Digital Dharma

The Middle Path, One Day At A Time


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The Banyan Deer — a parable of courage and compassion (Book Review)

It’s remotely possible that even those folks who consider themselves “serious” Buddhists may not have gotten around to reading the Nigrodhamiga-jataka (part of the Pali Jataka, a collection of 500 stories about the Buddha’s earlier lifetimes).  Somehow, I find myself able to forgive such lapses.  However, in addition to being a renowned writer of, among other things, childrens’ books, Rafe Martin has apparently delved into it — at least the first few stories.

Martin’s latest book, a slim volume entitled The Banyan Deer, is a not-too-modernized retelling of one of the Jataka tales (number 12).  The writer has stayed with the common construction of Buddhist parables and allegories, building on the central theme, step by step, until the lesson is completely delivered.  This repetitive form is common in oral storytelling. The repetitive and progressive structure helps listeners learn the stories themselves so that they can pass them along in their turn.

The Banyan Deer
has an archetypical theme that speaks to all compassionate hearts, especially those of children.  Martin tells the story of the deer king Banyan who, through his compassion for the members of his flock, turns the heart of the human king who has been hunting them and convinces him to spare them and their descendants from further hunting.  This teaching and conversion theme is another that is common in Buddhist folklore, and it carries a message that is critical to Dharma in the present day.

Too long have I lived with danger
to let it fall so heavily on others.
How can I abandon them and be
at peace myself, knowing that my
freedom was bought at such a price?

…”Imagine that,” said the young deer.
“Yes, imagine it.”

Rafe Martin has told a story that is especially suited for reading to children.  It has the feel of one of those tales from my childhood that I constantly nagged the adults to read to me again, pleeeeease?  Don’t get the idea that it’s just for kids, though.  Its lesson addresses the major problem in the world today, and its concepts of interbeing and compassion could well be our salvation in a physical sense — no metaphysics required (nor desired).

The Banyan Deer
, by Rafe Martin
Wisdom Publications, Boston, 2010
ISBN 978-0-86171-625-8
Order it from Amazon

Clarification: The publisher provided the writer with a complimentary
copy of the book in return for this review.


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Compassion: The New Wonder Drug | Miller-McCune Online

Compassion: The New Wonder Drug | Miller-McCune Online.

Compassion for others is a pathway to health and happiness. While that basic tenet of Buddhism may seem paradoxical to self-involved Westerners, newly published research suggests it has an actual physiological basis.


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A Conversation With Tariq Ramadan

A Conversation With Tariq Ramadan: Islam, the West and the Challenges of Modernity – Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life

Ramadan is a professor of Islamic studies at the University of Oxford’s St Antony’s College. He is also the president of a Brussels-based think tank, European Muslim Network, and the author of more than 20 books, including What I Believe, published in November 2009. Foreign Policy magazine named him one of the Top 100 Global Thinkers of 2009.

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Tolerance and Tension: Islam and Christianity in Sub-Saharan Africa

A new 19-country survey by the Pew Forum reveals that the vast majority of people in many sub-Saharan African nations are deeply committed to Christianity or Islam, and yet many continue to practice elements of traditional African religions. And while many Muslims and Christians describe members of the other faith as tolerant and honest, there are clear signs of tensions and divisions between the faiths. Additionally, an interactive online database allows users to explore public opinion in 19 sub-Saharan African nations on topics ranging from religious beliefs and practices to views on religious extremism and morality.

Pew Forum: Executive Summary

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I’ve Been Waiting A Long Time To Feel This Way

I’m truly proud to be an American these last few days.  It’s heartening to see my country finally stepping up and leading in an endeavor from which it can expect to gain nothing but the knowledge that it did the right thing — and the approval, at last, of the rest of the world.  It’s been far too long.

For nearly two centuries we have been the tough kid on the block. We were blessed by having managed to steal a land, rich in resources, from the previous tenants. We made rapid use of those resources and our relative isolation from the powers in Europe and Asia to build a worldwide economic power alongside which the 1st Century power of Rome pales in comparison. We have pretty much told the rest of the world how things were going to be, and made it stick through the power of our money and, too often, by force of arms.  Yes, yes, on a couple of occasions that was warranted by circumstances beyond our control, but even those wars were as much about economics as principle.

As Americans, we tend to forget that we are members of a global community, and that all we are depends on so many who preceded us.  We owe who and what we are to other cultures, those that went before and those that attempt to coexist with us today. The currently much-maligned Arabs invented the zero, without which modern mathematics would not exist. Africa gave us the rhythms that melded with European influences and became jazz. The Far East gave us philosophical insights; the Native Americans — the true owners of this land — an understanding of how we fit into the big picture along with all God’s other creations.

And so it goes. Every culture, every religion, every idea is built on those that have gone before. We Americans are the sum of all those parts: the Arabs, the Yoruba — stolen from their homes and forced to find another way to be themselves — the Hindu mystic, the Ojibway shaman, the Druid in his grove.

We need to think about this carefully. We need to understand that we are not isolated here in the US; that we are very much a part of the world, and it of us, and that we have the ability to decide the course of history. That course will be predicated, in turn, on our ability to discern our true place in the scheme of things: not whether we can kick the asses of those who disagree with our policies, but whether we can influence them to not want to kick ours.  The days of gunboat diplomacy are over.  They ended with the development of that most guided of missiles, the suicide bomber.

It is time to take our place as leaders in the quest for peace, not in the art and appliances of war.  When I see our powers diverted from that end to wage peace and compassion, as we are this week in Haiti, I have hope again.

If only we can remember that everyone hates a bully.


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Drones and Dishonor in Central New York

photo
Drone aircraft are being stationed to patrol the US borders with Mexico and Canada. (Photo: Tom Tschida | wikimedia.com)

If war becomes unreal to the citizens of modern democracies, will they care enough to restrain and control the violence exercised in their name? Will they do so, if they and their sons and daughters are spared the hazards of combat?
– Michael Ignatieff, Virtual War (2000)

Drones and Dishonor in Central New York


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What Would Gary Cooper Do?

A Seven-Step Program to a Quieter, Less Muscular, Patriotism

It’s high time we ended the post-Vietnam obsession with Rambo’s rippling pecs as well as the jaw-dropping technological firepower of the recent cinematic version of G.I. Joe and return to the resolute, undemonstrative strength that Gary Cooper showed in movies like High Noon.


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Help Stop Glenn Beck’s Unskillful and Divisive Remarks

Namasté,

As you may know, right-wing talk show hosts have been bringing race-based fear mongering into the mainstream, but FOX’s Glenn Beck just took it to another level. On Tuesday, Beck said:

This president has exposed himself as a guy over and over and over again who has a deep-seated hatred for white people… this guy is, I believe, a racist.

It’s part of a larger argument Beck has been making: that President Obama wants to serve the needs of Black communities at White people’s expense. This kind of talk stirs up fear, hate, and it can lead to violence.

I’ve joined ColorOfChange.org’s effort to stop Glenn Beck. ColorOfChange is already putting calls into Beck’s advertisers, asking them if they want to be associated with this kind of racist hate and fear-mongering. When the advertisers see that tens of thousands of us are behind that question, I believe they’ll move their advertising dollars elsewhere, and his show and platform will be history.

Will you take a stand and be counted, and invite your friends and family to do the same? It takes just a moment:

http://www.colorofchange.org/beck/?id=2008-1033479

Glenn Beck is appealing to the worst in America. Of course, some Americans refuse to accept the fact that our president is Black or the idea that he could truly serve all Americans. But the only way these views fade away is if they’re not reinforced by mainstream society. Instead, folks like Glenn Beck, Lou Dobbs, and Rush Limbaugh are exploiting racism and race-based fear to bump their ratings, stirring up racial discord in the process.

The dangers of these tactics are real. We saw the same dynamic during the presidential race: By the end, the McCain/Palin campaign was unable to control the violent energy whipped up by their race-baiting. It resulted in an unprecedented number of threats on Obama’s life, a rise in the number of hate groups, and an increase in the number of threats and crimes against immigrants and Black people.

FOX has a horrible track record on pushing racist propaganda, but Glenn Beck appears to be taking the network to an even lower standard. He’s trying to divide and distract America when we should be coming together and talking about issues that really matter–like health care and the economy.

The good news is that we have the power to stop this. All major media is funded by advertising. And advertisers care more than anything what consumers think. If we want to change what’s happening and put an end to folks like Glenn Beck having a platform, we can do it.

It’s up to us, and it can start now. Please join me:

http://www.colorofchange.org/beck/?id=2008-1033479

Thanks.

Here are some links to more info:

“Beck: Obama has ‘exposed himself as a guy’ with ‘a deep seated hatred for white people'”
http://mediamatters.org/mmtv/200907280008

“Glenn Beck: Obama agenda driven by ‘reparations’ and desire to ‘settle old racial scores'”
http://mediamatters.org/mmtv/200907230040

“MSNBC’s Deutsch encourages viewers to demand advertisers on Beck’s show spend money elsewhere”
http://mediamatters.org/mmtv/200907290037

“On Television and Radio, Talk of Obama’s Citizenship”
mediadecoder.blogs.nyt…


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How humans could end war

Winning the ultimate battle: How humans could end war – science-in-society – 07 July 2009 – New Scientist

…findings about violence among our ancestors and primate cousins have perpetuated what anthropologist Robert Sussman from Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, calls the “5 o’clock news” view of human nature. Just as evening news shows follow the dictum “if it bleeds, it leads”, so many accounts of human behaviour emphasise conflict. However, Sussman believes the popular focus on violence and warfare is disproportionate. “Statistically, it is more common for humans to be cooperative and to attempt to get along than it is for them to be uncooperative and aggressive towards one another,” he says. And he is not alone in this view.


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Scanning the Monk

Scanning the Monk

As we slowly emerge from millennia of holy know-it-alls trying to enforce competing copyrights on Ultimate Truth, a melding of Eastern and Western mind science might point the way toward the original spiritual goal of learning to get along.

If so, the key will be compassion, the x-factor that every faith (or its founders, at least) exalts as a supreme virtue….


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UCS Petition: a good thing, but OMG!

I just got an online petition from the Union of Concerned Scientists, via a friend. They want me to help convince the Senate that they should ratify the Nuclear Arms Nonproliferation Treaty.

I suppose petitions are better than nothing, but this one ends with a line that makes me question the entire UCS, at least when it comes to their understanding of syntax.  Taken literally, it would make you question their concept of reality as well.  Maybe it has something to do with quantum theory.

These steps will reduce the likelihood that more nations and terrorists will acquire nuclear weapons and make the world safer.

Next thing you know, we’ll have a petition by the Union of Concerned English Teachers.

Anyway, if you want to sign — I did, and it’s not a bad idea — you can find it here.

BTW: If you really want to influence your senator, write a snail mail letter (I am). Then they know that you really care, as opposed to taking 90 seconds of your valuable time to do an online petition that anyone could have done in your name. You could even print out the scientists’ letter and mail it. It’s like the difference between an e-card and one from Hallmark. Really.


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Nearly 16,000 turn out for Dalai Lama at Foxboro

Rhode Island news | projo.com | The Providence Journal

People sometimes ask me for a blessing because they think I can heal them. Healing power — nonsense! Miracle power — nonsense. I’m just nothing. Just a human being. Just the same as you.”


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Dalai Lama Enlightens UCSB

Dalai Lama Enlightens UCSB – Daily Nexus

“The 20th century has been the century of violence. The 21st century should be the century of dialogue.”

Speaking to a packed Events Center this past Friday, His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama’s message was one of compassion and peace for all human beings. During his fourth visit to UCSB, the Nobel Laureate sat cross-legged before nearly 5,600 attendees for two lectures and argued for peaceful solutions to contemporary global problems.