the elimination of the distance between people to the same degree. The commandment "Love your fellow as you love yourself," parallels the commandment "Love the Lord your God with all your heart." In the words of the sage Hillel, who was asked by a convert to teach the entire Torah to him while he stood on one foot: "'What is hateful to you - do not do to your fellow' - that is the essence of the entire Torah; the remainder is only a more detailed explanation. Now go learn it at your leisure." (Talmud, Shabbat, 31a) The emotional drive associated with attachment to other people is love; this second method of attachment is called the way of love. * * * PARALLEL DIVINE ATTITUDES These emotional drives - anger and love - are reflected in Divine attitudes. "God is your protective Shade on your right hand" (Tehillim 121:5). R' Chaim of Volozhin explains (Nefesh Hachaim, Gate I, ch. 3) that this verse reveals the true significance of being cast in God's image. The word image in Hebrew is tzelem, derived from the word tzel meaning shadow or shade. God set up the world so that He behaves like man's shade. Every sincere effort on the part of man to reach out to God elicits a Divine response, whereby God reaches right back out to man in the exact same fashion. The use of rage and love are both effective methods of reaching out to God and connecting with Him. The degree of their effectiveness is only limited by the level of dedication that is invested in them. Neither is more effective than the other in terms of reaching God. But there is a vast difference in the nature of the connection that is established. God also has two ways of relating to the world. On the one hand, God distances Himself from the world. He finds Himself unable to connect to its negative aspects; if the world were to connect to Him in its sorry spiritual state, the fire of His holiness would burn it to a crisp. The way to protect the world is through withdrawal and distance. Thus following the sin of the golden calf, God says: "However I will not go with you, since you are an unbending people and I may destroy you on the way ... You are an unbending people. In just one second I can go among you and utterly destroy you." (Exodus 33:3-5) This way of relating to the world is called Midat Hadin, or the Attribute of Justice. On the other hand, God wants to connect with man. He does not want to distance Himself at all even to protect man. The alternative solution to ensuring that man will not be burnt to a crisp from the effects of connecting to the Divine in his sorry state is to reduce the intensity of the luminosity of the Divine presence that is in contact with man. Instead of withdrawing, God reduces the intensity of the contact so that it becomes manageable for man to maintain it even on the level he is on. As an illustration of this idea, the Torah describes the effectiveness of the Yom Kipur service in the following words: "With this he will make atonement for the Israelites' defilement, as well as for their rebellious acts and all their inadvertent misdeeds. He shall then perform exactly the same ritual in the Communion tent, which remains with the Israelites even when they are unclean" (Leviticus 16: 16-17). The Presence of God remains with Israel even in their state of uncleanliness. (Sifra, Achrei Mos, 3:4) Instead of withdrawing He finds a way to remain with them in their state of uncleanliness. This way of relating is called the Midat Harachamim, or the Attribute of Mercy. When man reaches out to God by employing his own attribute of distance and harnessing the fire of his rage, God responds in kind by showing man the face of Midat Hadin. When man reaches out to God through love and follows his impulse to attach himself to others without first questioning their merit, God responds in kind and he makes contact with the face of Midat Horachamim. * * * BILAAM'S POWER Let us re-examine the Mishna in Avoth in light of this information. The three attributes of Bilaam - the evil eye, the arrogant spirit, and the greedy expectations - are revealed to us in the context of the following incidents: Bilaam arose in the morning and said to the officers of Balak, "Go to your land, for God refuses to let me go with you" (Numbers 22:13). Rashi interprets this statement as meaning that God "will only allow me to go with higher ranking officers than yourselves." This, explains Rashi, illustrates Bilaam's arrogant spirit; he demanded an invitation delivered by a more prestigious delegation before he would respond. Balak immediately sent higher-ranking officers (Ibid., 15) But the issues are more complex than they appear at first glance. Surely, Bilaam was justified; after all, let us remember that he was God's prophet and His representative. Balak was interested in his intervention because he wanted Bilaam to persuade God to drop the Jewish people. Contacting Bilaam was the way to contact God. He was the prophet of the nations and for them he represented God. Sending a low level delegation to escort Bilaam indicated a lack of respect towards God Himself. Wasn't it Bilaam's duty to protest the insult? The same sort of defense can be made concerning the incident that illustrates Bilaam's greed. "If Balak will give me his houseful of silver and gold, I cannot transgress the word of the Lord my God to do anything small or great" (Numbers 22:18). Rashi interprets this as an indication of Bilaam's greed; he desired money. Bilaam implied that he should be awarded a houseful of gold in return for his services. But once again the issues are ambiguous. Balak's alternative to employing Bilaam was to field a huge army against the Jewish people, always an expensive proposition. Moreover, such an army might not be victorious in battle despite all the money spent on it; whereas if he could get Bilaam to persuade God to abandon the Jews he could guarantee a favorable outcome at no further risk or cost to himself. Surely it would cheapen the importance of dealing with God if it were less costly than paying for an army. Such applied Divine contact deserved to be greatly valued. As God's representative among the nations, once again it was up to Bilaam to resist any lowering of His status. Finally, let us focus our attention on Bilaam's evil eye. "Bilaam saw that it was good in God's eyes to bless Israel, so he did not go as every other time towards divinations, but he set his eyes towards the wilderness. Bilaam raised his eyes and saw Israel dwelling according to its tribes" (Ibid., 1-2). Rashi interprets this to mean that he attempted to penetrate the Jewish camp with the power of his evil eye. This is the evidence provided to substantiate the third negative trait of Bilaam mentioned by the Mishna. But this incident is perhaps the most complex of them all. To highlight the issues involved we must understand a little bit about how the power of this evil eye works. To pose the question a bit differently, how can we relate to the power to curse? As we have already explained, the relationship between God and man follows a reciprocity principle: God turns the same face towards man that man turns towards Him. When Bilaam regarded something with his critical eye, behind this criticism lay not viciousness but a tremendous holy zeal. God must withdraw His presence from undeserving man so that the fire of holiness does not burn man to a crisp. Bilaam was no ordinary individual; under the influence of his prophetic vision, the holy fire of the Attribute of Justice possessed him. When he observed a spiritual defect in someone, it genuinely bothered him; how could God be expected to countenance it? Because of his genuine concern, he was able to focus the full might of the Midat Hadin on it. In order to stave off utter destruction, the Midat Hadin had no alternative but to withdraw God's presence from whatever met Bilaam's critical gaze. The power to bring about the withdrawal of God's Presence was the power of Bilaam's curse. Inasmuch as all blessing originates from God's Presence and falls upon its recipient through God's connection with man, the severing of such a connection automatically engenders the withdrawal of God's blessing. In the absence of the blessing, the subject becomes exposed to the very opposite. * * * THE ANTIDOTE It is interesting to note the phenomenon that is presented by the Torah as the counterweight to this immense spiritual power possessed by Bilaam. Why was he unable to bring the power of his evil eye to bear on the Jewish people? "How goodly are your tents O Jacob, your dwelling places O Israel" (Ibid., 5). Rashi comments on this: Bilaam observed that the tents in the Jewish encampment were arranged so that no one was able to see into his neighbor's tent. Jews do not want to place themselves in situations where they can be critical of each other. They want to avoid noticing the moral defects in each other that can engender even just criticism. Social cohesion among the Jewish people and the preservation of an atmosphere in which each Jew can love his fellow is more important than searching out each other's flaws and distancing oneself from them. This preference for cohesion and harmony is the force that warded off Bilaam's evil eye. As long as there is no evil eye or evil tongue down here on this world among fellow men, God regards man in the same fashion from up above as we regard each other; with the benign face of Midas Harachamim. Even Bilaam's evil eye cannot summon the Midas Hadin under such circumstances. * * * BACK TO BILAAM The point is that Bilaam's traits as described in the Mishna are not evil in themselves. There are two paths to spirituality, two ways to make contact with God: Abraham's way and Bilaam's way. It is not the traits themselves that labeled Bilaam as a rasha, or 'wicked'; it was his refusal to tolerate and accept Abraham's way as equally legitimate. When his evil eye proved ineffective, instead of submitting to God's will, he offered Balak some evil advice to make it effective. He told him that God cannot tolerate lascivious behavior, and advised him to send the Moabite women to seduce the Isralites, advice that resulted in the tragic incident of Ba'al Peor, described at the end of this Torah portion. Through his advice Bilaam managed to create internal disharmony among the Jewish people as well as between the Jews and God. Public display of lascivious behavior disrupted the internal unity of the Jewish people. Many indulged but many more stood by horrified. The day may have been saved through the zealotry of Pinchas, but only at a terrible cost. The solution necessitated the killing of Jew by Jew, resulting in the internal dissension and turmoil alluded to in the beginning of Parshat Pinchas. Under these conditions there was no defense against Bilaaam's evil eye. Bilaam could not be content till he introduced the Midas Hadin into the Jewish camp. This determination to have his way at all costs earned him the epitaph of rasha. * * * THE WAY OF THE NATIONS Bilaam was the nations' potential Moses. The nations could have also entered God's service. That is not to say that they would have become Jews. We Jews are students of Abraham. Our method of establishing contact with God is to introduce holiness into all the activities of our lives. This requires the acceptance of the Torah and its commandments. Only by observing the 613 commandments of the Torah that address themselves to all aspects of a person's everyday life is it possible to establish contact with God through the Midas Harachamim the way we were taught to do it by our father Abraham. This is the Jewish way. The nations refused the Torah because this was not their way, although they did not necessarily reject the idea of being God's servants. Their approach to Divine service is to become the students of Bilaam. It is no accident that in cultures other than Judaism holy people tend to withdraw from ordinary life. The path of the nations to God is through the road of withdrawal, self-denial and self-criticism. Their holiness necessitates separation. That is still the path of the holy among the nations down to the present time. The aim is not to sanctify everyday life but to distance oneself from it. The nations' path to God still leads through the power of rage. To bequeath this vision of holiness to the nations of the earth was Bilaam's mission. Had he succeeded, the nations and Israel would have coexisted through history with mutual tolerance. Holiness among the nations would not have become the chosen path of the few, but a highway traveled by multitudes. No wonder Bilaam's prophecy constitutes a separate portion of the Torah and is not deemed to be part of the Book passed down to us by Moses. This article can also be read at: http://www.aish.com/torahportion/mayanot/The_Power_of_a_Curse.asp

 
Canaan Online - Jewish Gifts - Jewish Gifts from Isreal
07.06.08 (5:58 pm)   [edit]
Your Destination for Extraordinary Handcrafted Judaica and Israeli Gifts. All Items Made In Isreal. http://www.idevaffiliate.com/31223/idevaffiliate.php?id=108

 
Canaan Online - Jewish Gifts - Jewish Gifts From Isreal
07.06.08 (5:57 pm)   [edit]
Your Destination for Extraordinary Handcrafted Judaica and Israeli Gifts. All Items Made In Isreal. http://www.idevaffiliate.com/31223/idevaffiliate.php?id=108

 
Canaan Online - Jewish Gifts - Gifts From Isreal
07.06.08 (5:56 pm)   [edit]
Your Destination for Extraordinary Handcrafted Judaica and Israeli Gifts. All Items Made In Isreal. http://www.idevaffiliate.com/31223/idevaffiliate.php?id=108

 
Aish.com - Daily Lift # 343 - Push Off Laziness
06.29.08 (11:42 am)   [edit]
Daily Lift #343 Push Off Laziness A person is lazy because he wants serenity and quiet. Comfort-seeking is the root of laziness. But realize that although the lazy way might at first appear to give comfort, in the long run, a person who is lazy will lose greatness. Why? His life will be one of mediocrity! Today, think about what have you been pushing off because of laziness. Then commit to begin one action to counteract this tendency. (see Vilna Gaon - Proverbs 15:19; Rabbi Pliskin - "Consulting the Wise")

 
A7News: Summer Real Estate Sales
06.16.08 (9:53 am)   [edit]
Summer Real Estate Sales
by Baruch Finkelstein
In the days of the Talmud, people would move into a new house in the summer because in the winter moving wagons would get stuck in the mud.

Even with our paved roads, most people today still prefer moving into a new house in the summer, usually to complete it in time for the new school year. Parents find it inconvenient to move when the children are in school or even in pre-school. Even singles, childless couples and the elderly usually want to move in the summer. It could be that we have simply become accustomed to starting the year in the fall—Rosh Hashanah time. We want to be nestled into our new home at the start of the new Jewish year and make a fresh start.

As we stated in our last article, homeowners in Israel like to “linger” a while in their homes even after they sell them. They may not vacate the home for another few months. Therefore the best time to shop for a new home is....

Read the continuation of this article in the IsraelNationalNews.com Real Estate Section.

 

 



 
A7News: Women's Arts Group To Hold Gala Event
06.16.08 (9:53 am)   [edit]
Women’s Arts Group to Hold Gala Event
by Ben Bresky

The Wanna Be A Star competition of the Professional Women’s Theater is having their 2008 Gala this Thursday, June 19, featuring performances by this year’s competition winners. The all-women’s event is an opportunity for Jewish women in Israel to sing, dance and perform in an all-women’s environment.

This week’s end-of-the-year concert will feature Shuly Natan, a world-famous Israeli singer with a striking golden voice. Natan began her career as a teenager in 1967 when she was chosen by songwriter Naomi Shemer to sing the newly composed Jerusalem of Gold (Yerushalayim Shev Zahav). Shuly Natan’s performance became a national hit and several weeks later when the Six Day War began, the song became an anthem. Natan and Shemer spent the next several decades as singer/songwriter partners. After a break to raise her family, Natan has returned to performing. Her appearance at the Wanna Be A Star competition is a proud occasion for the grassroots organization.

Annie Orenstein co-founded the Professional Women’s Theater three years ago. She talked to Israel National News about the competition and it’s nature as an all-women’s event.

"A lot of these women have performed before mixed crowds in the past," said Orenstein.

Some of the women had serious recording contracts and gave them up when they became religious. Orenstein comments, “When they decided to commit to a Torah lifestyle, they decided they didn’t want to perform in front of men any longer. But they didn’t want to compromise their values and forget their dream of being on stage. We give these women an opportunity to express themselves. Otherwise there would be girls that get to a certain crossroads and have to decide between their passion for the arts and performance and their passion for Torah and Judaism. We don’t want them to have to choose between the two. It’s celebrating the woman’s ability to express themselves.”

 

The Professional Women's Theater
ProfessionalWomensTheater.com

Most of the competition is singing, but there have also been rappers, dancers and some surprises. “Last year we had a woman in her 80s who did a jazzy tap dance for us. In our first year of competition one of our finalists was an opera singer who studied around the world," Orenstein related.

Participants perform in Hebrew, English or other languages. “Whatever touches them, whatever comes from their heart, they can perform in it. Through performance, it enters the audience. It seeps through, no matter what language.”

Orenstein feels the event is also a way for Jewish women from different communities to meet each other: "It’s a way to bridge gaps between religious and secular. We have Americans, Canadians, British and Israeli meeting each other. We have people visiting, or studying for the year, coming. We have women from Jerusalem, Modiin, Beit Shemesh, Gush Etzion, Maale Adumim and other places."

One of the goals of the organization is to create venues for the finalists to perform and get paid for it. “We want to help them get parnassa [livelihood]. We don’t believe these women should only go on stage for tzedaka [charity] or for free. The  finalists get paid at our competitions. It says a lot of empowering them, its really exciting to give them work and be able to pay them for it."

The Wanna Be A Star 2008 Gala will be held this coming Thursday, June 19, at 8:00 p.m. at Heichal Shlomo on King George Avenue in Jerusalem. A pre-show boutique starts at 6:00 p.m. The cost is 35 NIS students, 55 NIS regular, 100 NIS donors. Group rates are available, and refreshments will be sold. For more information visit www.professionalwomenstheater.com.



 
A7News: Arab MK Threatens Riots If Charges Filed On Zada Lynch Mob
06.16.08 (9:52 am)   [edit]
Arab MK Threatens Riots If Charges Filed on Zada Lynch Mob
by Hana Levi Julian

Knesset Member Jamal Zahalka threatened Sunday there will be riots if the government decides to indict 12 residents of the Galilee village of Shfaram involved in the 2005 killing of IDF soldier Eden Natan Zada.

Zada was lynched by an Arab mob, despite having been subdued by police officers after opening fire in a bus crowded with Arabs. The IDF soldier, who had gone AWOL, killed four passengers and wounded nine others before he was stopped by a group of passengers and police officers.

A mob of Arabs immediately wrested the young soldier away from police custody, however, trampling him and beating him to death.

Haifa district prosecutors have ordered 12 Shfaram residents to appear at a hearing on the incident, indicating that indictments might be filed. However, if charges are filed, the prosecution has said it will limit the scope to various degrees of assault, rather than manslaughter or murder charges.

The Arab MK and Balad party chairman called the hearing "an act of provocation" and charged that the police are blaming the victims. "If they indict, they will have riots on their hands," he warned.

Fellow Arab MK and Hadash party chairman Mohammed Barakeh bluntly justified the lynching, adding, that "any minute longer in which Zada would have lived could have claimed the lives of many more of Shfaram's residents. The investigation should focus on the military, which knew they had a dangerous deserter on their hands."

Both Knesset Members have been sharply criticized for their past visits to enemy states and strong statements of support for their actions against Israel. 

MK Mohammed Barakeh
Barakeh whipped a crowd of hundreds of Israeli Arabs and Druze in the Galilee city of Nazareth into an anti-Zionist frenzy during a 2005 rally, shouting, "A strong and resistant Syria will bring closer the day in which Jerusalem will become Palestine's capital." The Israeli Arab Knesset Member compared the United States and Israel to a large and small spider trying to create trouble between Syria and Lebanon.

The chairman of Hadash, a nominally communist faction, met in 2007 with DFLP terror leader Naif Hawatmeh in Amman, Jordan, expressing his deep appreciation for the "historic ties" between the terrorist group and his party.

Barakeh was also involved in a rock-throwing riot this year on Independence Day, in which hundreds of Arabs clashed with a group of Jews celebrating the holiday in the Lower Galilee. Five police officers were injured in the melee, and six rioters were arrested. Barakeh and a second Arab Israeli MK, Wasil Taha (Balad) both participated in the riot.

MK Jamal Zahalka
Zahalka was questioned by police in September 2006 over a trip he made to Syria, during which he expressed support for Damascus and Hizbullah terrorist activities against Israel.

Zahalka has often declared his support for the position of enemy nations, claiming that Israel has no right to be in Jerusalem. He has consistently tried to undermine efforts to integrate Arab citizens into the fabric of Israeli society. In October 2007, Zahalka threatened that any Israeli Arab who volunteered for National Service "will be treated like a leper, and will be vomited out of Arab society."

Zahalka's predecessor and former party chairman, ex-Knesset Member Azmi Bishara, was forced to flee Israel last year in the face of an impending indictment on charges of treason for aiding the enemy - Hizbullah terrorists - during the Second Lebanon War.



 
A7News: Video: Dr. Mordechai Kedar On Al-Jazeera, Eloquent And Unafraid
06.16.08 (9:50 am)   [edit]
Video: Dr. Mordechai Kedar on Al-Jazeera, Eloquent and Unafraid
by Gil Ronen

"We were here when your forefathers were drinking wine, burying their daughters alive and worshipping idols" – this was just one of Bar Ilan University political scientist Dr. Mordechai Kedar's ripostes to questions by an Al Jazeera interviewer two weeks ago, in an interview that has received rave reviews from Israel-lovers the world over for its forcefulness.

[video:123251]
Can't see the video? click here.

"They did not expect me to take the discussion to history and especially not to religion," Kedar told Israel National News. But discuss religion he did in the above video, reminding his interviewer that Jerusalem was not mentioned even once in the Koran and saying directly in fluent Arabic that "Jerusalem is not on the negotiating table," and that "Jerusalem belongs to the Jews, period."

"This was very aggravating" for the Al-Jazeera interviewer, Kedar explained, "because in the Islamic view, Islam came into the world to replace Judaism and Christianity, not to live side by side with them. And here, all of a sudden, the Jews are coming from exile and building their state again and G-d forbid they also regained Jerusalem." Judaism is thus regaining its meaning, and Islam is challenged by this, the Bar-Ilan professor explained. "The mere existence of the State of Israel and the fact that we are in Jerusalem is some kind of challenge to the legitimacy of Islam in their eyes," Kedar explained.

"This is not pro-Israel public relations," Dr. Kedar told Israel National News. "This is a battle for the Arab heart, which Israel is apparently losing because Israel gave up on the main tool which should have served it, which is an independent Israeli Zionist satellite channel in Arabic." Many Arabs, he said, would consider changing their views if such a channel were available.



 
A7News: Gaza Group To Terrorists: Store Your Bombs Elsewhere
06.16.08 (9:48 am)   [edit]
Gaza Group to Terrorists: Store Your Bombs Elsewhere
by Hillel Fendel

A Gaza-based organization has expressed "deep concern" at the recurrence of "internal explosions" caused by the manufacture and storing of weapons in civilian areas.

The PCHR (Palestinian Center for Human Rights) released its statement after Thursday's tremendous explosion in a large house in northern Gaza, which killed an infant, a 16-year-old and six terrorists.  Forty people were wounded in the blast.

PCHR announced it is "deeply concerned about the recurrence of internal explosions as a result of weapons being manufactured, and stored, in areas populated by civilians. These actions are threatening the lives and property of Palestinian civilians."

PCHR further called upon "Palestinian resistance groups to take immediate measures and effective steps to ensure the non-recurrence of such explosions." Such measures were not spelled out, but the PCHR warned "of the dangers caused by continued manufacturing or storage of explosive devices by Palestinian resistance groups in civilian-populated areas, which threaten the lives of Palestinian civilians and violate international humanitarian law." 

The PCHR announced that its investigation had found that early Thursday afternoon, June 12, "a huge explosion occurred in a 400-square-meter house belonging to Abdul Azim Khaled Hammouda... The house was completely destroyed and dozens of neighboring houses were also damaged, five of them seriously.  Ambulances and civil defense crews rushed to the area, and removed victims' bodies from beneath the ruins of the destroyed house and neighbouring houses."

Terrorists Killed "Preparing for Jihad Mission"
The Izzaddin al-Kassam Brigades, the official armed wing of Hamas, stated in a press release the next day that six of its members were killed "while they were in the final stage of preparation for a special Jihad mission."  The six would-be murderers ranged in age from 20 to 32.  Blame was originally apportioned to Israel for attacking the house.

The Associated Press reported that "dozens of Palestinian militants" have been killed in accidents while "mishandling explosives. "



 
A7News: Historian: Jewish Towns Populated By Arab Late-Comers
06.16.08 (9:47 am)   [edit]
Historian: Jewish Towns Populated by Arab Late-Comers
by Hillel Fendel

Historian Dr. Rivka Shpak-Lissak has embarked on an ambitious project, detailing the history of Jewish towns in the Land of Israel that are now known as Arab.  Seven of her articles in this series have appeared on the Omedia website, and she has many more coming.

The bottom line, Dr. Lissak told Arutz-7, is that the Arabs have not been here for thousands of years, as they claim, and that in fact most of the formerly Jewish towns of the Galilee were populated by Arabs only within the last 300 years or so. 

"The goal of all the rulers of the Holy Land, from the times of the Romans and onward, was always to rid the Land of the Jews," she said. "Finally, they succeeded. Many Jews simply left the Land rather than convert to Islam."

The series began last month with a short treatise on the town of Tzipori, famous from the times of the Mishna. The article noted that the Supreme Israeli-Arab Tracking Committee was preparing a "march of return" from Nazareth to Tzipori, to mark Catastrophe Day [Israel's Independence Day].  "We should remind the marchers," wrote Dr. Lissak, "that Tzipori was a Jewish city for 2,000 years, while the [adjacent] Arab village Safuriya was founded only in 1561." 

Dr. Lissak was born in "the Land," she told Arutz-7, received a doctorate in history, and lectured in Tel Aviv University and Hebrew University. She has also specialized in American history.

Other originally-Jewish cities highlighted in the series include Kafr Kana, Biram, Pekiin, Sakhnin, Gush Halav, and Arabeh.

Kafr Kana
The latest article is on Kafr Kana, just north of Upper Nazareth in the Lower Galilee.  Some 260 Arab families lived there in 1945, and it now has a population of 18,000 people, mostly Moslems and some Christians - leading many to forget its Jewish past.  It was a Jewish city during the period of the First Temple (between 2,800 and 2,400 years ago), as well as under Persian rule during the Second Temple period several centuries later.  Josephus fortified the city against the Romans in the year 66 C.E., and after Jerusalem fell, priests from the Elyashiv watch moved to Kana.  Talmudic sages lived there, and tradition has it that Rava and Rav Huna are buried there.  Remnants of a 4th-century synagogue have been found in Kana.

Kana continued to be a thriving Jewish town in the ensuing centuries, though Christians began to move in as well.  Eighty Jewish families were reported to be living there in 1473.  Rabbi Ovadiah from Bartinura, whose student visited the town, reported that he heard that its Jews, though by then a minority among Christians, were living there peacefully.  Somewhere in the 17th century, Bedouin and Arab attacks, as well as Turkish taxation, forced the Jews out, and Arabs replaced them.

During the War of Independence 300 years later, Arab terrorist gangs from Kafr Kana attacked nearby Jewish towns, until the IDF conquered it in July 1948.

Gush Halav
Another now-Arab town whose roots are Jewish is Jish, north of Tzfat (Safed).  Known also by its Jewish name Gush Halav, the town is mentioned in the Mishna as having been walled since the times of Joshua ben Nun - i.e., nearly 3,300 years ago. Gush Halav was the last Jewish stronghold in the Galilee and Golan region during the First Jewish Revolt against Rome (66-73 CE); its fall was described at length by Josephus.

As was the case with other towns and cities in the Galilee, a dynamic Jewish presence continued in Gush Halav well into the second half of the second millennium C.E.  Archaeologists have excavated a synagogue at Gush Halav that was in use from the 3rd to 6th centuries, and a Jewish burial site similar to that at Beit She'arim has been excavated.  The Prophet Joel is said to be buried in Gush Halav. 

Many Jews continued to live in Gush Halav, but by the 18th century - by which time the town was renamed Jish - their number had dwindled.  Maronite Christians then began arriving in Jish, joining the few Jews who still remained.  In 1948, most of the population left, but Arabs from nearby villages took their place.  Jish-Gush Halav now has a population of some 2,700 - none of them Jews.

(to be continued)



 
A7News: Israeli Negotiatiors Begin Talks With Syra
06.16.08 (9:46 am)   [edit]
Israeli Negotiators Begin Talks with Syria
by Hana Levi Julian

Two top Israeli negotiators, Shalom Turjeman and Yoram Turbovich, traveled to Ankara on Sunday to resume talks with Syria through Turkish mediators. The Prime Minister's Office declined to comment on the meeting, however, nor would officials confirm it was taking place.

One of the subjects reportedly on the table is the possibility that Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Syrian President Bashar Assad will meet during a conference on the Middle East to be held in France on July 13. Another likely subject is the future of the Golan Heights.

Since the Israeli-Syrian dialogue was made public several weeks ago, Syria has continued to claim that Israel promised in the past to hand over the Golan Heights.  A top Syrian official has threatened that Syria will find ways to wrest the area from the Jewish State if Israel does not agree to cede the region peacefully. Israel formally annexed the Golan in 1981.

Israeli Delegation Refused Entry to Jordan
While Israelis had no problem entering Turkey to talk to Syria, however, a routine delegation to Jordan, with whom the Jewish State has had diplomatic relations since a peace treaty was signed in October 1994, was refused entry to the Hashemite Kingdom.

"The Israeli delegation to the regional conference in Jordan on the subject of economic cooperation, organized by the Netanya Academic College, was refused entry into Jordan at the Allenby Crossing earlier today," read a government statement released to the media on Sunday evening. "As a result, the Director General of the Tourism Ministry, Sha'ul Tzemach, will be unable to participate in the tourism panel scheduled for tomorrow."

There was no explanation offered as to why the delegation was turned away and why, if any, diplomatic action was taken in response.

'Good Natured' Meeting Between Rice, Livni and Abu Ala
Top American, Israeli and Palestinian Authority officials met in Jerusalem Sunday. The meeting between US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and PA chief negotiator Ahmed Qureia (Abu Ala) ended after what was described as a genial 90-minute discussion at a Jerusalem hotel Sunday evening.

Sources at Livni's bureau said that the talks revolved around problems in the future final status agreement between Israel and the PA, rather than on the present problems.



 
A7News: Gilad Shalit Won't Be Released During 'Calm'
06.16.08 (9:46 am)   [edit]
Gilad Shalit Won't be Released During 'Calm'
by Hana Levi Julian

Israel has decided to suspend its decision of last week to demand the release of IDF Cpl. Gilad Shalit as part of a tahadiyeh, - "cooling off" or "calm" period - with Hamas terrorists in Gaza, according to numerous
As late as Sunday, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert was still saying that Shalit's release will be part of the ceasefire.
media reports. Moreover, the Jewish State also may have agreed to relent on its condition that there be an end to arms smuggling from the Sinai into Gaza.

Hamas spokesman Mahmoud Zahar told the Al-Bawaba news portal that a 'calm' could start in less than two weeks, but he insisted that the release of Gilad Shalit, who has been languishing in Hamas captivity since 2006, would not be included in the agreement. Zahar said Hamas would only free Shalit under a prisoner-terrorist exchange deal.

Israel's agreement to this condition is a complete about-face from its previous demand, sent with envoy Amos Gilad to the Egyptians last Thursday, that Shalit be freed as part of a two-step ceasefire proposal. Egypt has been mediating the negotiations between the Islamist terrorist organization Hamas and Israel.

As late as Sunday, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert was still saying that Shalit's release would be part of the ceasefire. However, it now appears that the soldier will not be freed in the first stages of the agreement.

According to the developing temporary ceasefire agreement, Israel will cease counter-terrorist operations targeting Hamas, while Hamas will stop launching rocket and mortar attacks against Israeli civilians and soldiers. The IDF would then also be required to withdraw forces from Gaza, according to the initial stage of the proposal.

Once this first stages proves successful and a complete "calm" is secured, the Gaza crossings would be reopened. In exchange, according to the initial Israeli position, Shalit would be released. Currently, however, it appears that Shalit will not be freed until Israel agrees to free Arab terrorists from its jails.

The Egyptians, for their part, said that they would initiate talks regarding a swap of Arab prisoners for Gilad Shalit only once the ceasefire begins in practice.

Hamas will deliver a final response on Monday about the proposed "cooling off period." The official Egyptian Middle East News Agency reported, "A second session of talks between Egyptian officials and the Hamas delegation will be held on Monday to know the movement's definitive position, taking into account the Israeli response."

Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu and Nissan Ratzlav-Katz contributed to this report.



 
A7News: Gilad Shalit Won't Be Released During 'Calm'
06.16.08 (9:46 am)   [edit]
Gilad Shalit Won't be Released During 'Calm'
by Hana Levi Julian

Israel has decided to suspend its decision of last week to demand the release of IDF Cpl. Gilad Shalit as part of a tahadiyeh, - "cooling off" or "calm" period - with Hamas terrorists in Gaza, according to numerous
As late as Sunday, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert was still saying that Shalit's release will be part of the ceasefire.
media reports. Moreover, the Jewish State also may have agreed to relent on its condition that there be an end to arms smuggling from the Sinai into Gaza.

Hamas spokesman Mahmoud Zahar told the Al-Bawaba news portal that a 'calm' could start in less than two weeks, but he insisted that the release of Gilad Shalit, who has been languishing in Hamas captivity since 2006, would not be included in the agreement. Zahar said Hamas would only free Shalit under a prisoner-terrorist exchange deal.

Israel's agreement to this condition is a complete about-face from its previous demand, sent with envoy Amos Gilad to the Egyptians last Thursday, that Shalit be freed as part of a two-step ceasefire proposal. Egypt has been mediating the negotiations between the Islamist terrorist organization Hamas and Israel.

As late as Sunday, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert was still saying that Shalit's release would be part of the ceasefire. However, it now appears that the soldier will not be freed in the first stages of the agreement.

According to the developing temporary ceasefire agreement, Israel will cease counter-terrorist operations targeting Hamas, while Hamas will stop launching rocket and mortar attacks against Israeli civilians and soldiers. The IDF would then also be required to withdraw forces from Gaza, according to the initial stage of the proposal.

Once this first stages proves successful and a complete "calm" is secured, the Gaza crossings would be reopened. In exchange, according to the initial Israeli position, Shalit would be released. Currently, however, it appears that Shalit will not be freed until Israel agrees to free Arab terrorists from its jails.

The Egyptians, for their part, said that they would initiate talks regarding a swap of Arab prisoners for Gilad Shalit only once the ceasefire begins in practice.

Hamas will deliver a final response on Monday about the proposed "cooling off period." The official Egyptian Middle East News Agency reported, "A second session of talks between Egyptian officials and the Hamas delegation will be held on Monday to know the movement's definitive position, taking into account the Israeli response."

Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu and Nissan Ratzlav-Katz contributed to this report.



 
A7News: Gilad Shalit Won't Be Released During 'Calm'
06.16.08 (9:45 am)   [edit]
Gilad Shalit Won't be Released During 'Calm'
by Hana Levi Julian

Israel has decided to suspend its decision of last week to demand the release of IDF Cpl. Gilad Shalit as part of a tahadiyeh, - "cooling off" or "calm" period - with Hamas terrorists in Gaza, according to numerous
As late as Sunday, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert was still saying that Shalit's release will be part of the ceasefire.
media reports. Moreover, the Jewish State also may have agreed to relent on its condition that there be an end to arms smuggling from the Sinai into Gaza.

Hamas spokesman Mahmoud Zahar told the Al-Bawaba news portal that a 'calm' could start in less than two weeks, but he insisted that the release of Gilad Shalit, who has been languishing in Hamas captivity since 2006, would not be included in the agreement. Zahar said Hamas would only free Shalit under a prisoner-terrorist exchange deal.

Israel's agreement to this condition is a complete about-face from its previous demand, sent with envoy Amos Gilad to the Egyptians last Thursday, that Shalit be freed as part of a two-step ceasefire proposal. Egypt has been mediating the negotiations between the Islamist terrorist organization Hamas and Israel.

As late as Sunday, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert was still saying that Shalit's release would be part of the ceasefire. However, it now appears that the soldier will not be freed in the first stages of the agreement.

According to the developing temporary ceasefire agreement, Israel will cease counter-terrorist operations targeting Hamas, while Hamas will stop launching rocket and mortar attacks against Israeli civilians and soldiers. The IDF would then also be required to withdraw forces from Gaza, according to the initial stage of the proposal.

Once this first stages proves successful and a complete "calm" is secured, the Gaza crossings would be reopened. In exchange, according to the initial Israeli position, Shalit would be released. Currently, however, it appears that Shalit will not be freed until Israel agrees to free Arab terrorists from its jails.

The Egyptians, for their part, said that they would initiate talks regarding a swap of Arab prisoners for Gilad Shalit only once the ceasefire begins in practice.

Hamas will deliver a final response on Monday about the proposed "cooling off period." The official Egyptian Middle East News Agency reported, "A second session of talks between Egyptian officials and the Hamas delegation will be held on Monday to know the movement's definitive position, taking into account the Israeli response."

Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu and Nissan Ratzlav-Katz contributed to this report.



 
A7News: Jerusalem, Arab Refugees Are On The Table
06.16.08 (9:45 am)   [edit]
Abbas: Jerusalem, Arab Refugees are on the Table
by Nissan Ratzlav-Katz

In his opening remarks during a joint press conference with US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in Ramallah on Sunday, Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas repeated that the issues of Jerusalem and Arab refugees, among others, are on the table in ongoing PA-Israel negotiations.

At the very start of his introductory remarks, Abbas said: "It is known that the issues we are still debating are Jerusalem, the refugees, the borders, the settlements, security and water. All of these issues, as we had said before, are on the negotiations table."

Despite the emphasis on the issue of the status of Jerusalem in the media and among politicians on the Israeli side, Abbas explained in his comments that the Arabs side sees current Jewish construction projects as the main issue holding back negotiations.

"I requested from Dr. Rice to assist us to make Israel fulfill its obligations vis-a-vis colonization," Abbas said, "because we consider settlement activity as the most important obstacle facing the political process. And the more there are dates and construction of settlements, the more this will constitute an impediment that will obstruct reaching any peace."

Again, towards the end of his remarks, Abbas repeated that the end of "settlement expansion," as he called it, "is one of the most important conditions" for reaching an agreement with Israel by year's end, as sought by the US.

Secretary Rice, as well, harshly criticized Israel for its continued construction in Jerusalem neighborhoods.

Promoting Hamas, Fatah Unity
Regarding the other negotiations he is involved in, those with the jihadist Hamas organization controlling the PA in Gaza, Abbas said, "We are moving on this track. If we succeed, it is quite important that we regain national unity." The solution he seeks with Hamas "is comprehensive, entire, in order to regain the national unity between the Gaza Strip and the West Bank," he concluded.

At the same time, during the question-and-answer period, Abbas called the Hamas takeover of Gaza a "coup d'etat," but added that his Fatah-controlled PA "never forsook the Palestinian people living there. We are still sending salaries to 77,000 civil servants and we are still paying 58 percent of our budget to enable the people of Gaza to continue living."

In the meantime, however, Abbas is leaving Egypt to negotiate with Israel over the situation in Gaza, which Hamas terrorists and their allies are using as rocket-launching pads aimed at Israel. "We hope they will conclude a speedy agreement, because it has been too long of a suffering and we hope that a solution will arrive soon," Abbas said.



 
A7News: Olmert: Jerusalem Construction Will Continue
06.16.08 (9:42 am)   [edit]

Olmert: Jerusalem Construction Will Continue

by Hillel Fendel

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert informed visiting U.S. Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice that, despite her criticism, Israel will continue building in Jerusalem.

Rice, visiting Israel on Sunday and Monday for yet another attempt to extract Israeli concessions that she feels may bring an Israeli-Palestinian agreement closer, said that Israel's announced plans to build in Jerusalem are "having a negative effect."

Rice further said that the "continued building and the settlement activity has the potential to harm the negotiations going forward," called it a "vioation of the Roadmap," and said sternly that she plans to bring up the matter with Israeli officials.

Olmert: These Neighborhoods Will Remain Israeli
Olmert, meeting on Sunday with Rice, told her that the construction would continue "in the Jewish neighborhoods that are expected to remain Israeli under any agreement."  He was referring most specifically to the latest-announced plan: the construction of 1,300 apartments in the hareidi-religious neighborhood of Ramat Shlomo. 

Ramat Shlomo is situated east of Ramot and west of French Hill, upon hills that were totally barren during the 19 years they were under Jordanian control.  Nearly a year ago, the Antiquities Authority announced that it had found in Ramat Shlomo the quarry that supplied the giant stones for the building of the Temple Mount.

The Jerusalem Municipality also announced, late last week, its approval of a 12-year-plan to build close to 40,000 new apartments in various city neighborhoods.  Some of the apartments will be built in Gilo, Pisgat Ze'ev, Ramot and Har Homa - all located in areas formerly under Jordanian control.

Industry and Trade Minister Eli Yishai (Shas) made headlines when he came out strongly against Rice: "I would like to know how it would look if someone would say that the U.S. has no right to develop Washington... Rice doesn't consult with anyone before approving a new city in the U.S."



 
Buddhism: Your Daily Meditation 16 June 2008
06.16.08 (9:33 am)   [edit]
 A wonderful painting is the result of the feeling in your fingers. If you have the feeling of the thickness of the ink in your brush, the painting is already there before you paint. When you dip your brush into the ink you already know the result of your drawing, or else you cannot paint. So before you do something, "being" is there, the result is there. Even though you look as if you were sitting quietly, all your activity, past and present, is included, and the result of your sitting is also already there. - D.T. Suzuki


 
Please Click To Save Rainforests
06.16.08 (9:20 am)   [edit]
http://www.therainforestsite.com/tpc/ERR_061608_TRS

 
Quotes by Dalai Lam
06.14.08 (6:21 pm)   [edit]

Quotes by Dalai Lama

It is... very helpful to think of adversity not so much as a threat to our peace of mind but rather as the very means by which patience is attained.

Dalai Lama : The current Dalai Lama, 14th


 
The Daily Enlightenment - June 14th: Threshold of Pain
06.14.08 (5:52 pm)   [edit]
We all have our thresholds of pain. It is important to realise that as ordinary sentient beings without a big heart for tolerance, we will break down in despair when our thresholds are crossed.  The greatest pain to be experienced perhaps is the moment of departure at death. The pain is likely to be physical and mental. And all these come from us being attached to life and the loved in life. Physical pain is there because of illness. And mental pain is there due to clinging to wanting another lease of life. Imagine gasping for breath more and more, when you obviously cannot take in another breath. Is this not reminiscent of Hell? It is this craving, so powerful, that "forces" us back to Samsara ceaselessly. May we all prepare to cross this threshold gracefully. The preparation has to start now, while we can still catch our breath, with ease.


 
Daily Readings from the Word of Buddha
06.14.08 (5:38 pm)   [edit]
One whose faith in the Tathagata is settled, fixed, established, firm, unshaken by any recluse or Brahmin, any god, Mara, Brahma or anyone in the world can truly say: "I am the true child of the Lord, born of his mouth, born of Dhamma, created by Dhamma, an heir of Dhamma."


 
Daily Dharma
06.14.08 (3:24 pm)   [edit]

June 14, 2008
Tricycle's Daily Dharma

The Fear at the base of human existence

Intelligent practice always deals with just one thing: the fear at the base of human existence, the fear that I am not. And of course I am not, but the last thing I want to know is that. I am impermanence itself in a rapidly changing human form that appears solid. I fear to see what I am: an ever-changing energy field... So good practice is about fear. Fear takes the form of constantly thinking, speculating, analyzing, fantasizing. With all that activity we create a cloud cover to keep ourselves safe in make-believe practice.

True practice is not safe; it's anything but safe. But we don't like that, so we obsess with our feverish efforts to achieve our version of the personal dream. Such obsessive practice is itself just another cloud between ourselves and reality. The only thing that matters is seeing with an impersonal searchlight: seeing things as they are. When the personal barrier drops away, why do we have to call it anything? We just live our lives. And when we die, we just die. No problem anywhere.

--Charlotte Joko Beck, Everyday Zen, from Everyday Mind, a Tricycle book
edited by Jean Smith



 
Daily Enlightenment - June 12: Sexual Tension
06.12.08 (10:19 pm)   [edit]

There exist sexual tension between the sexes at every level to some extent, between strangers, and even siblings, often subtle though. I do not like this feeling of tension. I used to feel uneasy when around the opposite sex. But if we were to see beyond the outer, we would see that we are all simply sentient beings in search of happiness, while harbouring the same perfect Buddha within. Recalling this brings me a sense of reverence and peace rather than excitement or lust.

It was the Buddha who uttered, "There is nothing in this world that attracts a man more than the shape of a woman. There is nothing in this world that attracts a woman more than the shape of a man." As I learn more about Buddhism and equanimity, I begin to feel more at ease. I began to see that sexual tension exists not so much "naturally" or "biologically," but more out of our attachment to superficial appearances. Have we seen the essence beneath the superficial?



 
Elder's Meditation of the Day - June 11th
06.11.08 (9:41 pm)   [edit]

Elder's Meditation of the Day June 11
"Behold, my bothers, the spring has come; the earth has received the embraces of the sun and we shall soon see the results of that love!"
--Sitting Bull, SIOUX
Spring is the season of love. Spring is the season of new life, new relationships. It is the springtime that really reacts to the new position of Father Sun. New life forms all over the planet. Life is abundant. New cycles are created. Mother Earth changes colors, the flowers are abundant. It is the time for humans to observe nature and let nature create within us the feeling of Spring. We should let ourselves renew. We should let go of the feeling of Winter. We should be joyful and energetic.

My Maker, let me, today, feel the feelings of Spring.



 
Daily Enlightenment - June 11th: Teaching of All the Buddhas
06.11.08 (9:40 pm)   [edit]

The Cessation of all Evil.
The Cultivation of all Good.
The Purification of the Mind.
This is the Teaching of all Buddhas.

-The Dhammapada (The Buddha)

Nice simple sweet summary for what Buddhism is all about.
Even a 3 year old can say that
But even an 80 year old might not be able to do that.
Seems like we are mostly between 3 and 80?
So how?

Same old timeless reminder

As long as you adhere not to it,
you have no right to be tired of it:
PRACTISE!
Get practical.
Practise what you preach.
Practise what the Buddha preached.

Practice makes perfection.

 



 
Daily Readings from the Word of the Buddha - June 10th
06.11.08 (9:39 pm)   [edit]

The wanderer Samandakani asked Venerable Sariputta: "Pray, your reverence, what is good and what is bad?"

"Your reverence, rebirth is bad and the ceasing of rebirth is good. Where there is rebirth this bad may be seen: cold and heat, hunger and thirst, defecation and urination, contact with fire, rod and spear, even one's own relatives and friends abuse one when they congregate together. But when there is the ceasing of rebirth this good may be seen: no cold or heat, no hunger and thirst, no defecation and urination, no contact with fire, rod and spear and no abuse from one's relatives and friends when they congregate together."

 



 
Daily Readings from the Word of the Buddha - June 11th
06.11.08 (9:36 pm)   [edit]
There are these four perfect efforts. What four? Concerning this, one generates desire to prevent the arising of evil unprofitable states that have not yet arisen. One makes an effort, sets going energy, lays hold of and exerts the mind to this end. One generates desire for the abandoning of evil unprofitable states that have already arisen. One makes an effort, sets going energy, lays hold of and exerts the mind to this end. One generates desire for the arising of profitable states that have not yet arisen. One makes an effort, sets going energy, lays hold of and exerts the mind to this end. And one generates desire for the persisting, the non-confusion, the further development, the increase, cultivation and fulfilment of profitable states that have already arisen. One makes an effort, sets going energy, lays hold of and exerts the mind to this end.


 
The Daily Enlightenment - June 9th: Words
06.09.08 (12:38 pm)   [edit]

A word conjures 10,000 different thoughts in 10,000 different minds.

What do the Buddha's words
conjure in yours?

Is your thought but one in a million?
How is it different?
What makes you so sure that's what the Buddha really meant?

The world thrives largely on illusions,
conjured by delusions.
Be ever clear.

Even the words of the Enlightened
can become deadly paths for the too deluded.
Cling not to words.
Cling not to your perceptions of them.
Words are afterall just words-
Guides and not the goal.

Whatever it is,
However much,
I hope you understand what I mean.
Well, my words can only help you this much...

 



 
Daily Readings from the Word of the Buddha
06.09.08 (12:34 pm)   [edit]

Venerable Subhuti and a believing monk came to the Lord, sat down, and the Lord said to Subhuti: "Who, Subhuti, is this monk with you?"

"Sir, he is a believer, the son of a believing disciple; he went forth from a believer's home."

"But, Subhuti, does he have the traditional characteristics of a believer?"

"Now is the time, Lord, to tell me the traditional characteristics of a believer, then I will know whether or not this monk has them."

"Then, listen carefully and I will speak. Concerning this, a monk is virtuous, he lives restrained by the rules of training, he is well-equipped with practice, seeing danger in the slightest fault, and he follows the precepts and applies himself to them. Furthermore, he has heard much, he learns it in mind and remembers what he has heard. Those teachings that are beautiful in the beginning, beautiful in the middle and beautiful in the end, in both the letter and the spirit, laying down the holy life in all its perfection and purity - those teachings he listens to much, remembers, recites, ponders over and penetrates with wisdom.

"Again, he has friendship with the beautiful, fellowship with the beautiful, companionship with the beautiful.

"Again, he is pleasant to speak to, endowed with the qualities that make it easy to speak to; he is patient and clever at grasping the meaning of instructions.

"Yet again, in all dealings with his fellows in the holy life, great or small, he is clever and energetic, possessing the ability to give proper consideration to them, knowing what is the right thing and how to do it.

"Yet again, he delights in Dhamma, he rejoices greatly in higher Dhamma and higher discipline, and is pleasant to speak with about it.

"Yet again, he has resolute energy for abandoning bad qualities, he is stout and strong in acquiring good qualities, not shirking the burden of good qualities.

"Yet again, he can attain easily and without difficulty the four jhanas which are of the clearest consciousness and are connected with happiness here and now.

"Yet again, he can recall his former lives - one, two, five, ten, a hundred, a hundred thousand.

"Yet again, with god-like vision, purified and surpassing that of ordinary men, he can see the rising and passing away of beings.

"And finally, by the destruction of the defilements, in this very life and by his own comprehension, he attains freedom of mind, freedom through wisdom and abides in it. These, Subhuti, are the traditional characteristics of a believer."



 
Daily Enlightenment - Spiritual Friend
06.08.08 (10:02 pm)   [edit]

A spiritual friend is a good mirror.
He is frank and sees you not without your faults.
He voices them out to you.
Not out of complaint but of concern for your spiritual well-being.

A worldly friend is a stained mirror.
He is not totally frank and sees your faults only sometimes.
He only voices them out to you sometimes.
More out of complaint than concern for your spiritual
    well-being.

Sometimes others are spiritual friends to us.
Sometimes others are worldly friends to us.
Sometimes we are spiritual friends to others.
Sometimes we are worldly friends to others.
   
Have you been a spiritual friend to yourself and others lately?     
Learn to be one from the perfect spiritual friend of all,
who was friend to all-the Buddha.



 
Daily Enlightenment - Spiritual Friend
06.08.08 (10:00 pm)   [edit]

A spiritual friend is a good mirror.
He is frank and sees you not without your faults.
He voices them out to you.
Not out of complaint but of concern for your spiritual well-being.

A worldly friend is a stained mirror.
He is not totally frank and sees your faults only sometimes.
He only voices them out to you sometimes.
More out of complaint than concern for your spiritual
    well-being.

Sometimes others are spiritual friends to us.
Sometimes others are worldly friends to us.
Sometimes we are spiritual friends to others.
Sometimes we are worldly friends to others.
   
Have you been a spiritual friend to yourself and others lately?     
Learn to be one from the perfect spiritual friend of all,
who was friend to all-the Buddha.



 
The Daily Enlightenment - June 7th: Happy Buddhist
06.07.08 (4:28 pm)   [edit]

Personally, I see the ideal Buddhist to be a very happy person. Why so? Simply because he is one on his way towards Buddhahood. In short, he is happy because he is going to be VERY happy!

You see, all Buddhists should be incredibly happy people because they have discovered, and practise the Buddha's teachings. A good Buddhist sees clearly his sufferings and their causes (First and Second Noble Truths). In fact, he sees this so clearly that he is on his way to True Happiness (Third Noble Truth) by the practice of the Dharma (Fourth Noble Truth).

So you see, a good Buddhist is a happy one. Don't be a "half-sided" Buddhist that is stuck on the First and Second Noble Truths, who end up lamenting and agreeing totally that life is full of suffering because of greed, hatred and delusion without learning how to get oneself and others out of it! Be happy! And bring happiness to others!



 
The Daily Enlightenment - June 7th: Happy Buddhist
06.07.08 (4:28 pm)   [edit]

Personally, I see the ideal Buddhist to be a very happy person. Why so? Simply because he is one on his way towards Buddhahood. In short, he is happy because he is going to be VERY happy!

You see, all Buddhists should be incredibly happy people because they have discovered, and practise the Buddha's teachings. A good Buddhist sees clearly his sufferings and their causes (First and Second Noble Truths). In fact, he sees this so clearly that he is on his way to True Happiness (Third Noble Truth) by the practice of the Dharma (Fourth Noble Truth).

So you see, a good Buddhist is a happy one. Don't be a "half-sided" Buddhist that is stuck on the First and Second Noble Truths, who end up lamenting and agreeing totally that life is full of suffering because of greed, hatred and delusion without learning how to get oneself and others out of it! Be happy! And bring happiness to others!



 
The Daily Enlightenment - June 1st: Nature
06.07.08 (4:26 pm)   [edit]

The Buddha was born under a tree.
The Buddha was Enlightened under a Bodhi tree.
The Buddha was grateful to the Bodhi tree
that sheltered Him before His Enlightenment.
It is said that He gazed at it in gratitude for seven days.
The Buddha taught in the shelter of trees and groves.
The Buddha passed into Parinirvana between two trees.

We see that the Buddha was one with nature and saw the importance of its relationship with us all. Respect nature. We belong to nature. Nature does not belong to us. Destroy nature and we destroy ourselves, for we are nature. Buddhism is a green religion! The next time you see a tree, be it a Bodhi tree or not, gaze at it respectfully. Realise the grand possibilities that might just happen because of this tree. The grandest thing that last happened under a tree was the Buddha's attainment of Enlightenment. Imagine that.



 
Buddhism: Philosophy or Religion?
06.07.08 (9:26 am)   [edit]

Buddhism: Philosophy or Religion?

Through the week-long sesshin Zen students had been sitting, robed and still, in the zendo. We had kept silence, except when we were chanting. We engaged in rituals. We listened to talks given by ordained priests and monks. We bowed a lot.

Then sesshin was done, and we students left the zendo and spilled out into the sunshine, chattering and hugging. The husband of a sister student arrived to take his wife home. He approached a group of us and said, Of course, Buddhism is a philosophy. It's not a religion.

No one argued. I think we were all too tired to argue. But no one agreed, either. What we'd been doing all week certainly looked and felt like religion.


This or That?

In my experience, people who say Buddhism is a philosophy and not a religion usually mean it as a compliment. They are trying to say, I think, that Buddhism is something other than the superstitious rubbish they believe religion to be.

In this view, religion is a jumble of primitive folklore that humankind drags through the ages like a cosmic security blanket. Religion is passionate and irrational and messy. But philosophy is the flower of human intellect. It is reasonable and civilized. Religion inspires war and atrocity; at worst, philosophy incites mild arguments over coffee and dessert.

Buddhism -- some Buddhism, anyway -- is a practice of contemplation and inquiry that doesn't depend on belief in God or a soul or anything supernatural. Therefore, the theory goes, it can't be a religion.

Killing the Buddha

Sam Harris expressed this view of Buddhism in his essay "Killing the Buddha" (Shambhala Sun, March 2006). Harris admires Buddhism, calling it "the richest source of contemplative wisdom that any civilization has produced." But he thinks it would be even better if it could be pried away from Buddhists.

"The wisdom of the Buddha is currently trapped within the religion of Buddhism," Harris laments. "Worse still, the continued identification of Buddhists with Buddhism lends tacit support to the religious differences in our world. ... Given the degree to which religion still inspires human conflict, and impedes genuine inquiry, I believe that merely being a self-described 'Buddhist' is to be complicit in the world's violence and ignorance to an unacceptable degree."

"Killing the Buddha" is from a Zen saying -- If you meet the Buddha on the road, kill him. Harris interprets this as a warning against turning the Buddha into a "religious fetish" and thereby missing the essence of what he taught.

But this is Harris's interpretation of the phrase. In Zen, "killing the Buddha" means to extinguish ideas and concepts about the Buddha in order to realize the True Buddha. Harris is not killing the Buddha; he is merely replacing a religious idea of the Buddha with a non-religious one more to his liking.

Head Boxes

In many ways, the "religion versus philosophy" argument is an artificial one. The neat separation between religion and philosophy we insist on today didn't exist in western civilization until the 18th century or so, and there never was such a separation in eastern civilization. To insist that Buddhism must be one thing and not the other amounts to forcing an ancient product into modern packaging.

In Buddhism, this sort of conceptual packaging is considered to be a barrier to enlightenment. Without realizing it we use prefabricated concepts about ourselves and the world around us to organize and interpret what we learn and experience. One of the functions of Buddhist practice is to sweep away all the artificial filing cabinets in our heads so that we see the world as-it-is.

In the same way, arguing about whether Buddhism is a philosophy or a religion isn't an argument about Buddhism. It's an argument about our biases regarding philosophy and religion. Buddhism is what it is.

Dogma Versus Mysticism

The Buddhism-as-philosophy argument leans heavily on the fact that Buddhism is less dogmatic than most other religions. This argument, however, ignores mysticism.

Mysticism is hard to define, but very basically it is the direct and intimate experience of ultimate reality, or the Absolute, or God. The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy has a more detailed explanation of mysticism.

Buddhism is deeply mystical, and mysticism belongs to religion more than philosophy. Through meditation, Siddhartha Gautama intimately experienced Thusness beyond subject and object, self and other, life and death. The enlightenment experience is the sine qua non of Buddhism.

Transcendence

What is religion? Those who argue that Buddhism is not a religion tend to define religion as a belief system, which is a western notion. Religious historian Karen Armstrong defines religion as a search for transcendence, going beyond the self.

It's said that the only way to understand Buddhism is to practice it. Through practice, one perceives its transformative power. A Buddhism that remains in the realm of concepts and ideas is not Buddhism. The robes, ritual and other trappings of religion are not a corruption of Buddhism, as some imagine, but expressions of it.

There's a Zen story in which a professor visited a Japanese master to inquire about Zen. The master served tea. When the visitor's cup was full, the master kept pouring. Tea spilled out of the cup and over the table.

"The cup is full!" said the professor. "No more will go in!"

"Like this cup," said the master, "You are full of your own opinions and speculations. How can I show you Zen unless you first empty your cup?"

If you want to understand Buddhism, empty your cup.



 
Buddhism: Philosophy or Religion?
06.07.08 (9:26 am)   [edit]

Buddhism: Philosophy or Religion?

Through the week-long sesshin Zen students had been sitting, robed and still, in the zendo. We had kept silence, except when we were chanting. We engaged in rituals. We listened to talks given by ordained priests and monks. We bowed a lot.

Then sesshin was done, and we students left the zendo and spilled out into the sunshine, chattering and hugging. The husband of a sister student arrived to take his wife home. He approached a group of us and said, Of course, Buddhism is a philosophy. It's not a religion.

No one argued. I think we were all too tired to argue. But no one agreed, either. What we'd been doing all week certainly looked and felt like religion.


This or That?

In my experience, people who say Buddhism is a philosophy and not a religion usually mean it as a compliment. They are trying to say, I think, that Buddhism is something other than the superstitious rubbish they believe religion to be.

In this view, religion is a jumble of primitive folklore that humankind drags through the ages like a cosmic security blanket. Religion is passionate and irrational and messy. But philosophy is the flower of human intellect. It is reasonable and civilized. Religion inspires war and atrocity; at worst, philosophy incites mild arguments over coffee and dessert.

Buddhism -- some Buddhism, anyway -- is a practice of contemplation and inquiry that doesn't depend on belief in God or a soul or anything supernatural. Therefore, the theory goes, it can't be a religion.

Killing the Buddha

Sam Harris expressed this view of Buddhism in his essay "Killing the Buddha" (Shambhala Sun, March 2006). Harris admires Buddhism, calling it "the richest source of contemplative wisdom that any civilization has produced." But he thinks it would be even better if it could be pried away from Buddhists.

"The wisdom of the Buddha is currently trapped within the religion of Buddhism," Harris laments. "Worse still, the continued identification of Buddhists with Buddhism lends tacit support to the religious differences in our world. ... Given the degree to which religion still inspires human conflict, and impedes genuine inquiry, I believe that merely being a self-described 'Buddhist' is to be complicit in the world's violence and ignorance to an unacceptable degree."

"Killing the Buddha" is from a Zen saying -- If you meet the Buddha on the road, kill him. Harris interprets this as a warning against turning the Buddha into a "religious fetish" and thereby missing the essence of what he taught.

But this is Harris's interpretation of the phrase. In Zen, "killing the Buddha" means to extinguish ideas and concepts about the Buddha in order to realize the True Buddha. Harris is not killing the Buddha; he is merely replacing a religious idea of the Buddha with a non-religious one more to his liking.

Head Boxes

In many ways, the "religion versus philosophy" argument is an artificial one. The neat separation between religion and philosophy we insist on today didn't exist in western civilization until the 18th century or so, and there never was such a separation in eastern civilization. To insist that Buddhism must be one thing and not the other amounts to forcing an ancient product into modern packaging.

In Buddhism, this sort of conceptual packaging is considered to be a barrier to enlightenment. Without realizing it we use prefabricated concepts about ourselves and the world around us to organize and interpret what we learn and experience. One of the functions of Buddhist practice is to sweep away all the artificial filing cabinets in our heads so that we see the world as-it-is.

In the same way, arguing about whether Buddhism is a philosophy or a religion isn't an argument about Buddhism. It's an argument about our biases regarding philosophy and religion. Buddhism is what it is.

Dogma Versus Mysticism

The Buddhism-as-philosophy argument leans heavily on the fact that Buddhism is less dogmatic than most other religions. This argument, however, ignores mysticism.

Mysticism is hard to define, but very basically it is the direct and intimate experience of ultimate reality, or the Absolute, or God. The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy has a more detailed explanation of mysticism.

Buddhism is deeply mystical, and mysticism belongs to religion more than philosophy. Through meditation, Siddhartha Gautama intimately experienced Thusness beyond subject and object, self and other, life and death. The enlightenment experience is the sine qua non of Buddhism.

Transcendence

What is religion? Those who argue that Buddhism is not a religion tend to define religion as a belief system, which is a western notion. Religious historian Karen Armstrong defines religion as a search for transcendence, going beyond the self.

It's said that the only way to understand Buddhism is to practice it. Through practice, one perceives its transformative power. A Buddhism that remains in the realm of concepts and ideas is not Buddhism. The robes, ritual and other trappings of religion are not a corruption of Buddhism, as some imagine, but expressions of it.

There's a Zen story in which a professor visited a Japanese master to inquire about Zen. The master served tea. When the visitor's cup was full, the master kept pouring. Tea spilled out of the cup and over the table.

"The cup is full!" said the professor. "No more will go in!"

"Like this cup," said the master, "You are full of your own opinions and speculations. How can I show you Zen unless you first empty your cup?"

If you want to understand Buddhism, empty your cup.



 
Harness Your Brainpower
06.05.08 (2:02 pm)   [edit]
HARNESS YOUR BRAINPOWER
by Harvey Mackay


Knowledge is power.

How much do you know about everything? How much do you know about a lot of things? Okay, how much do you know about a few things?

If these seem like odd questions, stop and ponder what you know versus what you don't. Then consider how you would get along if you needed good information on topics that were outside your comfort zone.

As former U.S. President Woodrow Wilson said, "I not only use all the brains I have but all that I can borrow."

I would add this: and all that I can buy, if necessary.

I rely on experts for all kinds of information. I preach the importance of building a network of experts before you need them so that they are there when you do. Whether it's a surgeon, realtor, auto mechanic or a master salesperson, I want the best. And I will return the favor whenever I can, whether it's business advice; a reference; or tickets to a sporting event, concert or the theatre.

But let me make this very clear: I also rely on my own instincts, because eventually, it all comes back to me. I weigh the information I receive from others, and make the best judgment I can. For instance, I am the first to admit that most technology baffles me. But show me how a new gizmo can make my life easier, my business more successful, save me time, or just add to my fun, and I'm sold. That's why I use a Blackberry.

I try to absorb and retain as much information from my experts as I can. You never know when it will come in handy, or when you will find another application for it.

Carl Ally, founder of Ally & Gargano, one of the 20th century's most successful advertising agencies, had an interesting take on knowledge: "The creative person wants to be a know-it-all. He wants to know about all kinds of things: ancient history, nineteenth century mathematics, current-manufacturing techniques, flower arranging and hog futures. Because he never knows when these ideas might come together to form a new idea. It may happen six minutes later or six months or six years down to road. But he has faith that it will happen."

All of us have the ability to gain more knowledge. The brain is amazing. While the old theory that we use only 10 percent of our brains has been widely debunked, there's plenty of evidence that we can increase our brainpower, retention and focus. Plenty of books and websites offer all kinds of help. I'm not endorsing any specific method, but I would encourage you to check out ways to expand your horizons.

In the meantime, you can take some basic steps to improve your knowledge:

•Read. Pick out books, newspapers, websites, encyclopedias, anything with information that teaches you something you didn't already know. Play Trivial Pursuit or watch Jeopardy. Learn something new every day. In my opinion, there are no such things as useless facts. If it's part of our world, it's worth knowing. I will get on my soapbox here again: embrace lifelong learning.

•Listen. Sounds simple enough, but it's so easy to be distracted. Focus on the speaker. If you don't hear it the first time, ask the person to repeat it. Make sure you understand what's been said. You will be surprised what you can learn.

•Pay attention to what's happening around you. According to MENSA, the organization for people with high IQs, current research shows that at least 52 percent of our intelligence is based on our environment.

•Exercise and eat healthy. What's good for the body is also good for the brain. Another reason not to put off taking care of yourself!

•Get some sleep. Our country is chronically sleep-deprived, which negatively affects our thought processes. So along with "beauty sleep," go for the "smart sleep."

You will soon learn that you are capable of more than you imagined. You will also learn to recognize your limitations. If you know that you don't know something, or don't know how to find an answer, you'll know it's time to ask for help. Tap into all the brains you need - they just might not all be housed in your head.

Mackay's Moral: Sometimes being smart means recognizing when you're not.


 
The Daily Enlightenment - June 5th: Chains
06.05.08 (9:59 am)   [edit]

Don't think you can just shake it off like that,
that tail of habit trailing behind you, stuck on you.

Though it trails along behind,
not seen too obviously by others, or even yourself,
has it not already grown to be part of you already?
Each day, it holds onto you tighter and tighter unknowingly.

Quit it now!
Rid that bad habit of yours.

Don't say you know you know it should be shed
and that you can quit it any time.
Because you are doing nothing to prove you can let it go.
Prove it to yourself if you dare.
Be honest.
Can you let it go for good?
If you should, you should.

Your tail is your chain of addictions and attachment-
your fondness for cigarettes, coffee, wine, sex...

An attachment is a weakness.
No matter how small it is,
it is one of the chains that shackle you to Samsara.

Remember
you have a thousand other chains to free yourself from.
You had better start freeing yourself now.

Don't tell me you can do it any time.
Just prove it to yourself and me.
Out of compassion,
I dare you!
Any guts to take up the challenge?



 
Buddhism & G-d or Creator - Tenzin Gyatso 14th Dalai Lama
06.04.08 (2:19 pm)   [edit]

"Buddhism does not accept a theory of God, or a creator. According to Buddhism, one's own actions are the creator, ultimately. Some people say that, from a certain angle, Buddhism is not a religion but rather a science of mind. Religion has much involvement with faith. Sometimes it seems that there is quite a distance between a way of thinking based on faith and one entirely based on experiment, remaining skeptical. Unless you find something through investigation, you do not want to accept it as fact. From one viewpoint, Buddhism is a religion, from another viewpoint Buddhism is a science of mind and not a religion. Buddhism can be a bridge between these two sides. Therefore, with this conviction I try to have closer ties with scientists, mainly in the fields of cosmology, psychology, neurobiology and physics. In these fields there are insights to share, and to a certain extent we can work together."



 
Happiness and Satisfaction - Tenzin Gyatso 14th Dalai Lama
06.04.08 (2:15 pm)   [edit]
  • "Human happiness and human satisfaction must ultimately come from within oneself. It is wrong to expect some final satisfaction to come from money or from a computer."


  •  
    Quote from Tenzin Gyatso, 14th Dalai Lama
    06.04.08 (2:13 pm)   [edit]
  • "Buddhism does not accept a theory of God, or a creator. According to Buddhism, one's own actions are the creator, ultimately. Some people say that, from a certain angle, Buddhism is not a religion but rather a science of mind. Religion has much involvement with faith. Sometimes it seems that there is quite a distance between a way of thinking based on faith and one entirely based on experiment, remaining skeptical. Unless you find something through investigation, you do not want to accept it as fact. From one viewpoint, Buddhism is a religion, from another viewpoint Buddhism is a science of mind and not a religion. Buddhism can be a bridge between these two sides. Therefore, with this conviction I try to have closer ties with scientists, mainly in the fields of cosmology, psychology, neurobiology and physics. In these fields there are insights to share, and to a certain extent we can work together."


  •  
    Daily Reading from the Word of Buddha
    06.04.08 (12:50 pm)   [edit]

    The Brahmin âramadanda said: "What is the cause, Master Kaccana, what is the reason why nobles, Brahmins and householders all quarrel with each other?"

    "They do so because of their bondage and servitude to sensual pleasures, their attachment to and greed for sensual pleasures."

    "What is the cause, Master Kaccana, what is the reason why recluses quarrel with recluses?"

    "They do so because of their bondage and servitude to opinions, their attachment to and greed for opinions."

     



     
    A very interesting blog to see ....
    05.30.08 (8:33 am)   [edit]

    http://anamcarazenbuddhistchurchenlightnment.blogspot.com/

    Seems to be associated with http://groups.yahoo.com/group/AnamCaraZenBuddhistChurchOfEnlightenment/



     
    The Celtic Cross - Was the Celtic Cross an Ancient Instrument for ....
    05.30.08 (8:31 am)   [edit]

    measuring time?

    Why has the wheel cross become a religious symbol?

    Why is it sometimes used on Xtian gravestones?

    Why is its tru purpose & capability lost in the mists of time?

    http://www.crichtonmiller.com/



     
    The Buddhist Concept of Impermanence
    05.22.08 (10:44 pm)   [edit]
    The Buddhist Concept of Impermanence Early Buddhism dealt with the problem of impermanence in a very rationale manner. This concept is known as anicca in Buddhism, according to which, impermanence is an undeniable and inescapable fact of human existence from which nothing that belongs to this earth is ever free. Buddhism declares that there are five processes on which no human being has control and which none can ever change. These five processes are namely, the process of growing old, of not falling sick, of dying, of decay of things that are perishable and of the passing away of that which is liable to pass. Buddhism however suggests that escape from these is possible and it's through Nirvana. Hinduism also believes in the impermanent nature of life. But it deals with this problem differently. According to Hinduism, impermanence can be overcome by locating and uniting with the center of permanence that exists within oneself. This center is the Soul or the self that is immortal, permanent and ever stable. According to Hinduism, Atman is the fundamental truth that exists in every being, while at the microcosmic level it is Brahman who is the fundamental and supreme truth of all existence. He who realizes Atman verily becomes Brahman and attains immortality. The Buddha differed radically with this most fundamental concept of Hinduism and in line with his preaching the early Buddhists did not believe in the existence of a permanent and fixed reality which could be referred to as either God or soul. According to them what was apparent and verifiable about our existence was the continuous change it undergoes. Thus early Buddhism declares that in this world there is nothing that is fixed and permanent. Every thing is subject to change and alteration. "Decay is inherent in all component things," declared the Buddha and his followers accepted that existence was a flux, and a continuous becoming. According to the teachings of the Buddha, life is comparable to a river. It is a progressive moment, a successive series of different moments, joining together to give the impression of one continuous flow. It moves from cause to cause, effect to effect, one point to another, one state of existence to another, giving an outward impression that it is one continuous and unified movement, where as in reality it is not. The river of yesterday is not the same as the river of today. The river of this moment is not going to be the same as the river of the next moment. So does life. It changes continuously, becomes something or the other from moment to moment. Take for example the life of an individual. It is a fallacy to believe that a person would remain the same person during his entire life time. He changes every moment. He actually lives and dies but for a moment, or lives and dies moment by moment, as each moment leads to the next. A person is what he is in the context of the time in which he exists. It is an illusion to believe that the person you have seen just now is the same as the person you are just now seeing or the person whom you are seeing now will be the same as the person you will see after a few moments. Even from a scientific point of view this is true. We know cell divisions take place in each living being continuously. Old cells in our bodies die and yield place continuously to the new ones that are forming. Like the waves in a sea, every moment, many thoughts arise and die in each individual . Psychologically and physically he is never the same all the time. Technically speaking, no individual is ever composed of the same amount of energy. Mental stuff and cellular material all the time. He is subject to change and the change is a continuous movement. Impermanence and change are thus the undeniable truths of our existence. What is real is the existing moment, the present that is a product of the past, or a result of the previous causes and actions. Because of ignorance, an ordinary mind conceives them all to be part of one continuous reality. But in truth they are not. The various stages in the life of a man, the childhood, the adulthood, the old age are not the same at any given time. The child is not the same when he grows up and becomes a young man, nor when the latter turns into an old man. The seed is not the tree, though it produces the tree, and the fruit is also not the tree, though it is produced by the tree. The concept of impermanence and continuous becoming is central to early Buddhist teachings. It is by becoming aware of it, by observing it and by understanding it, one can find a suitable remedy for the sorrow of human life and achieve liberation from the process of anicca or impermanence. from - www.hinduwebsite.com

     
    Daily Wisdom
    05.21.08 (3:23 pm)   [edit]
    Don't think. See. Bhante Gunaratana Mindfulness in Plain English

     
    One Becomes a Buddhist .....
    05.21.08 (9:09 am)   [edit]
    One becomes a Buddhist simply by conscientiously practicing the trachings of the Buddha. The ceremony of taking refuge at best is a external affirmation, otherwise is purely rhetoric as far as practical cultivation goes. Taking refuge basically means that: 1. After your own research, you have concluded that the Buddha is indeed the enlightened one and you look up to him as a perfect model. 2. Knows that his teaching (aka Dharma or Dhamma) is for the good of one and all and hence, try to live up to it. 3. Seeking the community of monks and nuns (Sangha) to help you in your quest of understanding and practicing HIS teaching and message. This is what really entails in "taking refuge", and not some empty rituals in front of some statues. http://en.allexperts.com/q/Buddhists-948/Becoming-Buddhist.htm

     
    Buddhism .... Commentary on First Few Lines of Last Post
    05.21.08 (9:08 am)   [edit]
    I find it interesting that Buddhism isn't a religion. Rather it is 'the most profound & wholesome education based on forty-nine years of Buddha Shakyamuni's teachings for all sentient beings.' A lecture in 1923 at the University of Zhong-Shan backs it up. The article then goes on to explain the educational objective of Buddhism. To me, this all means, and proves, one can be Buddhist & still maintain their original faith. I, for one, have been much more in line with being spiritual; someone who believes there's a higher power. I can't really say this being fits in to any one religion specifically. I also can't say either that this higher power can't or doesn't. Most organized religions tho, I find tend to be taken too much in the wrong direction by so many of the followers. Almost everything gets taken way out of proportion. People beating each other over the head, both literally & figuratively, with what that person percieves as a wrong done by the other person; a wrong in how that person is fulfilling their religious requirements of that particular religion. That just is soooooooooooo wrong to do. I don't care which religion it is. Who has that right to do it? Mostly those doing the accusing of someone doing something wrong are the ones who need to just shut the heck up & take a good, very long look at themselves. They'd find their little puddle of mud is so far beyond mirky & unclear, they have no right(s) what so ever to talk about anyone else let alone accuse anyone else about anything and should just leave everyone else alone. Go deal with your own shit pile first.

     
    05.21.08 (8:49 am)   [edit]
    "Taking Refuge in the Triple Jewels" Singapore 1992 *** Prepared at BuddhaNet for free distribution *** Dear fellow practitioners, today we are going to conduct the Initiation Ceremony of the Triple Jewels, which are the Buddha, the Dharma and the Sangha. I would like to clarify what taking refuge in the Triple Jewels means since there have been growing misunderstandings in modern times. In order to reap the true benefits, we must first settle these misunderstandings. What is Buddhism? Is it a religion? Buddhism is not a religion but rather the most profound and wholesome education based on forty-nine years of Buddha Shakyamuni's teachings for all sentient beings. As I recall, in 1923, Mr. Chin-wu O-Yung spoke at the University of Zhong-Shan. The title of his lecture was "Buddhism is Neither a Religion, nor a Philosophy, but the Essential of the Modern World." This lecture was an insightful breakthrough that shook the contemporary Chinese Buddhist world. Since Buddhism is an education, what exactly are its objectives, methods and principles? Its educational objective is to help sentient beings understand the truth of the Dharma which is defined as (1) the teachings of the Buddhas (2) duties, laws and doctrines or (3) things, events, phenomena, everything. Simply put, the truth of the Dharma addresses the causes that initiate all the phenomena of life and the universe. Life refers to ourselves while the universe refers to our living environment. Therefore, the educational content of Buddhism directs us to gain clear understanding of our living environment and ourselves. Nowadays, the formal educational system only subscribes to a partial understanding of the universe, which has yet to be proven. Moreover, we are still discussing and investigating this limited part, not yet knowing enough to draw the correct conclusions. Unfortunately, even religions cannot provide comprehensive and satisfactory explanations of life as a whole, and are only confined to a limited area of the truth. Therefore, the profound and extensive educational content of Buddhism is essential for every sentient being. The boundary of our living space is not restricted to a city, a region or even just the planet earth. There are galaxies in outer space, comprised of innumerable planets, on which exist advanced life forms that are much more intelligent than human beings. All these galaxies are also our living environment. Furthermore, apart from the space dimension, there is also a time dimension, which extends from the past through the present and into the future. Thus, the environment in which we live consists of an infinite magnitude of space and time. Our current formal education does not cover such an extensive discussion of this infinite living space and time. Even the well-respected Confucianism only involves a single lifetime, ranging from birth to death and ultimately to a strong relationship that links us to our ancestors. The teachings of Confucius barely touch on the heavenly beings or ghosts but instead focus on how to behave as an honorable person. In contrast, Buddha Shakyamuni clearly and precisely described the Four Sage Realms, which are Buddha, Bodhisattva, Pratyekabuddha and Sound-hearer. Apart from the Four Sage Realms are the Six Realms of Reincarnation of heavenly beings, Asuras, humans, animals, hungry ghosts and hells. Levels of awakening rank these Four Sage Realms and the Six Realms. For example, Buddhas have the most awakened minds while beings in the hells have the most deluded minds. By combining the Six Realms and the Four Sage Realms, we have the Ten Realms. These comprise our existing living space and it is essential for us to clearly understand them. After we understand the truth of life and the universe, our thoughts, viewpoints, speech and behavior would naturally differ from before. In the past, our deluded mind and erroneous viewpoints led to incorrect actions, thereby creating bad karma, which is the future retribution resulting from one's thoughts, speech and action. According to the fundamental Law of Cause and Effect, unavoidable consequences will result from creating karma, as good results come from good karma and bad results come from bad karma. One creates one's own destiny; no one can step in to bear the consequences of our actions. As we can see, thoroughly understanding the truth of life and the universe will bring us infinite benefits. Once we understand and deeply believe in the Law of Cause and Effect, we will not create any more bad karma. If we do not create any more karma, then we will not have to bear the consequences or fruits, thus achieving what the Buddha frequently referred to in the sutras as surpassing the Ten Realms. From the Cause and Effect point of view, the Four Sage Realms are the results of diligent cultivation and attainment, while the Six Realms are the consequences of good or bad deeds. The Six Realms can be further categorized into the Three Good Realms of humans, Asuras and heavenly beings and the Three Bad Realms of hells, hungry ghosts and animals. After understanding karma and its consequences, we will refrain from creating any more karma or at least not any bad ones. By applying the above concepts to our daily lives, we will obtain what everyone wishes for: a happy life, pleasant family, successful career, harmonious society, prosperous nation and peaceful world. Only the Buddha's education completely provides the solution to humanity's search for true happiness. Clearly understanding this, we realize that this education is essential for everyone. Since this education encompasses infinite space and time, it surpasses differences in nationality, race, political affiliation and religion. In other words, it is for all sentient beings in the Nine Realms below that of Buddhas. There are several examples in the sutras about different religious followers who learned the Buddha's teachings during Buddha Shakyamuni's time. The Flower Adornment Sutra and the Earth Store Sutra, tell respectively of a Hindu priest and a daughter of a Hindu priest who, by adhering to the Buddha's teaching have attained the level of Bodhisattva. From these examples, we understand that the Buddha's education indeed transcends religious beliefs and that any religious followers can benefit from it. The educational system founded by the Buddha is similar to our contemporary educational system. For example, becoming an Arhat is equivalent to earning a University Bachelor's degree and becoming a Bodhisattva is equivalent to earning a Master's degree. Buddhahood, the highest degree, is equivalent to a Ph.D. Followers of any religion can attain these stages of enlightenment. Is it necessary to abandon one's religion and learn the Buddha's education to obtain enlightenment? Definitely not. If one were to go to school or study abroad to pursue knowledge and advancement, one need not change nationality or religion. In other words, the purpose of studying does not conflict with nationality, religion, etc. Therefore, Buddhism is an education. Titles such as Arhat, Bodhisattva and Buddha are nothing but "degree" names. Regardless of our differences, we shall achieve these degrees equally as long as we diligently follow the teachings. Thus, the Initiation Ceremony of the Triple Jewels is to formally enroll one into a school where Buddha Shakyamuni teaches the objective, methods and principles of attaining enlightenment. Since Buddha Shakyamuni established Buddhism, we acknowledge him as our original teacher. Actually, there is only one teacher, Buddha Shakyamuni, for all Buddhists. Bodhisattvas such as Manjusri (symbolizing wisdom), Samantabhadra (symbolizing great vows) and Avalokiteshvara (symbolizing compassion) were all the Buddha's earlier students. Today, we too are the Buddha's students. These Bodhisattvas are our schoolmates, seniors who studied before us while we are freshmen. As they are seniors and have the ability to teach us, Buddhas, Bodhisattvas and Arhats are not objects for worship but rather someone we can respect and learn from. What is the ultimate goal of the Buddha's education? The sutras teach us that it is Anuttara-Samyak-Sambodhi. This very important and well-respected phrase is transliterated from Sanskrit in order to keep its original pronunciation. It means the highest, proper and complete enlightenment. Simply said, it can be interpreted as the ultimate, perfect wisdom. Whoever obtains it will be able to intuitively know and sense every aspect of the true reality of life and the universe. Obtaining this wisdom and ability is the ultimate goal of all the Buddha's students. The Buddha teaches us that the ultimate perfect wisdom is innate. The Avatamsaka (Flower Adornment) Sutra states, "Every being possesses the same wisdom and virtuous capabilities as Buddhas." Why do we not have this wisdom now? It is because of "wandering thoughts and attachments." This statement clearly reveals the two causes of how we temporarily have lost our original capabilities. Wandering thoughts and attachments are not within our basic nature; therefore, they can be discarded. Like dispersing the clouds to let the sun shine through, we remove wandering thoughts and attachments from our mind and cultivate virtue to restore our Buddha Nature, thus completely recovering our innate abilities. In practice, how do we cultivate? Formally taking refuge in the Triple Jewels is the initial step as it symbolizes asking Venerables, monks or nuns, to pass on ways of Buddhist cultivation. Taking Refuge means to find a shelter that we can return to and rely on or what Buddhists call "Return to the other shore." In practice, from where do we return and upon what do we rely? We return to and rely upon the Triple Jewels of the Buddha, the Dharma and the Sangha. In the first step, we return to and rely on the Buddha. "Buddha" is a Sanskrit word meaning awareness and understanding. When we take refuge in the Buddha, we are returning from our deluded state of mind and relying upon an awakened, understanding mind. Participating in the Initiation Ceremony and accepting the Buddha's teachings are the first steps of the awakening in becoming aware of the importance of learning his education. The Sixth Patriarch of Zen, Master Hui-Neng, used a different approach in explaining the Triple Jewels. He did not use the words "Buddha, Dharma and Sangha" for fear of promoting misconceptions in the Triple Jewels for future generations. He was afraid that as Buddhism was passed from generation to generation, if he used these words, people would form erroneous views, automatically thinking of a statue for the Buddha Jewel, a sutra for the Dharma Jewel and a Buddhist monk or nun for the Sangha Jewel. These are not what we should return to. Actually, we should take refuge in our Self-Nature Buddha. A Bodhisattva stated, "The Self-Nature Awareness is innate." Therefore, what Buddha Shakyamuni meant in taking refuge in the Buddha is not to seek protection under his wing, but to return from our delusive mind and rely upon the innate Self-Nature Buddha. It is essential for one to understand the importance of returning to one's Self-Nature. In the second step, we take refuge in the Dharma, returning from deviant views by relying upon proper views and understanding. Dharma is the proper comprehension and viewpoint of life and the universe. The Dharma Jewel is the infinite, innate wisdom of Self-Nature also referred to as the Prajna Wisdom. Relying upon our Prajna Wisdom to correct our erroneous thoughts, speech and behavior is the meaning of taking refuge in the Dharma Jewel. Among the Three Jewels, the Dharma is the primary one we should rely on. In this day and age, Prajna Wisdom will be our primary concern. However, our innate wisdom cannot be restored in a short time. Then what should we follow? Sutras are records of the Buddha's teachings that describe the truth of the universe. Before our Prajna Wisdom has been fully recovered, we follow the teachings in the sutras and use them as a guideline. If our thinking coincides with the sutras, then our comprehension is correct. For example, the Buddha teaches us to respect and take care of our parents and teachers, to be compassionate by not killing and to practice the Ten Good Conducts. People may wonder in this modern age why we should be following what the Buddha taught three thousand years ago. We do so because the Self-Nature Prajna Wisdom is everlasting and unchanged; those who obtain it have the capability to know everything in the past, present and future within the infinite universe. However, we must beware of fraudulent sutras. It is easy for us to encounter fake sutras, especially in a modern world that promotes freedom of publication. Essentially anyone can publish books. In ancient times when sutras first came to China, each sutra had to undergo a strict examination by experts, followed by the emperor's official seal to prove its authenticity. Even the sutra commentaries of ancient patriarchs underwent scrutiny from highly accomplished monks and scholars of that time before receiving the Emperor's approval for distribution. Nowadays, no one regulates or enforces this process. Therefore, we need to be careful in verifying the authenticity of a sutra by checking for its listing in the Dragon (Chien-Long) Canon of the Sutras. This Canon of thirty-eight volumes was compiled under the decree of Emperor Chien-Long in 1738. Previous canons were meticulously certified by the most accomplished monks and scholars of their time and thus also serve as reliable references. In the third step, we take refuge in the Sangha Jewel. Used here, Sangha does not mean a group of monks or nuns. There are two representations, purity of mind and harmony in life. First, Sangha refers to living in a way that keeps our minds far away from temptations while maintaining the purity of our six senses of sight, sound, taste, smell, touch and mind object. In the modern world, people suffer from pollution of mind, spirit and body. Even the earth's ecological system is off-balance. There are holes in the ozone layers that are "pollution" of the skies. Almost everything from the skies and the earth to their inhabitants are contaminated in one way or another. Today, everyone is aware of environmental pollution. Governments are also promoting environmental protection to ensure better living conditions. However, how effective are these protection programs? It is questionable. The problem comes back to what the Buddha revealed, that the environment, the dependent variable, changes with our minds, the independent variable. If the impurities in our mind cannot be eradicated, our environment will never reach a state of purity. Therefore, if we want to improve the external environment, we first start internally by purifying our mind. Taking refuge in the third Jewel, the Sangha, thus means returning from pollution and relying upon purity of mind. Second, the Sangha represents harmony in living. Having observed the sufferings resulting from the disharmony between peoples, countries and even religions, the Buddha taught us the Six Principles of Harmony. The Six Principles are the essential guidelines that all Buddhists need to observe. When we take refuge in the Sangha, we are returning from pollution and disharmony and relying upon Purity of Mind and the Six Principles of Harmony. Thus, the guidelines for cultivation are: (1) Taking refuge in the Buddha - awareness without delusion, (2) Taking refuge in the Dharma - proper viewpoints without deviation, (3) Taking refuge in the Sangha - purity without pollution. These are the primary disciplines in practicing Buddhism from the beginning of cultivation to the attainment of Buddhahood. The main purpose behind taking the Three Refuges is to cultivate practicing awakening, proper thoughts and viewpoints, and purity. From now on, if people ask us what we are cultivating, we can answer that we are cultivating the Three Refuges. What are we learning? We are learning to achieve the ultimate, perfect wisdom that comes from perfecting these Three Refuges. What are the methods we use for cultivation? There are innumerable methods available depending on the ability and condition of each individual practitioner. Methods are not fixed, but flexible. However, we must remember that our learning objective always remains the same; awakening, proper thoughts and viewpoints, and purity. For Pure Land practitioners, the main cultivation method we use is chanting Buddha Amitabha's name. This method is advocated by Mahasthamaprapta (Great Strength) Bodhisattva in the Surangama Sutra and by Samantabhadra (Universal Worthy) Bodhisattva in the Avatamsaka (Flower Adornment) Sutra. In addition to chanting Buddha Amitabha's name, we follow the Five Guidelines to help us in our daily cultivation. First, we advocate Confucius' Five Virtues of Gentility, Kindness, Respectfulness, Thriftiness and Humility. We use these Five Virtues to cultivate our body and mind. Practicing them provides the foundation for our cultivation. The first level is comprised of the Three Conditions that are described in the Visualization Sutra. The First Condition includes (a) being filial and respectful to one's parents and teachers, (b) being compassionate and not killing any living beings and (c) practicing the Ten Good Conducts. The second Condition includes (a) following the Three Refuges, (b) observing precepts, laws and customs and (c) behaving in a proper and dignified manner. The Third Condition includes (a) generating our Bodhi-Mind, (b) deeply believing in the Law of Cause and Effect, (c) reciting and upholding Mahayana Sutras and (d) encouraging others to advance on the path to Enlightenment. The Buddha told us that the Three Conditions are the causes that brought all the Buddhas of the three times and the ten directions to Enlightenment. Therefore, we cannot do without this important step in our practice. Proceeding upward from the Three Conditions, we advance to the second level which is the Six Principles of Harmony. The First Principle of Harmony is to share the same viewpoints or goals. There will be no conflict in the world if we all share the same thoughts and viewpoints. This principle tries to create a common understanding for all sentient beings. This common understanding is based on our Self-Nature and not on Buddha Shakyamuni's opinion. He taught us how to cultivate and explore our own innate wisdom, virtues and capabilities. We are not imitating him; rather we are rediscovering our inborn potential. His education is truly extraordinary. The second principle is to observe the same precepts. Practicing the precepts includes cultivating an attitude of following society's laws and customs. Once everyone shares the common viewpoints and is able to follow the law, society will be peaceful and prosperous and world peace will naturally ensue. Another important principle is to share benefits equally. In modern society, it is beneficial not to have a big difference in wealth between people but to try to close the gap between the "have's" and the "have-nots." Equal sharing of wealth consequently settles the conflicts over wealth. Sharing benefits equally with others is a deed of wisdom and a real cultivation of good fortune. The reason people do not have equal wealth comes from the different seeds that they have previously planted. If people did not plant the same seeds, how can they expect to harvest the same fruits? The Buddha taught that those who harvest more should share with those who harvest less. Then, the sharing behavior becomes the seeds that will benefit one more later. According to the Law of Cause and Effect, poor people need to cultivate more good fortune to receive better harvests in the future. In addition, the wealthy need to share their possessions in order to remain wealthy in the future. Only by doing so will the world become peaceful. This true merit comes from learning the Buddha's teachings. Pure Land practitioners, as a foundation, cultivate the Confucian Five Virtues that are basic for all humanity. From here, we advance to the Three Conditions and the Six Principles of Harmony that are the important basis before practicing Buddhism. Then the Three Learnings are the foundation before practicing Mahayana Buddhism that includes the Six Paramitas. Finally, we practice the Ten Great Vows of Samantabhadra (Universal Worthy) Bodhisattva to attain Buddhahood. It is not difficult to remember these five guidelines. Combining this solid foundation with chanting Buddha Amitabha's name will assure us of obtaining what people have always pursued, a harmonious family life, a successful career and a peaceful society. Now that we have a clear understanding of what we are learning and sincerely want to follow the teachings, we need to practice diligently toward accomplishing our ideal goal. Consequently, one returns and relies on one's Triple Jewels of Self-Nature. In addition to the abstract form of the Triple Jewels of Self- Nature, there are the physical forms seen as Buddha's images, sutras, monks and nuns. Making offerings to the Buddha's image serves two purposes. First, it honors our original teacher, Buddha Shakyamuni. Every time we look at the image, we remember the great teachings he passed on to us. Second, it is to remind us to emulate the Buddha. When we see the Buddha's image, we remind ourselves to strive for awakening and not to be deluded. Sutras serve the same purpose by reminding us that we have taken refuge in the Dharma and need to reflect upon our viewpoints and comprehension. Similarly, seeing a monk or nun, representing the Sangha, can remind us of the importance of maintaining purity of the six senses and harmony with others. Therefore, attending the physical form of the Triple Jewels greatly benefits us because they constantly remind us of the path to awakening. Some practitioners attend the physical forms of the Triple Jewels at home. The Buddha's image symbolizes the Buddha Jewel while the Bodhisattva's image represents the Sangha Jewel. When we honor the Three Sages of the Western Pure Land, Buddha Amitabha symbolizes the Buddha Jewel, and Avalokiteshvara and Mahasthamaprapta Bodhisattvas symbolize the Sangha Jewel. Furthermore, Buddhist sutras symbolize the Dharma Jewel. These three remind us of the treasures of Self-Nature within us. Of all the Buddhist sutras, the Infinite Life Sutra is what I recommend the most. Although not too lengthy, the text completely encompasses the Buddha's teachings. Thus, it is well suited to modern practitioners. The full title of this sutra is The Buddha Speaks of the Infinite Life Sutra of Adornment, Purity, Equality and Enlightenment of the Mahayana School. This title fully reveals the objectives, principles and methods of cultivation in the Buddha's teachings. "Infinite Life" in this sutra's title embodies the most important of all the other infinities, including infinite wisdom, abilities, virtues, wealth, etc. Without infinite life, one could not enjoy all these other infinities. The infinity of our natural potential is what Pure Land practitioners seek and the virtues and capabilities of our innate Self-Nature are infinite. Furthermore, infinite Dharma originates from Self-Nature. Thus, the immeasurable unbounded existences of the Ten Realms are created by the Self-Nature. The word "Adornment" in the sutra's title represents truth, goodness, beauty and wisdom, qualities that are not a true reality in this world. They exist within the Self-Nature and will be found when one seeks within. The principles of cultivation are also expressed by "Purity, Equality and Enlightenment." Purity represents the Buddha Jewel; Equality represents the Dharma Jewel; and Enlightenment represents the Buddha Jewel. These three concepts are also equivalent to the Three Learnings, and cover the Buddha's forty-nine years of teachings. Purity stands for self-discipline and the Vinayas (Precepts); Equality stands for the Concentration and the Sutras; Enlightenment stands for the Wisdom and the Sastras (Commentaries). If we have a busy lifestyle and do not have time to study numerous Buddhist sutras, we can start from this Infinite Life Sutra. Once thoroughly understanding it, not only will one understand Buddha Shakyamuni's teachings but also the teachings of all the Buddhas, because all these teachings come from the Self-Nature. The Buddha Speaks of the Infinite Life Sutra of Adornment, Purity, Equality, and Enlightenment of the Mahayana School expresses the essence of all sutras. Practicing according to the teachings in this sutra fulfills the requirements of taking refuge in the Triple Jewels! Today, I have explained to everyone the meaning of taking the Three Refuges. We will begin the Three Refuges Ceremony by sincerely and respectfully repeating the oath three times in front of the Buddha, vowing to be willing to become Buddha's student and to learn from him. I, Venerable Chin-Kung, will be the witness and initiation teacher. Please remember that one does not take refuge in the monk conducting the ceremony, but rather in the Buddha, the Dharma and the Sangha, thus becoming students of the Triple Jewels. The following is a simple yet solemn initiation ceremony. Everyone will receive a certificate of the initiation with an oath extracted from the Book of the Precepts by Dharma Master Hong-I. We use it for commemoration and simplicity. Let us stand in front of the Buddha's and Bodhisattva's images with our most sincere, pure, compassionate and respectful heart. Repeat after me, "I solemnly pledge to be a student of the Triple Jewels. From now on, I will cultivate according to the Buddha's teachings, will seek rebirth into the Pure Land and will help all other sentient beings to understand the truth of the Dharma." What is Taking Refuge? Taking Refuge means to return and rely. From where do we return from and upon what do we rely? When we take refuge in the Buddha, we are returning from our deluded state of mind and relying upon an Awakened, Understanding mind. When we take refuge in the Dharma, we are returning from deviant views and relying upon proper views and understanding. When we take refuge in the Sangha, we are returning from pollution and disharmony and relying upon Purity of Mind and the Six Principles of Harmony. Taking refuge in the Triple Jewels restores the complete wisdom and abilities of our Self-Nature. We will attain purity, equality, honesty, contentment, compassion and overall, true happiness. The Buddha Jewel Buddha is a Sanskrit word meaning Awareness and Understanding. When we take refuge in the Buddha, we vow to return from blind faith and delusion and rely upon Understanding and Awareness as a way of life. We are not relying upon the statues or Buddha-images, but rather the spirit of understanding and awareness they represent. As students of the Pure Land Teachings, we learn to rely upon Buddha Amitabha's lessons on wisdom and compassion. The name "Amitabha" stands for Infinite Light and Infinite Life. When we follow his teachings, we will attain wisdom, happiness and longevity. This is taking refuge in the Buddha. The Dharma Jewel Dharma means Right Understanding and Views. Delusion has obstructed us from seeing the true face of people and the reality behind matters and objects. This has caused us to look at life and the universe in a distorted and deviant way. When delusion is cleared and our minds are pure to an extent, we give rise to wisdom. With wisdom, we are able to see all people and matters completely and clearly. When our hearts are pure, we can see the past, present and future. Only when we have clearly seen the whole can our viewpoint and understanding be considered right. The Buddha's mind is pure without the slightest pollution and therefore sees everything clearly and entirely. We can rely upon the sutras, which are the recorded teachings of the Buddha, because they speak entirely of the truths the Buddha has seen. They teach and show us the way to attain Purity of Mind, to see life and the universe most clearly and become just like the Buddhas. As students of the Pure Land Teachings, we should rely upon the five Sutras and one commentary of the Pure Land as guidelines of practice: 1. The Buddha Speaks of the Infinite Life Sutra of Adornment, Purity, Equality and Enlightenment of the Mahayana School. 2. The Amitabha Sutra 3. The Visualization Sutra 4. "The Chapter of Universal Worthy Bodhisattva's Conduct and Vows," 5. "The Chapter on the Foremost Attainment of Great Strength Bodhisattva through Buddha Recitation," 6. "Vasubandhu Bodhisattva's Report on the Way to Reaching the Pure Land." This is taking refuge in the Dharma. The Sangha Jewel Sangha means purity and harmony. Today's world is full of pollution; pollution of mind, spirit, views and body. Even the earth and atmosphere are hazardly polluted. The Buddha taught, "The environment changes according to our state of mind." We would do well to return from all these pollutants and rely upon Purity of Mind, for it is the key to saving our Earth. There is also great disharmony in our world today, among spouses, families, friends, societies and countries which has brought us much suffering and many disasters. The Buddha taught us to rely upon the Six Principles of Living in Harmony to establish harmonious relationships between others and ourselves. As students of the Pure Land Teachings, we rely upon wisdom and compassion as our way of treating others and dealing with affairs. Great Strength Bodhisattva represents wisdom. His choice of the Buddha Recitation method of practice is wisdom in its highest form. Guan Yin Bodhisattva represents compassion; when we help introduce the Pure Land Teachings to others, we are practicing the compassion of Guan Yin Bodhisattva. This is taking refuge in the Sangha. To the Buddha I return and rely, returning from delusions and relying upon Awareness and Understanding. To the Dharma I return and rely, returning from erroneous views and relying upon Proper Views and Understanding. To the Sangha I return and rely, returning from pollution and disharmony and relying upon Purity of Mind and the Six Principles of Harmony.

     
    Quote from Buddah
    05.21.08 (8:24 am)   [edit]
    It is better to conquer yourself than to win a thousand battles. Then the victory is yours. It cannot be taken from you, not by angels or by demons, heaven or hell. ...Buddha

     
    05.20.08 (4:32 pm)   [edit]
    "Taking Refuge in the Triple Jewels" Singapore 1992 *** Prepared at BuddhaNet for free distribution *** Dear fellow practitioners, today we are going to conduct the Initiation Ceremony of the Triple Jewels, which are the Buddha, the Dharma and the Sangha. I would like to clarify what taking refuge in the Triple Jewels means since there have been growing misunderstandings in modern times. In order to reap the true benefits, we must first settle these misunderstandings. What is Buddhism? Is it a religion? Buddhism is not a religion but rather the most profound and wholesome education based on forty-nine years of Buddha Shakyamuni's teachings for all sentient beings. As I recall, in 1923, Mr. Chin-wu O-Yung spoke at the University of Zhong-Shan. The title of his lecture was "Buddhism is Neither a Religion, nor a Philosophy, but the Essential of the Modern World." This lecture was an insightful breakthrough that shook the contemporary Chinese Buddhist world. Since Buddhism is an education, what exactly are its objectives, methods and principles? Its educational objective is to help sentient beings understand the truth of the Dharma which is defined as (1) the teachings of the Buddhas (2) duties, laws and doctrines or (3) things, events, phenomena, everything. Simply put, the truth of the Dharma addresses the causes that initiate all the phenomena of life and the universe. Life refers to ourselves while the universe refers to our living environment. Therefore, the educational content of Buddhism directs us to gain clear understanding of our living environment and ourselves. Nowadays, the formal educational system only subscribes to a partial understanding of the universe, which has yet to be proven. Moreover, we are still discussing and investigating this limited part, not yet knowing enough to draw the correct conclusions. Unfortunately, even religions cannot provide comprehensive and satisfactory explanations of life as a whole, and are only confined to a limited area of the truth. Therefore, the profound and extensive educational content of Buddhism is essential for every sentient being. The boundary of our living space is not restricted to a city, a region or even just the planet earth. There are galaxies in outer space, comprised of innumerable planets, on which exist advanced life forms that are much more intelligent than human beings. All these galaxies are also our living environment. Furthermore, apart from the space dimension, there is also a time dimension, which extends from the past through the present and into the future. Thus, the environment in which we live consists of an infinite magnitude of space and time. Our current formal education does not cover such an extensive discussion of this infinite living space and time. Even the well-respected Confucianism only involves a single lifetime, ranging from birth to death and ultimately to a strong relationship that links us to our ancestors. The teachings of Confucius barely touch on the heavenly beings or ghosts but instead focus on how to behave as an honorable person. In contrast, Buddha Shakyamuni clearly and precisely described the Four Sage Realms, which are Buddha, Bodhisattva, Pratyekabuddha and Sound-hearer. Apart from the Four Sage Realms are the Six Realms of Reincarnation of heavenly beings, Asuras, humans, animals, hungry ghosts and hells. Levels of awakening rank these Four Sage Realms and the Six Realms. For example, Buddhas have the most awakened minds while beings in the hells have the most deluded minds. By combining the Six Realms and the Four Sage Realms, we have the Ten Realms. These comprise our existing living space and it is essential for us to clearly understand them. After we understand the truth of life and the universe, our thoughts, viewpoints, speech and behavior would naturally differ from before. In the past, our deluded mind and erroneous viewpoints led to incorrect actions, thereby creating bad karma, which is the future retribution resulting from one's thoughts, speech and action. According to the fundamental Law of Cause and Effect,unavoidable consequences will result from creating karma, as good results come from good karma and bad results come from bad karma. One creates one's own destiny; no one can step in to bear the consequences of our actions. As we can see, thoroughly understanding the truth of life and the universe will bring us infinite benefits. Once we understand and deeply believe in the Law of Cause and Effect, we will not create any more bad karma. If we do not create any more karma, then we will not have to bear the consequences or fruits, thus achieving what the Buddha frequently referred to in the sutras as surpassing the Ten realms. From the Cause and Effect point of view, the Four Sage Realms are the results of diligent cultivation and attainment, while the Six Realms are the consequences of good or bad deeds. The Six realms can be further categorized into the Three Good Realms of humans, Asuras and heavenly beings and the Three Bad Realms of hells, hungry ghosts and animals. After understanding karma and its consequences, we will refrain from creating any more karma or at least not any bad ones. By applying the above concepts to our daily lives, we will obtain what everyone wishes for: a happy life, pleasant family, successful career, harmonious society, prosperous nation and peaceful world. Only the Buddha's education completely provides the solution to humanity's search for true happiness. Clearly understanding this, we realize that this education is essential for everyone. Since this education encompasses infinite space and time, it surpasses differences in nationality, race, political affiliation and religion. In other words, it is for all sentient beings in the Nine Realms below that of Buddhas. There are several examples in the sutras about different religious followers who learned the Buddha's teachings during Buddha Shakyamuni's time. The Flower Adornment Sutra and the Earth Store Sutra, tell respectively of a Hindu priest and a daughter of a Hindu priest who, by adhering to the Buddha's teaching have attained the level of Bodhisattva. From these examples, we understand that the Buddha's education indeed transcends religious beliefs and that any religious followers can benefit from it. The educational system founded by the Buddha is similar to our contemporary educational system. For example, becoming an Arhat is equivalent to earning a University Bachelor's degree and becoming a Bodhisattva is equivalent to earning a Master's degree. Buddhahood, the highest degree, is equivalent to a Ph.D. Followers of any religion can attain these stages of enlightenment. Is it necessary to abandon one's religion and learn the Buddha's education to obtain enlightenment? Definitely not. If one were to go to school or study abroad to pursue knowledge and advancement, one need not change nationality or religion. In other words, the purpose of studying does not conflict with nationality, religion, etc. Therefore, Buddhism is an education. Titles such as Arhat, Bodhisattva and Buddha are nothing but "degree" names. Regardless of our differences, we shall achieve these degrees equally as long as we diligently follow the teachings. Thus, the initiation Ceremony of the Triple Jewels is to formally enroll one into a school where Buddha Shakyamuni teaches the objective, methods and principles of attaining enlightenment. Since Buddha Shakyamuni established Buddhism, we acknowledge him as our original teacher. Actually, there is only one teacher, Buddha Shakyamuni, for all Buddhists. Bodhisattvas such as Manjusri (symbolizing wisdom), Samantabhadra (symbolizing great vows) and Avalokiteshvara (symbolizing compassion) were all the Buddha's earlier students. Today, we too are the Buddha's students. These Bodhisattvas are our schoolmates, seniors who studied before us while we are freshmen. As they are seniors and have the ability to teach us, Buddhas, Bodhisattvas and Arhats are not objects for worship but rather someone we can respect and learn from. What is the ultimate goal of the Buddha's education? The sutras teach us that it is Anuttara-Samyak-Sambodhi. This very important and well-respected phrase is transliterated from Sanskrit in order to keep its original pronunciation. It means the highest, proper and complete enlightenment. Simply said, it can be interpreted as the ultimate, perfect wisdom. Whoever obtains it will be able to intuitively know and sense every aspect of the true reality of life and the universe. Obtaining this wisdom and ability is the ultimate goal of all the Buddha's students. The Buddha teaches us that the ultimate perfect wisdom is innate. The Avatamsaka (Flower Adornment) Sutra states, "Every being possesses the same wisdom and virtuous capabilities as Buddhas." Why do we not have this wisdom now? It is because of "wandering thoughts and attachments." This statement clearly reveals the two causes of how we temporarily have lost our original capabilities. Wandering thoughts and attachments are not within our basic nature; therefore, they can be discarded. Like dispersing the clouds to let the sun shine through, we remove wandering thoughts and attachments from our mind and cultivate virtue to restore our Buddha Nature, thus completely recovering our innate abilities. In practice, how do we cultivate? Formally taking refuge in the Triple Jewels is the initial step as it symbolizes asking Venerables, monks or nuns, to pass on ways of Buddhist cultivation. Taking Refuge means to find a shelter that we can return to and rely on or what Buddhists call "Return to the other shore." In practice, from where do we return and upon what do we rely? We return to and rely upon the Triple Jewels of the Buddha, the Dharma and the Sangha. In the first step, we return to and rely on the Buddha. "Buddha" is a Sanskrit word meaning awareness and understanding. When we take refuge in the Buddha, we are returning from our deluded state of mind and relying upon an awakened, understanding mind. Participating in the Initiation Ceremony and accepting the Buddha's teachings are the first steps of the awakening in becoming aware of the importance of learning his education. The Sixth Patriarch of Zen, Master Hui-Neng, used a different approach in explaining the Triple Jewels. He did not use the words "Buddha, Dharma and Sangha" for fear of promoting misconceptions in the Triple Jewels for future generations. He was afraid that as Buddhism was passed from generation to generation, if he used these words, people would form erroneous views, automatically thinking of a statue for the Buddha Jewel, a sutra for the Dharma Jewel and a Buddhist monk or nun for the Sangha Jewel. These are not what we should return to. Actually, we should take refuge in our Self-Nature Buddha. A Bodhisattva stated, "The Self-Nature Awareness is innate." Therefore, what Buddha Shakyamuni meant in taking refuge in the Buddha is not to seek protection under his wing, but to return from our delusive mind and rely upon the innate Self-Nature Buddha. It is essential for one to understand the importance of returning to one's Self-Nature. In the second step, we take refuge in the Dharma, returning from deviant views by relying upon proper views and understanding. Dharma is the proper comprehension and viewpoint of life and the universe. The Dharma Jewel is the infinite, innate wisdom of Self-Nature also referred to as the Prajna Wisdom. Relying upon our Prajna Wisdom to correct our erroneous thoughts, speech and behavior is the meaning of taking refuge in the Dharma Jewel. Among the Three Jewels, the Dharma is the primary one we should rely on. In this day and age, Prajna Wisdom will be our primary concern. However, our innate wisdom cannot be restored in a short time. Then what should we follow? Sutras are records of the Buddha's teachings that describe the truth of the universe. Before our Prajna Wisdom has been fully recovered, we follow the teachings in the sutras and use them as a guideline. If our thinking coincides with the sutras, then our comprehension is correct. For example, the Buddha teaches us to respect and take care of our parents and teachers, to be compassionate by not killing and to practice the Ten Good Conducts. People may wonder in this modern age why we should be following what the Buddha taught three thousand years ago. We do so because the Self-Nature Prajna Wisdom is everlasting and unchanged; those who obtain it have the capability to know everything in the past, present and future within the infinite universe. However, we must beware of fraudulent sutras. It is easy for us to encounter fake sutras, especially in a modern world that promotes freedom of publication. Essentially anyone can publish books. In ancient times when sutras first came to China, each sutra had to undergo a strict examination by experts, followed by the emperor's official seal to prove its authenticity. Even the sutra commentaries of ancient patriarchs underwent scrutiny from highly accomplished monks and scholars of that time before receiving the Emperor's approval for distribution. Nowadays, no one regulates or enforces this process. Therefore, we need to be careful in verifying the authenticity of a sutra by checking for its listing in the Dragon (Chien-Long) Canon of the Sutras. This Canon of thirty-eight volumes was compiled under the decree of Emperor Chien-Long in 1738. Previous canons were meticulously certified by the most accomplished monks and scholars of their time and thus also serve as reliable references. In the third step, we take refuge in the Sangha Jewel. Used here, Sangha does not mean a group of monks or nuns. There are two representations, purity of mind and harmony in life. First, Sangha refers to living in a way that keeps our minds far away from temptations while maintaining the purity of our six senses of sight, sound, taste, smell, touch and mind object. In the modern world, people suffer from pollution of mind, spirit and body. Even the earth's ecological system is off-balance. There are holes in the ozone layers that are "pollution" of the skies. Almost everything from the skies and the earth to their inhabitants are contaminated in one way or another. Today, everyone is aware of environmental pollution. Governments are also promoting environmental protection to ensure better living conditions. However, how effective are these protection programs? It is questionable. The problem comes back to what the Buddha revealed, that the environment, the dependent variable, changes with our minds, the independent variable. If the impurities in our mind cannot be eradicated, our environment will never reach a state of purity. Therefore, if we want to improve the external environment, we first start internally by purifying our mind. Taking refuge in the third Jewel, the Sangha, thus means returning from pollution and relying upon purity of mind. Second, the Sangha represents harmony in living. Having observed the sufferings resulting from the disharmony between peoples, countries and even religions, the Buddha taught us the Six Principles of Harmony. The Six Principles are the essential guidelines that all Buddhists need to observe. When we take refuge in the Sangha, we are returning from pollution and disharmony and relying upon Purity of Mind and the Six Principles of Harmony. Thus, the guidelines for cultivation are: (1) Taking refuge in the Buddha - awareness without delusion, (2) Taking refuge in the Dharma - proper viewpoints without deviation, (3) Taking refuge in the Sangha - purity without pollution. These are the primary disciplines in practicing Buddhism from the beginning of cultivation to the attainment of Buddhahood. The main purpose behind taking the Three Refuges is to cultivate practicing awakening, proper thoughts and viewpoints, and purity. From now on, if people ask us what we are cultivating, we can answer that we are cultivating the Three Refuges. What are we learning? We are learning to achieve the ultimate, perfect wisdom that comes from perfecting these Three Refuges. What are the methods we use for cultivation? There are innumerable methods available depending on the ability and condition of each individual practitioner. Methods are not fixed, but flexible. However, we must remember that our learning objective always remains the same; awakening, proper thoughts and viewpoints, and purity. For Pure Land practitioners, the main cultivation method we use is chanting Buddha Amitabha's name. This method is advocated by Mahasthamaprapta (Great Strength) Bodhisattva in the Surangama Sutra and by Samantabhadra (Universal Worthy) Bodhisattva in the Avatamsaka (Flower Adornment) Sutra. In addition to chanting Buddha Amitabha's name, we follow the Five Guidelines to help us in our daily cultivation. First, we advocate Confucius' Five Virtues of Gentility, Kindness, Respectfulness, Thriftiness and Humility. We use these Five Virtues to cultivate our body and mind. Practicing them provides the foundation for our cultivation. The first level is comprised of the Three Conditions that are described in the Visualization Sutra. The First Condition includes (a) being filial and respectful to one's parents and teachers, (b) being compassionate and not killing any living beings and (c) practicing the Ten Good Conducts. The second Condition includes (a) following the Three Refuges, (b) observing precepts, laws and customs and (c) behaving in a proper and dignified manner. The Third Condition includes (a) generating our Bodhi-Mind, (b) deeply believing in the Law of Cause and Effect, (c) reciting and upholding Mahayana Sutras and (d) encouraging others to advance on the path to Enlightenment. The Buddha told us that the Three Conditions are the causes that brought all the Buddhas of the three times and the ten directions to Enlightenment. Therefore, we cannot do without this important step in our practice. Proceeding upward from the Three Conditions, we advance to the second level which is the Six Principles of Harmony. The First Principle of Harmony is to share the same viewpoints or goals. There will be no conflict in the world if we all share the same thoughts and viewpoints. This principle tries to create a common understanding for all sentient beings. This common understanding is based on our Self-Nature and not on Buddha Shakyamuni's opinion. He taught us how to cultivate and explore our own innate wisdom, virtues and capabilities. We are not imitating him; rather we are rediscovering our inborn potential. His education is truly extraordinary. The second principle is to observe the same precepts. Practicing the precepts includes cultivating an attitude of following society's laws and customs. Once everyone shares the common viewpoints and is able to follow the law, society will be peaceful and prosperous and world peace will naturally ensue. Another important principle is to share benefits equally. In modern society, it is beneficial not to have a big difference in wealth between people but to try to close the gap between the "have's" and the "have-nots." Equal sharing of wealth consequently settles the conflicts over wealth. Sharing benefits equally with others is a deedof wisdom and a real cultivation of good fortune. The reason people do not have equal wealth comes from the different seeds that they have previously planted. If people did not plant the same seeds, how can they expect to harvest the same fruits? The Buddha taught that those who harvest more should share with those who harvest less. Then, the sharing behavior becomes the seeds that will benefit one more later. According to the Law of Cause and Effect, poor people need to cultivate more good fortune to receive better harvests in the future. In addition, the wealthy need to share their possessions in order to remain wealthy in the future. Only by doing so will the world become peaceful. This true merit comes from learning the Buddha's teachings. Pure Land practitioners, as a foundation, cultivate the Confucian Five Virtues that are basic for all humanity. From here, we advance to the Three Conditions and the Six Principles of Harmony that are the important basis before practicing Buddhism. Then the Three Learnings are the foundation before practicing Mahayana Buddhism that includes the Six Paramitas. Finally, we practice the Ten Great Vows of Samantabhadra (Universal Worthy) Bodhisattva to attain Buddhahood. It is not difficult to remember these five guidelines. Combining this solid foundation with chanting Buddha Amitabha's name will assure us of obtaining what people have always pursued, a harmonious family life, a successful career and a peaceful society. Now that we have a clear understanding of what we are learning and sincerely want to follow the teachings, we need to practice diligently toward accomplishing our ideal goal. Consequently, one returns and relies on one's Triple Jewels of Self-Nature. In addition to the abstract form of the Triple Jewels of Self-Nature, there are the physical forms seen as Buddha's images, sutras, monks and nuns. Making offerings to the Buddha's image serves two purposes. First, it honors our original teacher, Buddha Shakyamuni. Every time we look at the image, we remember the great teachings he passed on to us. Second, it is to remind us to emulate the Buddha. When we see the Buddha's image, we remind ourselves to strive for awakening and not to be deluded. Sutras serve the same purpose by reminding us that we have taken refuge in the Dharma and need to reflect upon our viewpoints and comprehension. Similarly, seeing a monk or nun, representing the Sangha, can remind us of the importance of maintaining purity of the six senses and harmony with others. Therefore, attending the physical form of the Triple Jewels greatly benefits us because they constantly remind us of the path to awakening. Some practitioners attend the physical forms of the Triple Jewels at home. The Buddha's image symbolizes the Buddha Jewel while the Bodhisattva's image represents the Sangha Jewel. When we honor the Three Sages of the Western Pure Land, Buddha Amitabha symbolizes the Buddha Jewel, and Avalokiteshvara and Mahasthamaprapta Bodhisattvas symbolize the Sangha Jewel. Furthermore, Buddhist sutras symbolize the Dharma Jewel. These three remind us of the treasures of Self-Nature within us. Of all the Buddhist sutras, the Infinite Life Sutra is what I recommend the most. Although not too lengthy, the text completely encompasses the Buddha's teachings. Thus, it is well suited to modern practitioners. The full title of this sutra is The Buddha Speaks of the Infinite Life Sutra of Adornment, Purity, Equality and Enlightenment of the Mahayana School. This title fully reveals the objectives, principles and methods of cultivation in the Buddha's teachings. "Infinite Life" in this sutra's title embodies the most important of all the other infinities, including infinite wisdom, abilities, virtues, wealth, etc. Without infinite life, one could not enjoy all these other infinities. The infinity of our natural potential is what Pure Land practitioners seek and the virtues and capabilities of our innate Self-Nature are infinite. Furthermore, infinite Dharma originates from Self-Nature. Thus, the immeasurable unbounded existences of the Ten Realms are created by the Self-Nature. The word "Adornment" in the sutra's title represents truth, goodness, beauty and wisdom, qualities that are not a true reality in this world. They exist within the Self-Nature and will be found when one seeks within. The principles of cultivation are also expressed by "Purity, Equality and Enlightenment." Purity represents the Buddha Jewel; Equality represents the Dharma Jewel; and Enlightenment represents the Buddha Jewel. These three concepts are also equivalent to the Three Learnings, and cover the Buddha's forty-nine years of teachings. Purity stands for self-discipline and the Vinayas (precepts); Equality stands for the Concentration and the Sutras; Enlightenment stands for the Wisdom and the Sastras (Commentaries). If we have a busy lifestyle and do not have time to study numerous Buddhist sutras, we can start from this Infinite Life Sutra. Once thoroughly understanding it, not only will one understand Buddha Shakyamuni's teachings but also the teachings of all the Buddhas, because all these teachings come from the Self-Nature. The Buddha Speaks of the Infinite Life Sutra of Adornment, Purity, Equality, and Enlightenment of the Mahayana School expresses the essence of all sutras. Practicing according to the teachings in this sutra fulfills the requirements of taking refuge in the Triple Jewels! Today, I have explained to everyone the meaning of taking the Three Refuges. We will begin the Three Refuges Ceremony by sincerely and respectfully repeating the oath three times in front of the Buddha, vowing to be willing to become Buddha's student and to learn from him. I, Venerable Chin-Kung, will be the witness and initiation teacher. Please remember that one does not take refuge in the monk conducting the ceremony, but rather in the Buddha, the Dharma and the Sangha, thus becoming students of the Triple Jewels. The following is a simple yet solemn initiation ceremony. Everyone will receive a certificate of the initiation with an oath extracted from the Book of the Precepts by Dharma Master Hong-I. We use it for commemoration and simplicity. Let us stand in front of the Buddha's and Bodhisattva's images with our most sincere, pure, compassionate and respectful heart. Repeat after me, "I solemnly pledge to be a student of the Triple Jewels. From now on, I will cultivate according to the Buddha's teachings, will seek rebirth into the Pure Land and will help all other sentient beings to understand the truth of the Dharma." What is Taking Refuge? Taking Refuge means to return and rely. From where do we return from and upon what do we rely? When we take refuge in the Buddha, we are returning from our deluded state of mind and relying upon an Awakened, Understanding mind. When we take refuge in the Dharma, we are returning from deviant views and relying upon proper views and understanding. When we take refuge in the Sangha, we are returning from pollution and disharmony and relying upon Purity of Mind and the Six Principles of Harmony. Taking refuge in the Triple Jewels restores the complete wisdom and abilities of our Self-Nature. We will attain purity, equality, honesty, contentment, compassion and overall, true happiness. The Buddha Jewel Buddha is a Sanskrit word meaning Awareness and Understanding. When we take refuge in the Buddha, we vow to return from blind faith and delusion and rely upon Understanding and Awareness as a way of life. We are not relying upon the statues or Buddha-images, but rather the spirit of understanding and awareness they represent. As students of the Pure Land Teachings, we learn to rely upon Buddha Amitabha's lessons on wisdom and compassion. The name "Amitabha" stands for Infinite Light and Infinite Life. When we follow his teachings, we will attain wisdom, happiness and longevity. This is taking refuge in the Buddha. The Dharma Jewel Dharma means Right Understanding and Views. Delusion has obstructed us from seeing the true face of people and the reality behind matters and objects. This has caused us to look at life and the universe in a distorted and deviant way. When delusion is cleared and our minds are pure to an extent, we give rise to wisdom. With wisdom, we are able to see all people and matters completely and clearly. When our hearts are pure, we can see the past, present and future. Only when we have clearly seen the whole can our viewpoint and understanding be considered right. The Buddha's mind is pure without the slightest pollution and therefore sees everything clearly and entirely. We can rely upon the sutras, which are the recorded teachings of the Buddha, because they speak entirely of the truths the Buddha has seen. They teach and show us the way to attain Purity of Mind, to see life and the universe most clearly and become just like the Buddhas. As students of the Pure Land Teachings, we should rely upon the five Sutras and one commentary of the Pure Land as guidelines of practice: 1. The Buddha Speaks of the Infinite Life Sutra of Adornment, Purity, Equality and Enlightenment of the Mahayana School. 2. The Amitabha Sutra 3. The Visualization Sutra 4. "The Chapter of Universal Worthy Bodhisattva's Conduct and Vows," 5. "The Chapter on the Foremost Attainment of Great Strength Bodhisattva through Buddha Recitation," 6. "Vasubandhu Bodhisattva's Report on the Way to Reaching the Pure Land." This is taking refuge in the Dharma. The Sangha Jewel Sangha means purity and harmony. Today's world is full of pollution; pollution of mind, spirit, views and body. Even the earth and atmosphere are hazardly polluted. The Buddha taught, "The environment changes according to our state of mind." We would do well to return from all these pollutants and rely upon Purity of Mind, for it is the key to saving our Earth. There is also great disharmony in our world today, among spouses, families, friends, societies and countries which has brought us much suffering and many disasters. The Buddha taught us to rely upon the Six Principles of Living in Harmony to etablish harmonious relationships between others and ourselves. As students of the Pure Land Teachings, we rely upon wisdom and compassion as our way of treating others and dealing with affairs. Great Strength Bodhisattva represents wisdom. His choice of the Buddha Recitation method of practice is wisdom in its highest form. Guan Yin Bodhisattva represents compassion; when we help introduce the Pure Land Teachings to others, we are practicing the compassion of Guan Yin Bodhisattva. This is taking refuge in the Sangha. To the Buddha I return and rely, returning from delusions and relying upon Awareness and Understanding. To the Dharma I return and rely, returning from erroneous views and relying upon Proper Views and Understanding. To the Sangha I return and rely, returning from pollution and disharmony and relying upon Purity of Mind and the Six Principles of Harmony.

     
    05.20.08 (3:58 pm)   [edit]
    "Taking Refuge in the Triple Jewels" Singapore 1992 *** Prepared at BuddhaNet for free distribution *** Dear fellow practitioners, today we are going to conduct the Initiation Ceremony of the Triple Jewels, which are the Buddha, the Dharma and the Sangha. I would like to clarify what taking refuge in the Triple Jewels means since there have been growing misunderstandings in modern times. In order to reap the true benefits, we must first settle these misunderstandings. What is Buddhism? Is it a religion? Buddhism is not a religion but rather the most profound and wholesome education based on forty-nine years of Buddha Shakyamuni's teachings for all sentient beings. As I recall, in 1923, Mr. Chin-wu O-Yung spoke at the University of Zhong-Shan. The title of his lecture was "Buddhism is Neither a Religion, nor a Philosophy, but the Essential of the Modern World." This lecture was an insightful breakthrough that shook the contemporary Chinese Buddhist world. Since Buddhism is an education, what exactly are its objectives, methods and principles? Its educational objective is to help sentient beings understand the truth of the Dharma which is defined as (1) the teachings of the Buddhas (2) duties, laws and doctrines or (3) things, events, phenomena, everything. Simply put, the truth of the Dharma addresses the causes that initiate all the phenomena of life and the universe. Life refers to ourselves while the universe refers to our living environment. Therefore, the educational content of Buddhism directs us to gain clear understanding of our living environment and ourselves. Nowadays, the formal educational system only subscribes to a partial understanding of the universe, which has yet to be proven. Moreover, we are still discussing and investigating this limited part, not yet knowing enough to draw the correct conclusions. Unfortunately, even religions cannot provide comprehensive and satisfactory explanations of life as a whole, and are only confined to a limited area of the truth. Therefore, the profound and extensive educational content of Buddhism is essential for every sentient being. The boundary of our living space is not restricted to a city, a region or even just the planet earth. There are galaxies in outer space, comprised of innumerable planets, on which exist advanced life forms that are much more intelligent than human beings. All these galaxies are also our living environment. Furthermore, apart from the space dimension, there is also a time dimension, which extends from the past through the present and into the future. Thus, the environment in which we live consists of an infinite magnitude of space and time. Our current formal education does not cover such an extensive discussion of this infinite living space and time. Even the well-respected Confucianism only involves a single lifetime, ranging from birth to death and ultimately to a strong relationship that links us to our ancestors. The teachings of Confucius barely touch on the heavenly beings or ghosts but instead focus on how to behave as an honorable person. In contrast, Buddha Shakyamuni clearly and precisely described the Four Sage Realms, which are Buddha, Bodhisattva, Pratyekabuddha and Sound-hearer. Apart from the Four Sage Realms are the Six Realms of Reincarnation of heavenly beings, Asuras, humans, animals, hungry ghosts and hells. Levels of awakening rank these Four Sage Realms and the Six Realms. For example, Buddhas have the most awakened minds while beings in the hells have the most deluded minds. By combining the Six Realms and the Four Sage Realms, we have the Ten Realms. These comprise our existing living space and it is essential for us to clearly understand them. After we understand the truth of life and the universe, our thoughts, viewpoints, speech and behavior would naturally differ from before. In the past, our deluded mind and erroneous viewpoints led to incorrect actions, thereby creating bad karma, which is the future retribution resulting from one's thoughts, speech and action. According to the fundamental Law of Cause and Effect,unavoidable consequences will result from creating karma, as good results come from good karma and bad results come from bad karma. One creates one's own destiny; no one can step in to bear the consequences of our actions. As we can see, thoroughly understanding the truth of life and the universe will bring us infinite benefits. Once we understand and deeply believe in the Law of Cause and Effect, we will not create any more bad karma. If we do not create any more karma, then we will not have to bear the consequences or fruits, thus achieving what the Buddha frequently referred to in the sutras as surpassing the Ten realms. From the Cause and Effect point of view, the Four Sage Realms are the results of diligent cultivation and attainment, while the Six Realms are the consequences of good or bad deeds. The Six realms can be further categorized into the Three Good Realms of humans, Asuras and heavenly beings and the Three Bad Realms of hells, hungry ghosts and animals. After understanding karma and its consequences, we will refrain from creating any more karma or at least not any bad ones. By applying the above concepts to our daily lives, we will obtain what everyone wishes for: a happy life, pleasant family, successful career, harmonious society, prosperous nation and peaceful world. Only the Buddha's education completely provides the solution to humanity's search for true happiness. Clearly understanding this, we realize that this education is essential for everyone. Since this education encompasses infinite space and time, it surpasses differences in nationality, race, political affiliation and religion. In other words, it is for all sentient beings in the Nine Realms below that of Buddhas. There are several examples in the sutras about different religious followers who learned the Buddha's teachings during Buddha Shakyamuni's time. The Flower Adornment Sutra and the Earth Store Sutra, tell respectively of a Hindu priest and a daughter of a Hindu priest who, by adhering to the Buddha's teaching have attained the level of Bodhisattva. From these examples, we understand that the Buddha's education indeed transcends religious beliefs and that any religious followers can benefit from it. The educational system founded by the Buddha is similar to our contemporary educational system. For example, becoming an Arhat is equivalent to earning a University Bachelor's degree and becoming a Bodhisattva is equivalent to earning a Master's degree. Buddhahood, the highest degree, is equivalent to a Ph.D. Followers of any religion can attain these stages of enlightenment. Is it necessary to abandon one's religion and learn the Buddha's education to obtain enlightenment? Definitely not. If one were to go to school or study abroad to pursue knowledge and advancement, one need not change nationality or religion. In other words, the purpose of studying does not conflict with nationality, religion, etc. Therefore, Buddhism is an education. Titles such as Arhat, Bodhisattva and Buddha are nothing but "degree" names. Regardless of our differences, we shall achieve these degrees equally as long as we diligently follow the teachings. Thus, the initiation Ceremony of the Triple Jewels is to formally enroll one into a school where Buddha Shakyamuni teaches the objective, methods and principles of attaining enlightenment. Since Buddha Shakyamuni established Buddhism, we acknowledge him as our original teacher. Actually, there is only one teacher, Buddha Shakyamuni, for all Buddhists. Bodhisattvas such as Manjusri (symbolizing wisdom), Samantabhadra (symbolizing great vows) and Avalokiteshvara (symbolizing compassion) were all the Buddha's earlier students. Today, we too are the Buddha's students. These Bodhisattvas are our schoolmates, seniors who studied before us while we are freshmen. As they are seniors and have the ability to teach us, Buddhas, Bodhisattvas and Arhats are not objects for worship but rather someone we can respect and learn from. What is the ultimate goal of the Buddha's education? The sutras teach us that it is Anuttara-Samyak-Sambodhi. This very important and well-respected phrase is transliterated from Sanskrit in order to keep its original pronunciation. It means the highest, proper and complete enlightenment. Simply said, it can be interpreted as the ultimate, perfect wisdom. Whoever obtains it will be able to intuitively know and sense every aspect of the true reality of life and the universe. Obtaining this wisdom and ability is the ultimate goal of all the Buddha's students. The Buddha teaches us that the ultimate perfect wisdom is innate. The Avatamsaka (Flower Adornment) Sutra states, "Every being possesses the same wisdom and virtuous capabilities as Buddhas." Why do we not have this wisdom now? It is because of "wandering thoughts and attachments." This statement clearly reveals the two causes of how we temporarily have lost our original capabilities. Wandering thoughts and attachments are not within our basic nature; therefore, they can be discarded. Like dispersing the clouds to let the sun shine through, we remove wandering thoughts and attachments from our mind and cultivate virtue to restore our Buddha Nature, thus completely recovering our innate abilities. In practice, how do we cultivate? Formally taking refuge in the Triple Jewels is the initial step as it symbolizes asking Venerables, monks or nuns, to pass on ways of Buddhist cultivation. Taking Refuge means to find a shelter that we can return to and rely on or what Buddhists call "Return to the other shore." In practice, from where do we return and upon what do we rely? We return to and rely upon the Triple Jewels of the Buddha, the Dharma and the Sangha. In the first step, we return to and rely on the Buddha. "Buddha" is a Sanskrit word meaning awareness and understanding. When we take refuge in the Buddha, we are returning from our deluded state of mind and relying upon an awakened, understanding mind. Participating in the Initiation Ceremony and accepting the Buddha's teachings are the first steps of the awakening in becoming aware of the importance of learning his education. The Sixth Patriarch of Zen, Master Hui-Neng, used a different approach in explaining the Triple Jewels. He did not use the words "Buddha, Dharma and Sangha" for fear of promoting misconceptions in the Triple Jewels for future generations. He was afraid that as Buddhism was passed from generation to generation, if he used these words, people would form erroneous views, automatically thinking of a statue for the Buddha Jewel, a sutra for the Dharma Jewel and a Buddhist monk or nun for the Sangha Jewel. These are not what we should return to. Actually, we should take refuge in our Self-Nature Buddha. A Bodhisattva stated, "The Self-Nature Awareness is innate." Therefore, what Buddha Shakyamuni meant in taking refuge in the Buddha is not to seek protection under his wing, but to return from our delusive mind and rely upon the innate Self-Nature Buddha. It is essential for one to understand the importance of returning to one's Self-Nature. In the second step, we take refuge in the Dharma, returning from deviant views by relying upon proper views and understanding. Dharma is the proper comprehension and viewpoint of life and the universe. The Dharma Jewel is the infinite, innate wisdom of Self-Nature also referred to as the Prajna Wisdom. Relying upon our Prajna Wisdom to correct our erroneous thoughts, speech and behavior is the meaning of taking refuge in the Dharma Jewel. Among the Three Jewels, the Dharma is the primary one we should rely on. In this day and age, Prajna Wisdom will be our primary concern. However, our innate wisdom cannot be restored in a short time. Then what should we follow? Sutras are records of the Buddha's teachings that describe the truth of the universe. Before our Prajna Wisdom has been fully recovered, we follow the teachings in the sutras and use them as a guideline. If our thinking coincides with the sutras, then our comprehension is correct. For example, the Buddha teaches us to respect and take care of our parents and teachers, to be compassionate by not killing and to practice the Ten Good Conducts. People may wonder in this modern age why we should be following what the Buddha taught three thousand years ago. We do so because the Self-Nature Prajna Wisdom is everlasting and unchanged; those who obtain it have the capability to know everything in the past, present and future within the infinite universe. However, we must beware of fraudulent sutras. It is easy for us to encounter fake sutras, especially in a modern world that promotes freedom of publication. Essentially anyone can publish books. In ancient times when sutras first came to China, each sutra had to undergo a strict examination by experts, followed by the emperor's official seal to prove its authenticity. Even the sutra commentaries of ancient patriarchs underwent scrutiny from highly accomplished monks and scholars of that time before receiving the Emperor's approval for distribution. Nowadays, no one regulates or enforces this process. Therefore, we need to be careful in verifying the authenticity of a sutra by checking for its listing in the Dragon (Chien-Long) Canon of the Sutras. This Canon of thirty-eight volumes was compiled under the decree of Emperor Chien-Long in 1738. Previous canons were meticulously certified by the most accomplished monks and scholars of their time and thus also serve as reliable references. In the third step, we take refuge in the Sangha Jewel. Used here, Sangha does not mean a group of monks or nuns. There are two representations, purity of mind and harmony in life. First, Sangha refers to living in a way that keeps our minds far away from temptations while maintaining the purity of our six senses of sight, sound, taste, smell, touch and mind object. In the modern world, people suffer from pollution of mind, spirit and body. Even the earth's ecological system is off-balance. There are holes in the ozone layers that are "pollution" of the skies. Almost everything from the skies and the earth to their inhabitants are contaminated in one way or another. Today, everyone is aware of environmental pollution. Governments are also promoting environmental protection to ensure better living conditions. However, how effective are these protection programs? It is questionable. The problem comes back to what the Buddha revealed, that the environment, the dependent variable, changes with our minds, the independent variable. If the impurities in our mind cannot be eradicated, our environment will never reach a state of purity. Therefore, if we want to improve the external environment, we first start internally by purifying our mind. Taking refuge in the third Jewel, the Sangha, thus means returning from pollution and relying upon purity of mind. Second, the Sangha represents harmony in living. Having observed the sufferings resulting from the disharmony between peoples, countries and even religions, the Buddha taught us the Six Principles of Harmony. The Six Principles are the essential guidelines that all Buddhists need to observe. When we take refuge in the Sangha, we are returning from pollution and disharmony and relying upon Purity of Mind and the Six Principles of Harmony. Thus, the guidelines for cultivation are: (1) Taking refuge in the Buddha - awareness without delusion, (2) Taking refuge in the Dharma - proper viewpoints without deviation, (3) Taking refuge in the Sangha - purity without pollution. These are the primary disciplines in practicing Buddhism from the beginning of cultivation to the attainment of Buddhahood. The main purpose behind taking the Three Refuges is to cultivate practicing awakening, proper thoughts and viewpoints, and purity. From now on, if people ask us what we are cultivating, we can answer that we are cultivating the Three Refuges. What are we learning? We are learning to achieve the ultimate, perfect wisdom that comes from perfecting these Three Refuges. What are the methods we use for cultivation? There are innumerable methods available depending on the ability and condition of each individual practitioner. Methods are not fixed, but flexible. However, we must remember that our learning objective always remains the same; awakening, proper thoughts and viewpoints, and purity. For Pure Land practitioners, the main cultivation method we use is chanting Buddha Amitabha's name. This method is advocated by Mahasthamaprapta (Great Strength) Bodhisattva in the Surangama Sutra and by Samantabhadra (Universal Worthy) Bodhisattva in the Avatamsaka (Flower Adornment) Sutra. In addition to chanting Buddha Amitabha's name, we follow the Five Guidelines to help us in our daily cultivation. First, we advocate Confucius' Five Virtues of Gentility, Kindness, Respectfulness, Thriftiness and Humility. We use these Five Virtues to cultivate our body and mind. Practicing them provides the foundation for our cultivation. The first level is comprised of the Three Conditions that are described in the Visualization Sutra. The First Condition includes (a) being filial and respectful to one's parents and teachers, (b) being compassionate and not killing any living beings and (c) practicing the Ten Good Conducts. The second Condition includes (a) following the Three Refuges, (b) observing precepts, laws and customs and (c) behaving in a proper and dignified manner. The Third Condition includes (a) generating our Bodhi-Mind, (b) deeply believing in the Law of Cause and Effect, (c) reciting and upholding Mahayana Sutras and (d) encouraging others to advance on the path to Enlightenment. The Buddha told us that the Three Conditions are the causes that brought all the Buddhas of the three times and the ten directions to Enlightenment. Therefore, we cannot do without this important step in our practice. Proceeding upward from the Three Conditions, we advance to the second level which is the Six Principles of Harmony. The First Principle of Harmony is to share the same viewpoints or goals. There will be no conflict in the world if we all share the same thoughts and viewpoints. This principle tries to create a common understanding for all sentient beings. This common understanding is based on our Self-Nature and not on Buddha Shakyamuni's opinion. He taught us how to cultivate and explore our own innate wisdom, virtues and capabilities. We are not imitating him; rather we are rediscovering our inborn potential. His education is truly extraordinary. The second principle is to observe the same precepts. Practicing the precepts includes cultivating an attitude of following society's laws and customs. Once everyone shares the common viewpoints and is able to follow the law, society will be peaceful and prosperous and world peace will naturally ensue. Another important principle is to share benefits equally. In modern society, it is beneficial not to have a big difference in wealth between people but to try to close the gap between the "have's" and the "have-nots." Equal sharing of wealth consequently settles the conflicts over wealth. Sharing benefits equally with others is a deedof wisdom and a real cultivation of good fortune. The reason people do not have equal wealth comes from the different seeds that they have previously planted. If people did not plant the same seeds, how can they expect to harvest the same fruits? The Buddha taught that those who harvest more should share with those who harvest less. Then, the sharing behavior becomes the seeds that will benefit one more later. According to the Law of Cause and Effect, poor people need to cultivate more good fortune to receive better harvests in the future. In addition, the wealthy need to share their possessions in order to remain wealthy in the future. Only by doing so will the world become peaceful. This true merit comes from learning the Buddha's teachings. Pure Land practitioners, as a foundation, cultivate the Confucian Five Virtues that are basic for all humanity. From here, we advance to the Three Conditions and the Six Principles of Harmony that are the important basis before practicing Buddhism. Then the Three Learnings are the foundation before practicing Mahayana Buddhism that includes the Six Paramitas. Finally, we practice the Ten Great Vows of Samantabhadra (Universal Worthy) Bodhisattva to attain Buddhahood. It is not difficult to remember these five guidelines. Combining this solid foundation with chanting Buddha Amitabha's name will assure us of obtaining what people have always pursued, a harmonious family life, a successful career and a peaceful society. Now that we have a clear understanding of what we are learning and sincerely want to follow the teachings, we need to practice diligently toward accomplishing our ideal goal. Consequently, one returns and relies on one's Triple Jewels of Self-Nature. In addition to the abstract form of the Triple Jewels of Self-Nature, there are the physical forms seen as Buddha's images, sutras, monks and nuns. Making offerings to the Buddha's image serves two purposes. First, it honors our original teacher, Buddha Shakyamuni. Every time we look at the image, we remember the great teachings he passed on to us. Second, it is to remind us to emulate the Buddha. When we see the Buddha's image, we remind ourselves to strive for awakening and not to be deluded. Sutras serve the same purpose by reminding us that we have taken refuge in the Dharma and need to reflect upon our viewpoints and comprehension. Similarly, seeing a monk or nun, representing the Sangha, can remind us of the importance of maintaining purity of the six senses and harmony with others. Therefore, attending the physical form of the Triple Jewels greatly benefits us because they constantly remind us of the path to awakening. Some practitioners attend the physical forms of the Triple Jewels at home. The Buddha's image symbolizes the Buddha Jewel while the Bodhisattva's image represents the Sangha Jewel. When we honor the Three Sages of the Western Pure Land, Buddha Amitabha symbolizes the Buddha Jewel, and Avalokiteshvara and Mahasthamaprapta Bodhisattvas symbolize the Sangha Jewel. Furthermore, Buddhist sutras symbolize the Dharma Jewel. These three remind us of the treasures of Self-Nature within us. Of all the Buddhist sutras, the Infinite Life Sutra is what I recommend the most. Although not too lengthy, the text completely encompasses the Buddha's teachings. Thus, it is well suited to modern practitioners. The full title of this sutra is The Buddha Speaks of the Infinite Life Sutra of Adornment, Purity, Equality and Enlightenment of the Mahayana School. This title fully reveals the objectives, principles and methods of cultivation in the Buddha's teachings. "Infinite Life" in this sutra's title embodies the most important of all the other infinities, including infinite wisdom, abilities, virtues, wealth, etc. Without infinite life, one could not enjoy all these other infinities. The infinity of our natural potential is what Pure Land practitioners seek and the virtues and capabilities of our innate Self-Nature are infinite. Furthermore, infinite Dharma originates from Self-Nature. Thus, the immeasurable unbounded existences of the Ten Realms are created by the Self-Nature. The word "Adornment" in the sutra's title represents truth, goodness, beauty and wisdom, qualities that are not a true reality in this world. They exist within the Self-Nature and will be found when one seeks within. The principles of cultivation are also expressed by "Purity, Equality and Enlightenment." Purity represents the Buddha Jewel; Equality represents the Dharma Jewel; and Enlightenment represents the Buddha Jewel. These three concepts are also equivalent to the Three Learnings, and cover the Buddha's forty-nine years of teachings. Purity stands for self-discipline and the Vinayas (precepts); Equality stands for the Concentration and the Sutras; Enlightenment stands for the Wisdom and the Sastras (Commentaries). If we have a busy lifestyle and do not have time to study numerous Buddhist sutras, we can start from this Infinite Life Sutra. Once thoroughly understanding it, not only will one understand Buddha Shakyamuni's teachings but also the teachings of all the Buddhas, because all these teachings come from the Self-Nature. The Buddha Speaks of the Infinite Life Sutra of Adornment, Purity, Equality, and Enlightenment of the Mahayana School expresses the essence of all sutras. Practicing according to the teachings in this sutra fulfills the requirements of taking refuge in the Triple Jewels! Today, I have explained to everyone the meaning of taking the Three Refuges. We will begin the Three Refuges Ceremony by sincerely and respectfully repeating the oath three times in front of the Buddha, vowing to be willing to become Buddha's student and to learn from him. I, Venerable Chin-Kung, will be the witness and initiation teacher. Please remember that one does not take refuge in the monk conducting the ceremony, but rather in the Buddha, the Dharma and the Sangha, thus becoming students of the Triple Jewels. The following is a simple yet solemn initiation ceremony. Everyone will receive a certificate of the initiation with an oath extracted from the Book of the Precepts by Dharma Master Hong-I. We use it for commemoration and simplicity. Let us stand in front of the Buddha's and Bodhisattva's images with our most sincere, pure, compassionate and respectful heart. Repeat after me, "I solemnly pledge to be a student of the Triple Jewels. From now on, I will cultivate according to the Buddha's teachings, will seek rebirth into the Pure Land and will help all other sentient beings to understand the truth of the Dharma." What is Taking Refuge? Taking Refuge means to return and rely. From where do we return from and upon what do we rely? When we take refuge in the Buddha, we are returning from our deluded state of mind and relying upon an Awakened, Understanding mind. When we take refuge in the Dharma, we are returning from deviant views and relying upon proper views and understanding. When we take refuge in the Sangha, we are returning from pollution and disharmony and relying upon Purity of Mind and the Six Principles of Harmony. Taking refuge in the Triple Jewels restores the complete wisdom and abilities of our Self-Nature. We will attain purity, equality, honesty, contentment, compassion and overall, true happiness. The Buddha Jewel Buddha is a Sanskrit word meaning Awareness and Understanding. When we take refuge in the Buddha, we vow to return from blind faith and delusion and rely upon Understanding and Awareness as a way of life. We are not relying upon the statues or Buddha-images, but rather the spirit of understanding and awareness they represent. As students of the Pure Land Teachings, we learn to rely upon Buddha Amitabha's lessons on wisdom and compassion. The name "Amitabha" stands for Infinite Light and Infinite Life. When we follow his teachings, we will attain wisdom, happiness and longevity. This is taking refuge in the Buddha. The Dharma Jewel Dharma means Right Understanding and Views. Delusion has obstructed us from seeing the true face of people and the reality behind matters and objects. This has caused us to look at life and the universe in a distorted and deviant way. When delusion is cleared and our minds are pure to an extent, we give rise to wisdom. With wisdom, we are able to see all people and matters completely and clearly. When our hearts are pure, we can see the past, present and future. Only when we have clearly seen the whole can our viewpoint and understanding be considered right. The Buddha's mind is pure without the slightest pollution and therefore sees everything clearly and entirely. We can rely upon the sutras, which are the recorded teachings of the Buddha, because they speak entirely of the truths the Buddha has seen. They teach and show us the way to attain Purity of Mind, to see life and the universe most clearly and become just like the Buddhas. As students of the Pure Land Teachings, we should rely upon the five Sutras and one commentary of the Pure Land as guidelines of practice: 1. The Buddha Speaks of the Infinite Life Sutra of Adornment, Purity, Equality and Enlightenment of the Mahayana School. 2. The Amitabha Sutra 3. The Visualization Sutra 4. "The Chapter of Universal Worthy Bodhisattva's Conduct and Vows," 5. "The Chapter on the Foremost Attainment of Great Strength Bodhisattva through Buddha Recitation," 6. "Vasubandhu Bodhisattva's Report on the Way to Reaching the Pure Land." This is taking refuge in the Dharma. The Sangha Jewel Sangha means purity and harmony. Today's world is full of pollution; pollution of mind, spirit, views and body. Even the earth and atmosphere are hazardly polluted. The Buddha taught, "The environment changes according to our state of mind." We would do well to return from all these pollutants and rely upon Purity of Mind, for it is the key to saving our Earth. There is also great disharmony in our world today, among spouses, families, friends, societies and countries which has brought us much suffering and many disasters. The Buddha taught us to rely upon the Six Principles of Living in Harmony to etablish harmonious relationships between others and ourselves. As students of the Pure Land Teachings, we rely upon wisdom and compassion as our way of treating others and dealing with affairs. Great Strength Bodhisattva represents wisdom. His choice of the Buddha Recitation method of practice is wisdom in its highest form. Guan Yin Bodhisattva represents compassion; when we help introduce the Pure Land Teachings to others, we are practicing the compassion of Guan Yin Bodhisattva. This is taking refuge in the Sangha. To the Buddha I return and rely, returning from delusions and relying upon Awareness and Understanding. To the Dharma I return and rely, returning from erroneous views and relying upon Proper Views and Understanding. To the Sangha I return and rely, returning from pollution and disharmony and relying upon Purity of Mind and the Six Principles of Harmony.

     
    One becomes a Buddhist simply by ....
    05.20.08 (2:40 pm)   [edit]
    One becomes a Buddhist simply by conscientiously practicing the trachings of the Buddha. The ceremony of taking refuge at best is a external affirmation, otherwise is purely rhetoric as far as practical cultivation goes. Taking refuge basically means that: 1. After your own research, you have concluded that the Buddha is indeed the enlightened one and you look up to him as a perfect model. 2. Knows that his teaching (aka Dharma or Dhamma) is for the good of one and all and hence, try to live up to it. 3. Seeking the community of monks and nuns (Sangha) to help you in your quest of understanding and practicing HIS teaching and message. This is what really entails in "taking refuge", and not some empty rituals in front of some statues. http://en.allexperts.com/q/Buddhists-948/Becoming-Buddhist.htm

     
    New On Anam Cara Zen Buddhist Church of Enlightenment
    05.20.08 (12:52 pm)   [edit]
    AnamCaraZenBuddhistChurchOfEnlightenment 26 New Messages 1 New Member 7 New Files 17 New Links http://groups.yahoo.com/group/AnamCaraZenBuddhistChurchOfEnlightenment/

     
    Re-Introduce HR 2929 the Captive Elephant Accident Prevention Act of 1999
    03.26.08 (3:44 pm)   [edit]
    View this petition and your signature at http://www.thepetitionsite.com/takeaction/945552036

     
    Re-Introduce HR 2929 the Captive Elephant Accident Prevention Act of 1999
    03.26.08 (3:43 pm)   [edit]
    View this petition and your signature at http://www.thepetitionsite.com/takeaction/945552036

     
    Re-Introduce HR 2929 the Captive Elephant Accident Prevention Act Of 1999
    03.26.08 (3:42 pm)   [edit]
    View this petition and your signature at http://www.thepetitionsite.com/takeaction/945552036

     
    Elephant Sanctuary Cam
    03.26.08 (1:23 pm)   [edit]
    Also, if there's any way possible you can donate, even if it's only $5, please do so! http://www.tappedintoelephants.com/asp/index.php

     
    Some Wonderful Reiki/Spirituality Related Groups
    03.26.08 (1:20 pm)   [edit]
    http://forums.delphiforums.com/anamcara1 http://groups.yahoo.com/group/AnamCaraZenBuddhistChurchOfEnlightenment This group covers Spirituality/Shamanistic/Celt/Reiki/Buddhist (Mostly Shin/Mahayana, Pure Land Buddhism but some Zen as well) beliefs. http://groups.msn.com/AnamCara1

     
    Some Wonderful Spirituality/Reiki Related Groups
    03.26.08 (1:19 pm)   [edit]
    http://forums.delphiforums.com/anamcara1 http://groups.yahoo.com/group/AnamCara1 http://groups.msn.com/AnamCara1

     
    Check Out the Reiki Info I Posted On My Yahoo360 Blog
    03.26.08 (1:14 pm)   [edit]
    Reiki (pronounced Ray-Key) is a method of natural healing based on the application of Universal Life Foce Energy (the name literally means Universal Life Force Energy). Reiki is a term originially used to refer to a system of healing & self-development created by Mikao Usui in Japan Traditional Reiki, as we knowi it today is said to have been discovered by Dr Mikao Usui in the early part of the 20th century. http://blog.360.yahoo.com/

     
    Check Out the Reiki Info I Posted On My Yahoo360 Blog
    03.26.08 (1:14 pm)   [edit]
    Reiki (pronounced Ray-Key) is a method of natural healing based on the application of Universal Life Foce Energy (the name literally means Universal Life Force Energy). Reiki is a term originially used to refer to a system of healing & self-development created by Mikao Usui in Japan Traditional Reiki, as we knowi it today is said to have been discovered by Dr Mikao Usui in the early part of the 20th century. http://blog.360.yahoo.com/

     
    Check Out the Reiki Info I Posted On My Yahoo360 Blog
    03.26.08 (1:12 pm)   [edit]
    Reiki (pronounced Ray-Key) is a method of natural healing based on the application of Universal Life Foce Energy (the name literally means Universal Life Force Energy). Reiki is a term originially used to refer to a system of healing & self-development created by Mikao Usui in Japan Traditional Reiki, as we knowi it today is said to have been discovered by Dr Mikao Usui in the early part of the 20th century. http://blog.360.yahoo.com/

     
    Welcome to Native Remedies - Herbal & Natural Remedies Safe
    03.26.08 (12:27 pm)   [edit]
    Welcome to Native Remedies, the market-leading brand of specially formulated, natural remedies produced in therapeutic dosage. You can search our Health A-Z index to find detailed information on symptoms, diagnosis and treatment options for ADD, ADHD, Anxiety, Panic Attacks, Depression, UTIs and many other health issues. You can also browse our natural and herbal remedies to view the full range of proven natural remedies for support of your physical, emotional and mental wellbeing. Our herbal remedies are formulated by experts in the field of natural health and are manufactured in an FDA-registered facility, using cGMP manufacturing practices and backed by our Full Spectrum Approach™ for maximum safety and effectiveness. http://www.nativeremedies.com/?kbid=8234

     
    Welcome to Native Remedies - Herbal & Natural Remedies Safe
    03.26.08 (12:26 pm)   [edit]
    Welcome to Native Remedies, the market-leading brand of specially formulated, natural remedies produced in therapeutic dosage. You can search our Health A-Z index to find detailed information on symptoms, diagnosis and treatment options for ADD, ADHD, Anxiety, Panic Attacks, Depression, UTIs and many other health issues. You can also browse our natural and herbal remedies to view the full range of proven natural remedies for support of your physical, emotional and mental wellbeing. Our herbal remedies are formulated by experts in the field of natural health and are manufactured in an FDA-registered facility, using cGMP manufacturing practices and backed by our Full Spectrum Approach™ for maximum safety and effectiveness. http://www.nativeremedies.com/?kbid=8234

     
    Please Check Out My "Please Watch" Post
    02.09.08 (7:45 pm)   [edit]
    N/A

     
    Please Go To The "Please Watch Post" and Read It
    02.09.08 (7:44 pm)   [edit]
    n/a

     
    Please Watch!
    02.09.08 (7:43 pm)   [edit]
    We MUST stop cutting down trees & the rainforests. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g7gpAy4ivZ0 Where will this planet get drinkable water from without sufficient to non-existent rainfall? The same company that supplies water to your house? WRONG! They run out of water & so will your house. If you don't like not flushing your toilet (excrutiatingly gross after a very short while) let alone NOT take showers/bathe, then, it's time for YOU to get up & demand governments do more to stop deforestation. Put up trees that aren't some little 2 - 4 foot shrub tree. That's not sufficient. We need oaks and chestnuts, walnut trees .... the types of trees that grow well over 10 - 15 feet tall. One way to help is to demand recycling of everything. It MAY cost a LITTLE more at first. However, in time, as everything gets changed over to being totally recycled, it won't cost anywhere near as much. PLEASE Help!

     
    Usui Reiki Hikkei - Usui reiki Ryoho Gakkai Handbook
    02.01.08 (4:27 pm)   [edit]
    It's now uploaded on my anam cara 1 delphi forum. The forum link is forums.delphiforums.com/anamcara1 The manual is listed under Project Status.

     
    Free Reiki Attunements
    02.01.08 (12:56 pm)   [edit]
    http://www.xehupatl.com/ This man is THE reiki person to get attunements from. I should suggest getting Usui Reiki Levels 1 through 3 first. Those you can get through http://freereiki.proboards43.com/index.cgi. The man I got mine from is Rick Blanda .... I believe he goes by Blandar on the board (not looking at it at the moment). You get a certificate (sent via email) as well when you've been attuned and a manual. (Done FREE) There are others ont hat board too who can do them. I do them also with manuals & certificates as well (tmail me with name, location .... at least city and/or state and a way to send your certificate/manuals)

     
    Free $5 on First Call - Lots of People to Help
    02.01.08 (11:29 am)   [edit]
    Spiritual Advisors (Reiki/EFT Related): http://www.keen.com/grouplist/11869/GHP/1/ Where Angels Live: http://www.keen.com/grouplist/5427/GHP/1/ My Listing (Reiki/Hedge Witch): http://www.keen.com/Danu9

     
    This Is a Reiki Forum I Belong to
    02.01.08 (11:12 am)   [edit]
    http://www.thereikiforum.ning.com/

     
    Here’s a site of a long time bud who is into environmental issues
    02.01.08 (11:11 am)   [edit]
    He's putting together a power source that's cleaner & safer than a lot of what's out there. Check out his site & see what it's all about! http://theenvironmentandthefutureofmankind.com/

     
    Hebrew Version of Usui Reiki Manual
    01.14.08 (3:25 pm)   [edit]
    http://www.rudy.org.il/UsuiManual.cfm

     
    Help Save Our Planet & Our Wildlife
    01.13.08 (2:40 pm)   [edit]
    http://www.defenders.org/index.php

     
    Sites worth checking out also
    01.13.08 (2:32 pm)   [edit]
    http://forums.delphiforums.com/anamcara1 http://blog.myspace.com/danu9

     
    Free Reiki E-Books
    01.13.08 (2:30 pm)   [edit]
    You will need a .pdf reader for these. Adobe Reader is a popular one. I used Fox-It, which you can obtain from download.com or cnet.com. The FREE EBooks These are mainly verbatim copies of single articles from this site, however, the letter 'C ' after a title indicates that the particular E-Book contains, or is developed from, several different related articles. New additions will always be added at the top of this list. http://www.aetw.org/reiki_pdf.htm

     
    Check out ....
    01.06.08 (2:30 pm)   [edit]
    http://forums.delphiforums.com/AnamCara1/start

     
    DAILY DOSE: Self Trial
    01.01.08 (1:37 pm)   [edit]
    B"H Self-Trial ---------- The Baal Shem Tov taught that in the heavenly court there is no one who can judge you for what you have done in your life on earth. So this is what they do: They show you someone’s life -all the achievements and all the failures, all the right decisions and all the wrongdoings -and then they ask you, “So what should we do with this somebody?” And you give your verdict. Which they accept. And then they tell you that this somebody was you. Being now in heaven, you don’t recall a thing. Of course, those who tend to judge others favorably have a decided advantage. Better get in the habit now. A Daily Dose of Wisdom from the Rebbe -words and condensation by Tzvi Freeman Tevet 23, 5768 * January 1, 2008

     
    Table Talk - Parshas Shemos Carrying is Caring
    12.27.07 (3:02 pm)   [edit]
    Table Talk Parshas Shemos Carrying is Caring By Rabbi Raymond Beyda "It happened in those days and Moshe grew up, and he went out to his brothers and he saw their sufferings." [Shemot 2,11] Although Moshe Rabenu grew up as a prince in the palace of the Pharoah, he learned from his mother that he was not an Egyptian but instead, he was a Jew. He felt a need to go out of his secure, comfortable surroundings in order to view the plight of his brethren. The verse simply states that he saw their suffering but Rashi reveals the depth of his emotional attachment to the slaves that he saw struggling in the mud. "He put his eyes and his heart" into it. Our sages teach this is a trait called "noseh b'ohl im habero" -- "carrying the load along with your friend." It is in the merit of Moshe's excellence in this trait that earned him the position as Savior of his people and gave us the leader who not only freed us from bondage but also brought us the Torah and led us to the boundaries of the Promised Land. Rav Haim Friedlander zt'l says people are naturally "self" oriented. Even when people do acts of kindness they may be motivated by selfishness. Someone who is uncomfortable seeing pain or suffering might help others thinking they are acting in a "giving" manner when they are actually sub- consciously removing from sight that which bothers them. The act may benefit the one in need, but the motivation comes from the id -- the "givers" selfish drives. In 1895 there was a fire that destroyed many homes in the city of Brisk. The great leader of the Jewish community, Rav Haim Soloveitchik zt'l, tirelessly worked day and night to restore the dwellings of all those families who had lost their homes in the blaze. He also refused to go home to bed, but rather slept on the floor of the synagogue until every family had a place to live. He did not merely know about their plight and he did not merely help them out of their troubles -- he FELT their pain and could not rest until their suffering was relieved. He felt that they were really part of him. Another story is told about the Hafetz Haim zt'l who cried and prayed constantly during World War 1 because he knew how much his brethren were suffering all over Europe. Many were subjected to pogroms, others were drafted into battle for the countries in which they lived and others lost their homes in the changing boundaries of Europe's map. One night his wife woke up and found that he was not in his bed. She found him sleeping on a wooden bench with his head resting on his hands. "Yisrael Meir", she said, "Why aren't you sleeping in your bed? Where is your pillow?" "How can I sleep in a bed," he replied, "When so many of our people are suffering the ravages of war?" He too did not hear about the troubles of another without FEELING as if the problem was his own. Today, we are aware of a lot of Jewish suffering around the globe. We are all hungry for news from the battleground in Eretz Yisrael. But there are many Jews who are falling prey to assimilation even here in the United States. France has been showing an increase in Anti-Semitic crimes. There are still Jewish communities in Muslim countries and in the Former Soviet Union. Many of our people have financial problems, while others cannot find a mate. Some who are married have no children and others who have children fall ill to horrible diseases. What does Hashem want? Perhaps He wants us to be noseh b'ohl im habero --to help in carrying the load -- by praying, giving charity and assistance to those in need. But most importantly, to feel that another Jew's problem is my own. His or her problem hurts me like my difficulties. It was this attitude that made Moshe the leader of our salvation from Egypt and perhaps if we can truly evoke that unity in our people today, Hashem will bring the final redemption with the coming of Mashiah speedily and in our days. Amen. TABLE TALK -- QUESTION FROM THE PARASHA When Moshe went before the Pharoah in order to free the slaves he did not ask the wicked monarch to release the Jewish people from their bondage. He merely requested "We will go 3 days journey into the desert and bring sacrifices to our Lord." If Hashem's intention was to free the Jewish people from Egypt forever, why didn't He instruct Moshe to ask Pharoah "Let my people go free --forever"? Rabenu Yehudah Moshe Fataya zt'l, in his book Minhat Yehuda explains: When Hashem predicted to Abraham Abinu that his children would serve as slaves in a strange land and suffer at the hands of their host nation -He did not include the extreme cruelty of the Egyptians as part of the decree - especially the drowning of all male children in the Nile river. G- d wanted to meet out a just punishment -- middah k'neged middah - to the Egyptians whereby He would drown the Egyptian males. By first promising to return after 3 days and then continuing to travel on escape path away from Egypt, the Jews prompted the chase that eventually led to the drowning of the Egyptians in the sea - the just punishment came about as a result of the "trick" of the 3 day request. DID YOU KNOW THAT On Shabbat it is forbidden to separate or sort out 2 kinds of articles, which are mixed together. This process of separation is called "Borer". Selection is permitted if 3 conditions are met (which demonstrate that the separating is done in the course of normal use of the article being selected). 1) What one wishes to use is being separated from one that one does not wish to use (i.e. the good is taken and the "bad" is left behind.) 2) The separation is done by hand and not by a utensil designed to separate the articles in question. 3) What is being separated is intended for immediate use and not for use at some future time. [Source, Shemirath Shabbath based on Shulhan Arukh, O'H, Siman 319]

     
    DAILY DOSE: The Last War
    12.11.07 (10:39 am)   [edit]
    The Last War ------------ Some people are waiting for a final, apocalyptic war. But the final war is not fought on battlefields, nor at sea, nor in the skies above. Neither is it a war between leaders or nations. The final war is fought in the heart of each human being, with the armies of his or her deeds in this world. The final war is the battle of Chanukah and the miracle of light. A Daily Dose of Wisdom from the Rebbe -words and condensation by Tzvi Freeman Tevet 2, 5768 * < >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> Chanukah is here! Our extensive Chanukah website has how-to’s, stories, lessons, games and even recipes! It's sure to make your holiday more meaningful and insightful! All this at: http://www.Chanukah.org Tip: Join a public menorah lighting or Chanukah event in your area too! Currently listing Chanukah events for over 600 cities in more than 38 countries worldwide. http://www.chabad.org/103839 Send Chanukah Greeting Cards to friends and family: http://www.chabad.org/225487 NEW: Get the Chanukah Cards Facebook Application and share Chanukah greetings with your Facebook friends! http://apps.facebook.com/chanukahcards Wishing you and your family a Happy Chanukah!

     
    Daily Lift # 221 - Plan Without Worrying
    12.09.07 (4:05 pm)   [edit]
    Daily Lift #221 Plan Without Worrying When a person worries about his future material needs, he assumes he will still be alive in that future moment. What guarantee does he have that he'll still be alive for any length of time? If you assume you will still be alive, then you can also assume that you'll be able to meet your basic necessities. Suppose you saw a person looking worried and you asked him, "My friend, why are you so full of anxiety?" How would you react if he replied, "Things are all right now, but I'm worried that in 10 years I might be missing something." Of course it's ridiculous to worry about what will be so far in the future. Actually, just as worrying about 10 years from now is fruitless, so too is worrying about what will be in one day from now. Planning is positive. Worrying is negative. Only the present is before you. Use it properly. (Chayai Hamussar, vol.1, pp.68-9; Rabbi Pliskin's Gateway to Happiness, pp.155-6)

     
    Please Check Out
    12.09.07 (1:26 pm)   [edit]
    http://forums.delphiforums.com/AnamCara1/start

     
    Please Check Out
    12.09.07 (1:25 pm)   [edit]
    http://forums.delphiforums.com/AnamCara1/start

     
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