Digital Dharma

The Middle Path, One Day At A Time


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Dueling Dalais?

China Creates Specter of Dueling Dalai Lamas – NYTimes.com

DHARAMSALA, India — For centuries, the selection of the reincarnation of the Dalai Lama has been steeped in the mysticism of a bygone world.

On the windswept Tibetan plateau, his closest aides look for divinations in a sacred lake. A mountain god transmits oracular messages by possessing a high lama. Monks scour villages for boys precocious in their spiritual attunement.

All that is about to change, as the current Dalai Lama and his followers in exile here in India compete with the Chinese government for control of how the 15th Dalai Lama will be chosen.


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Trusting God Over Doctor

Children’s Health: Trusting God Over Doctor | Mother Jones

On May 20, 2009 a Wisconsin mother who followed an apocalyptic religious website said in a videotaped interview played at her trial that she did not call a doctor when her 11-year-old daughter was dying of untreated diabetes, but instead prayed for divine healing.


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Are Buddhists Violent?

Are Buddhists Violent? – Forbes.com

Like many former residents of Bangkok, I have been watching the country’s slide into virtual civil war with a mixture of incredulity and tetchy disillusion. It is hard for us to think of one of the world’s only truly Buddhist states descending into a chaotic thuggery that would, alas, be less remarkable elsewhere. But why? Is it because of misperceptions we have about Buddhism?


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The Political Obligations of Catholics

The Political Obligations of Catholics: A Conversation With the Most Rev. Charles Chaput, Archbishop of Denver

Catholic civic engagement plays a central role in American politics, and the question of how Catholic convictions translate to the public square is a matter of frequent discussion. In his recent book Render Unto Caesar: Serving the Nation by Living Our Catholic Beliefs in Political Life (2008), the Most Rev. Charles J. Chaput, archbishop of Denver, argues that Catholics should take an active, vocal and morally consistent role in public debates, particularly on issues such as abortion, the death penalty and other matters they consider central to social justice.

I have no problem with that, as long as they lose their tax exempt status.


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One World, Under God

One World, Under God – The Atlantic (April 2009)

For many Christians, the life of Jesus signifies the birth of a new kind of God, a God of universal love. The Hebrew Bible—the “Old Testament”—chronicled a God who was sometimes belligerent (espousing the slaughter of infidels), unabashedly nationalist (pro-Israel, you might say), and often harsh toward even his most favored nation. Then Jesus came along and set a different tone. As depicted in the Gospels, Jesus exhorted followers to extend charity across ethnic bounds, as in the parable of the good Samaritan, and even to love their enemies. He told them to turn the other cheek, said the meek would inherit the Earth, and warned against self-righteousness (“let he who is without sin cast the first stone”). Even while on the cross, he found compassion for his persecutors: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

But there’s a funny thing about these admirable utterances: none of them appears in the book of Mark, which was written before the other Gospels and which most New Testament scholars now consider the most reliable (or, as some would put it, the least unreliable) Gospel guide to Jesus’ life. …


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Religion News of Interest

A Thousand Buddhas

The vast region of Central Asia, stretching from the Caspian Sea to central China, has always been one of the most mysterious and tempting corners of the world. It is this huge territory that became known as the Silk Road — an extensive network of trade routes between East and West that lured merchants with the fat profits to be made. The Silk Road influenced the history of the world and produced numerous artifacts, a vast collection of which is now on display at the State Hermitage Museum in an exhibition entitled “The Caves of A Thousand Buddhas: Russian exhibitions on the Silk Road.”

Dalai Lama To Speak At Gillette Stadium, Foxboro MA, In May

The spiritual leader of Tibet and Nobel Peace Laureate will host two talks on Saturday, May 2. A ticket will get you into both talks. The Morning talk will be an introduction to Tibetan Buddhism. The second talk will be on “A Path to Peace and Happiness.”

Dobson resigns as chairman of Focus on the Family

Dobson, 72, will continue to host Focus on the Family’s flagship radio program, write a monthly newsletter and speak out on moral issues…

Obama administration moves to rescind abortion rule

Seven states, including California, Illinois and Connecticut, as well as two family planning groups, have filed lawsuits challenging the Bush rule, arguing that it sacrifices the health of patients to religious beliefs of medical providers.

Italy hands over church to Russia

President Dmitri Medvedev of Russia traveled to the southern Italian city of Bari for the hand-over ceremony later Sunday, which aims to boost ties between the two countries and improve often-tense Roman Catholic-Russian Orthodox relations.

Russia built the church in the early 20th century to welcome its pilgrims who traveled to Bari to pray near the relics of Nicholas of Myra, a fourth-century saint associated with Christmas and much revered by Russian Orthodox faithful. …


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Chinese County in Lockdown After Pro-Tibet Protests – washingtonpost.com

BEIJING, Feb. 18 — The county of Lithang in Sichuan province was under lockdown this week after Tibetan monks, laypeople and nomads clashed with Chinese security forces Sunday and Monday, according to residents.

via Chinese County in Lockdown After Pro-Tibet Protests – washingtonpost.com.


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Gay parents rights: Gay parents rights issue divides U.S., not families — chicagotribune.com

…away from the polarizing rhetoric of a campaign, what do researchers know about people like Fakhrid-Deen? Do the children fare better or worse than those with heterosexual parents? Are they, as social conservatives assert, more apt to experience harmful effects and confusion about their sexuality?

At least 4 million U.S. children have one or both parents who identify themselves as homosexual, said Gary Gates of the Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law, but long-term studies are still limited.

Sociologists Judith Stacey and Timothy Biblarz published an analysis in 2001 in the American Sociological Review of 21 studies of children raised by homosexual parents and found that, overall, they were no more likely to suffer from psychological problems than kids raised in conventional homes.

“There was a very strong consensus that kids turned out about the same,” Stacey said.

via Gay parents rights: Gay parents rights issue divides U.S., not families — chicagotribune.com.


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Scientists Await Action on Stem Cells – washingtonpost.com

At the National Institutes of Health, officials have started drafting guidelines they will need to start funding human embryonic stem cell research that has been off-limits for nearly eight years.

At the University of California at San Francisco, scientists are poised to dismantle the cumbersome bureaucracy they created to segregate experiments that were acceptable under the federal restrictions from studies that were not.

At the Harvard Stem Cell Institute in Cambridge, Mass., graduate students and other scientists paid with federal grants are eagerly awaiting the day when they can contribute their eureka moments to projects that are forbidden under the current policy.

But in the month since Inauguration Day, the moment they have been awaiting has not come, prompting some to ask: When will President Obama deliver on his campaign promise to lift one of the most contentious policies imposed by his predecessor?

“Everyone is waiting with bated breath,” said George Daley, a leading stem cell scientist at Children’s Hospital in Boston. “We’re all waiting to breathe a huge sigh of relief.”

via Scientists Await Action on Stem Cells – washingtonpost.com.


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In China, A Different Brand of Buddhism

China’s Communist Party tightly regulates religious activity, especially the banned Falun Gong sect, but allows wide latitude for many law-abiding Catholics and Protestants who meet in unofficial house churches. Tibetan Buddhists however, are in a different category.

Their spiritual leader is the Dalai Lama, whom Beijing blames for stoking the deadly riots in Lhasa last March. Although he won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989, the Dalai Lama is routinely described in official state media reports as a wolf in monk’s clothing, an evil and dangerous separatist. In December, China stunned European leaders by canceling a summit on the economic crisis because the E.U. president had planned to meet the Dalai Lama the same week.

For now, most Chinese who practice Tibetan Buddhism are able to worship under the radar because their numbers remain comparatively small and their movement is not organized. Followers meet in private homes to recite sutras and compare knowledge or gather in apartments where wealthy benefactors have set up elaborate shrines. Many appear to be unaware of regulations intended to restrict their worship.

via In China, A Different Brand of Buddhism – washingtonpost.com.


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On ‘Darwin Day,’ many Americans begged to differ | csmonitor.com

Two centuries after the famed naturalist’s birth, more than 40 percent of Americans believe human beings were created by God in their present form, according to recent polls from Gallup and the Pew Research Center – a view impossible to reconcile with evolution propelled by natural selection.

Such creationist beliefs lack scientific merit, educators say, and in classrooms evolution reigns supreme. Opponents have tried an array of challenges over the decades, and the latest tactic recently scored its first major victory. It’s a tack that is changing the way the cultural battle over evolution is fought.

http://www.csmonitor.com/2009/0212/p01s03-ussc.html