Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Burma Diversity Buddhists To Baptists

Burma Diversity Buddhists To Baptists Image
Shwedagon Pagoda, public access to the sacred shrine in the heart of Rangoon was the spark that ignited the military crackdown (

(TIME photoessays) Living under the thumb of a brutal junta, the average Burmese hardly leads an easy life. But the plight of the country's ethnic minorities, many of whom once waged long and bloody insurgencies against the military regime, is even worse. As a new human-rights report released on Jan. 28, as well as the recent stories of destitute refugees who fled Burma attest to, members of Burma's ethnic groups face persistent discrimination by the military regime.

* Burma: 19 years of Protest

* Burma: Aftermath

* Burma: Discontent

They are the targets of unpaid forced labor campaigns, scorched-earth policies that destroy farmland, and relocation programs that require entire villages to move at a moment's notice.


Perhaps the most exploited minority in Burma, the Rohingya are a Muslim group. (Visiting the Rohingya, Burma's hidden population)


Clustered in the northeastern hills of Burma, the Buddhist Shan were accorded a measure of self-rule by British colonialists, thought in total to number at least 5 million.


Overwhelmingly Christian (Baptist converts), the Chin live in the impoverished mountains near the India-Burma border and have an armed wing, the Chin National Front. (Pictures: Junta blocking Burma from receiving aid after a cyclone)


The second-largest ethnic group after the Burmans, comprised of both Christians and Buddhists, the Karen have also waged a long rebellion against the Burmese junta.


Mostly Christian, the Kachin live in northern Burma and were famous during colonial times for their battle skills.

Called "Myanmar" [which is simply a more correct pronunciation of Bamar] by its military leaders, Burma derives its name from the Buddhist Burman (or Bamar) people. The country's largest ethnic group, the Burman historically lived in Burma's central and upper plains. But this patchwork country of 55 million is made up of more than 100 unique ethnicities.

* Tension in Burma

* UN Envoy trying to save Burma

* An eye in the sky on Burma

The isolation enforced by Burma's numerous mountains and hills helped nurture these culturally discrete groups, making it one of the most diverse countries in Southeast Asia, despite its relatively small geographic size. Here are five ethnicities, some of who have unsuccessfully waged long insurgencies against the central government and others who have made news recently because of the abuses they have suffered at the hands of the Burman-dominated regime.

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Saturday, October 22, 2011

Chanting Buddhism East And West

Chanting Buddhism East And West Image
There is much to be said in favor of chanting. Just as ancient seers ("rishis") in India preserved the Books of Sacred Knowledge ("Vedas"), so Buddhist monks preserved the Dharma by memorizing, studying, and reciting the sutras. There was soon no necessity to preserve them that way with the advent of writing them down (first on palm leaves in Sri Lanka then on other media as they spread beyond India). But to preserve the living tradition, monks have continued to learn, recite, practice, teach (Dharma), and deliver them as sermons ("bhana") through chanting. Americans have joined Asian practitioners, and many chants are now done in English. One practice that originated in Japan, Soka Gakkai (SGI) or "Tina Turner chanting" ("Nam myoho renge kyo") is the fastest growing. Unlike most forms of Buddhism, it draws in large numbers of African- and Hispanic-American practitioners. SGI promises material wealth more than spiritual fulfillment. But the point is not lost. Chants (as in the yogic practice of "japa" or Christian-mystic practice of prayer) are meant to reduce discursive thinking and bring peace of mind. The second video is an example of ancient Sri Lankan Theravada Buddhist PALI (the language closest to the Magadhi the Buddha spoke) and modern American English chanting.

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Thursday, October 13, 2011

Heavy Metal Buddhism

Heavy Metal Buddhism Image
Buddhist/comedian Jim Carrey loved Cannibal Corpse so much that he asked them to perform their megahit "Hammer Smashed Face" in Ace Ventura: Pet Detective.

My girlfriend and I were miserable in samsara. She was at the University of Hawaii and more miserable than I, asking: "When will the suffering end? We'll go East in search of enlightenment," I would answer. "You better finish school first and body surf more. Or we can go to a concert?"

In the meantime, we soothed ourselves with the idea of starting a wholesome grindcore band. I look Tibetan (like Gomo Tulku), and she is Scandinavian (like Alissa White-Gluz), and we were vegans. (I still am).

With our crazy mops, we were either going to be called Zen Zero or Decorticated Disenchanted Strands (DDS), because we wanted to cut our long sun kissed hair down to the skin with revulsion or grow very long yogi dreadlocks like the guys in Carcass (see below).

What I had in mind for Zen Zero/DDS (The Agonist)

Devi and dragon (angel and titan), we would jointly sing the lyrics she wrote in a special notebook in class along the lines of Carcass (classic British vegan grindcore) coroner jargon, girl bands, Cannibal Corpse (a comedic, carnivorous American band made famous by their appearance in Ace Ventura: Pet Detective), Cradle of Filth (dark British death metal), Dimmu Borgir (reptilian Norwegian black metal and our first concert experience), Deicide (darker American metal), Kittie, Dead Kennedys (San Francisco punk rock), and smaller wannabee bands of ALL kinds in Los Angeles.

If Carcass and other vegans could sing that meat eating is as gross as cannibalism with no one noticing, surely we could certainly extol the Dharma without anyone caring. And we'd feel good about it.

There's a way to rage at the universe with themes of disgust, dukkha, mindfulness of death, craving for liberation from samsara, and corporeality in general. Dress Goth, date around, and have music soothe the savage breast.

Sometimes renunciation grows to a fever pitch and becomes aversion (dosa) wanting nothing more than magical powers (abhinna) and enlightening everyone that things are empty and repulsive.

Female death metal singing lessons (Angela Gossow)

Carcass taught us that things "reek of putrefaction" in a "jigsaw quandary," and it seemed so Buddhist/tantric/yogic to cover their song "Carneous Cacoffiny." That's a song from their hyperintelligent album/medical tome "Necroticism: Descanting the Insalubrious." We had a really good sense of humor back then. I guess I was a bad influence on her. But she won complete freedom, so it all worked out. And they were her lyrics after all.

CARCASS: Sometimes it's fun to scream Zen-style.

Carneous Cacoffiny


...Striking up my discordant underture

A carnal cacophony perversely penned

Transposed...and decomposed...

But don't hold your breath

As you wait for your god or the void

Or the abyss of nothingness

Your usefulness isn't through

Your productivity I resume...

My sordid, soiled handicrafts

Will be your afterlife's handicap....

My corrupt crescendos...

Will leave you out on a limbo...

Your disposition I unleash...

You will rest in my piece...

With deadly dynamics

You're dead, buried, and barred

Your remains dampened and fingered

Your mortal coil is barbed

The death-bells are peeling

Ringing out as you flake

Shrieking out their recitals

A celebration of your wake...

Enter my funereality

My world two meters under

A curious habitat

Your muddy trench I plunder

Pass on to ethereality

Churned out under the sextant's blade

You live your life in wretchedness

And death is no escape

And death is no escape

And death is no escape

by Melissa Cross

A None-more-metal Dharma-Burger

The Worst Horse

The latest entry from the ever-expanding realm of metal/Buddhism crossovers is the cover and title of the new EP by the great doom/drone band, Queen Elephantine:

The Tibetan-"thangka"-style art is one thing, but it doesn't really get more metal than "Garland of Skulls," does it?* (Queen Elphantine has dabbled in imagery from world religions and cultures, what with album titles like "Surya" and "Kailash", and song titles like "Search for the Deathless State." And you can download their record, "Yatra "(as in the Hindu term for "pilgrimage") for free here.)

Hear the slow, dirgy, powerful track, "Potency," from Garland of Skulls, here.

(See here for another recent - and recommended - Buddhism/metal crossover.)

* *Note: I have dibs on the band name Sk"ulC"up.

Metal for Buddhists? Buddhism for metalheads? Who cares? It rocks.

For a while now I've wondered about the band Yob. (Their name refers to a classic Warner Brothers cartoon; I distinctly remember being a teenager in bands and seeing the cartoon and thinking, "Good band name".)...

The last words in the shorter version of the sutra are "Gat'e Gat'e Paragat'e Parasamgat'e Bodhi Svaha!" The basic translation, as I understand it, is "gone (or ferried) with everyone to the other shore right now!"

A little more Googling about Yob and Buddhism turns up a quick reference in a Rebel Extravaganza interview with vocalist and guitarist Mike Scheidt, in which he responds to the interviewer's question about the use of the word "bardo" in the song "Ball of Molten Lead" from 2004's "The Illusion of Motion "LP:

I'm surprised that one jumped out at you, man! A bardo is a term used in Buddhism. A bardo is a segment of life. The Tibetan Book Of The Dead goes into it, the bardos of life... the stages of life and death. More in depth, when you get into the places where the book deals with learning how to die. We go through time periods of trying to understand and remember who we are outside of this life.

And the band has a track called "Asleep in Samsara" on 2002's "Elaborations of Carbon." Is all this a coincidence? And more important: "does it matter? "

I'm not saying that Scheidt is a Buddhist or that YOB is in some way a "Buddhist band." (And either way, they get points for clearly not trying to cash in on Buddhism's cultural cachet. They're hardly hitting us over the head with the references here.) They probably wouldn't want to be identified as a Buddhist band, even if they were. And I'm "not" saying they are. All I "am" saying is this:

1) Metal can be a lot smarter than some would ever think.

2) Buddhism can be way more metal-confluent than some would ever think. (It can also be way more punk- or hip-hop- or baseball- or business- or "whatever"-confluent than some would ever think, too.)

3) It's refreshing... More

Via NPR: "Gomo Tulku, the Rapping Lama" The Worst Horse (Music, hip-hop, Tibet)

"[T]here's been a detour in [Lama] Gomo Tulku's spiritual journey," reports NPR. "He's about to release his first rap recording."

Now, comments on the piece, so far, don't seem to be in the Rapping Lama's favor. But listen and see what you think.

Of course, there's nothing new about the Buddhism/hip-hop crossover. And like anything, the results have been all over the map. Find some gems - and otherwise - in the Horse's archives...

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Friday, October 7, 2011

Religion Belief Extremists Not Islam The Problem

Religion Belief Extremists Not Islam The Problem Image
The State Department, DHS, and the NCTC urge that it's time to forever separate Islam and terrorism--in our diplomatic lexicon, that is:

Federal agencies, including the State Department, the Department of Homeland Security and the National Counter Terrorism Center, are telling their people not to describe Islamic extremists as "jihadists" or "mujahedeen," according to documents obtained by The Associated Press. Lingo like "Islamo-fascism" is out, too.

The reason: Such words may actually boost support for radicals among Arab and Muslim audiences by giving them a veneer of religious credibility or by causing offense to moderates.

For example, while Americans may understand "jihad" to mean "holy war," it is in fact a broader Islamic concept of the struggle to do good, says the guidance prepared for diplomats and other officials tasked with explaining the war on terror to the public. Similarly, "mujahedeen," which means those engaged in jihad, must be seen in its broader context."Islamo-fascism" never made much sense. "Islamic fundamentalism" is a better descriptor of the ideological force driving terrorist attacks on Western targets. Of course, such a phrase indictes Islam as a compelling engine of the contemporary international terrorist problem. Can't have any of that.

Can Islam be stripped of its martial essence? Tough to see how that'll be pulled off, since Islam's central figure, an expansionist military leader, is having revealed to him (and his followers) the commands and teachings of God throughout the Koran.

In contemporary Christianity, by contrast, the divinely blessed violent conquests are in books most Christians know almost nothing about. Joshua paraded around Jericho and it fell, right? Oh, the walls fell and then all the inhabitants inside (including livestock) were massacred? My pastor never told me that. Judges, I assume, has to do with ideals of justice, right? Oh, you mean it's a compendia of accounts of the violent military expansion and contraction of Israel under various obscure leaders? Huh, wasn't aware.

Christians primarily pay attention to the four gospels (especially Luke and John) which together comprise about one-tenth of the Good Book. And that 10% doesn't condone violent militancy at all.

We'd be better off pointing out the strong connection between Islam and terrorism against the West and then doing everything we are able to do to separate Islam and the West from one another.

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Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Buddha Advice Question And Investigate

Buddha Advice Question And Investigate Image
The message the Buddha delivered to the Kalamas in Kesaputta (AN 3.65) is one of openness, investigation, and questioning what is taught by whoever it is taught. It is given above in brief. This is the full discourse:

The Kalamas of Kesaputta

1. Thus have I heard. Once the Buddha, while wandering in the Kosala country with a large community of monastics, entered a town of the Kalama people called Kesaputta.

The Kalamas said to one another: "Reverend Gautama, the monk, the son of the Sakyans [has had this reputation:] 'Indeed, the Blessed One is thus consummate, fully enlightened, endowed with knowledge and practice, sublime, knower of the worlds..."

Asking for Guidance

3. The Kalamas asked: "Venerable sir, there are some monks and brahmins who visit Kesaputta. They expound and explain only their own doctrines. The doctrines of others they despise, revile, and pull to pieces.

"Some other monks and brahmins too, venerable sir, come to Kesaputta. They also expound and explain only their own doctrines. The doctrines of others they despise, revile, and pull to pieces. Venerable sir, there is doubt, there is uncertainty in us concerning them. Which of these revered monks and brahmins spoke the truth and which falsehood?"

Criteria for Rejection

4. "Kalamas, it is proper for you to doubt, to be uncertain. Uncertainty has arisen in you about what is doubtful. Come, Kalamas:

* Do not go upon what has been acquired by repeated hearing

* nor upon tradition

* nor upon rumor

* nor upon what is scripture

* nor upon surmising

* nor upon an axiom

* nor upon (specious) reasoning

* nor upon a bias toward a notion that has been pondered over

* nor upon another's seeming ability

* nor upon the consideration, 'This monk is our teacher.'

But, Kalamas, when you yourselves know, 'These things are unprofitable, these things are blameworthy, these things are censured by the wise, when undertaken and observed, these things lead to harm and ill' then abandon them.

Greed, Hate, and Delusion

5. "What do you think, Kalamas? Does greed appear in a person for benefit or harm?"

"For harm, venerable sir."

"Kalamas, being given to greed, and being overwhelmed and vanquished mentally by greed, a person takes life, steals, commits sexual misconduct, and speaks falsehoods. That person prompts others to do likewise. Will that be for harm and ill?"

"Yes, venerable sir."

6-7. "What do you think, Kalamas? Does hate...delusion appear in a person for benefit or harm?"

"For harm, venerable sir."

"Kalamas, being given to hate...delusion, and being overwhelmed and vanquished mentally by hate...delusion, a person takes life, steals, commits sexual misconduct, and speaks falsehoods. That person prompts others to do likewise. Will that be for harm and ill?"

"Yes, venerable sir."

8. "What do you think, Kalamas, are these things profitable or unprofitable?"

"Unprofitable, venerable sir"

"Blameworthy or blameless?"

"Blameworthy, venerable sir."

"Censured or praised by the wise?"

"Censured, venerable sir."

"When undertaken and observed, do these things lead to harm and ill or not? Or how does it strike you?"

"When undertaken and observed, these things lead to harm and ill. This is how it strikes us."

9. "Kalamas, therefore was it said, 'Come Kalamas! Do not go upon what has been acquired by repeated hearing, nor upon tradition, nor upon rumor... but when you yourselves know: "These things are unprofitable, these things are blameworthy, these things are censured by the wise, and when undertaken and observed, these things lead to harm and ill" then abandon them.'...

The Four Exalted Dwellings

16. "Kalamas, the disciple of the Noble Ones who in this way is devoid of greed, devoid of ill will, undeluded, and instead clearly comprehending and mindful, dwells this way:

"Having pervaded with thoughts of loving-kindness (friendliness, amity, metta) one quarter, so the second, so the third, and likewise the fourth, so above, below, and across. One dwells having pervaded all living beings in all directions, everywhere in the entire universe with a heart grown great, exalted, with boundless thoughts of loving-kindness toward everyone free of hate or malice.

"One lives having pervaded with thoughts of compassion (karuna)... thoughts of gladness-over-their-success (mudita)... equanimity (impartiality, upekkha)... with a heart grown great, exalted, with boundless thoughts of equanimity toward everyone free of hate or malice.

The Four Solaces

17. "Kalamas. the disciple of the Noble Ones who has such a hate-free mind, such a malice-free mind, such an undefiled mind, such a purified mind is one who finds four solaces here and now.

"'Suppose there is a hereafter and there is fruit and results of deeds done well or ill. Then it is possible that at the dissolution of the body after death, I shall re-arise [be reborn] in heavenly worlds, which are states of bliss.' This is the first solace found.

"'Suppose there is no hereafter and no fruit or results of deeds done well or ill. Yet in this world, here and now, free from hatred, free from malice, safe and sound, and happy, I keep myself.' This is the second solace found.

"'Suppose unpleasant (results) befall doers of ill. I, however, think of doing il. to no one. Then, how can ill (results) affect me who does no ill deed?' This is the third solace found.

"'Suppose ill (results) do not befall an doers of ill. Then I see myself purified in any case.' This is the fourth solace found.

"Kalamas, the disciple of the Noble Ones who has such a hate-free mind, such a malice-free mind, such an undefiled mind, such a purified mind is one who finds here and now these four solaces."

"So it is, Blessed One! So it is, Sublime One! The disciple of the Noble Ones, venerable sir, who has such a hate-free mind, such a malice-free mind, such an undefiled mind, such a purified mind is one who finds, here and now, these four solaces.

"Marvelous, venerable sir! Marvelous, venerable sir!

"Venerable sir, it is as if a person were to turn up what was upside down, or to uncover what was concealed, or to point the way to one who was lost, or to carry a lamp into the darkness, thinking, 'Those who have eyes will see'!

"So has the Dharma [truth] been set forth in many ways by the Blessed One. Venerable sir, we go to the Blessed One for guidance, to the Dharma for guidance, and to the Community of [accomplished] monastics for guidance.

"Venerable sir, may the Blessed One regard us as lay followers who have gone for guidance from this day forward!"

by Seven based on the work of Soma Thera

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