In calling for a vote among traditional Tibetan Buddhist communities from the Himalayas to Mongolia, the Dalai Lama is challenging the dominance of communist governance over tens of millions of people and thousands of square miles of land within China. As well as Tibet, huge numbers of his followers are found in the provinces of Sichuan, Qinghai, Gansu and Inner Mongolia.
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The signs were everywhere. A regent saw three Tibetan alphabets floating in a turquoise lake; a small house with blue-tiled roof near a mountain with a monastery on top appeared in the dreams of a senior abbot; a huge star-shaped fungus began to grow on a pillar in the eastern side of the hall in the Potala Palace where the 13th Dalai Lama’s embalmed body was kept in lotus position; and one day the deceased monk’s head turned towards the east. All signs and dreams pointed towards a hamlet in the east.
Chasing the signs, cracking the dreams and rejecting potential candidates, when a party of Tibetan monks and officials, traveling in the disguise of traders, reached a door in a cluster of houses in eastern Tibet, a toddler welcomed them with a warm smile, identified the prayer beads, walking stick and reading glasses of the 13th, and pleaded with the group to take him to his palace in Lhasa.
We have so many things happening in our lives that I suppose the idea of a day when we reflect on the good things makes a certain amount of sense. However, it seems a bit of a shame that, as a society, we don’t stop to think about our blessings more frequently.
Some of the folks I hang out with are prone to having get-togethers with a gratitude theme. There is a discussion, with each person taking a turn and expressing the things in their lives for which they are especially thankful. On other occasions, when I was allowing life to get me down, it was suggested that I ought to make a “gratitude list” to help me concentrate on the positive aspects of a life that has been, overall, not only decidedly positive, but in some respects absolutely miraculous.
Those of us who have lived on the outer edges of existence — whether through physical sickness, mental illness, poverty, addiction, war, or combinations thereof — are perhaps a bit better-equipped to recognize the extremes than most folks. That, alone, is a lot to be grateful for.
They say that we have to have experienced unhappiness in order to appreciate joy. While that might depend, to a degree, on our definition of joy, it is nonetheless true that a life lived on an even keel can seem pretty unremarkable when, in fact, the benefits of such a life are unimaginable for billions of people elsewhere (and perhaps nearby) on the planet. Thanking a supreme being for such a life is the same as saying “We’re glad you love us more than all those people you have allowed to live in poverty and misery” — hubris by nearly anyone’s definition.
And, yet, isn’t that sometimes our attitude? Do we not take the position, tacitly, if not openly, that we deserve the things we have by virtue of some sort of entitlement? That we are in some way chosen? That we are just the least bit better than all those other folks, or else we would not have been so blessed?
Some people say that we’re only as big as the smallest thing that can annoy us. I say that as a society we’re only as rich, spiritually, as the poorest of those among us, and that spiritual development must include development of a sustainable global economy with a decent standard of living for everyone.
Even if some of us have to settle for a little less.
Before it’s too late.
Before we run out of things for which to be thankful.
Because, no matter what we have been led to believe, we’re really not that special.
The TED Prize was introduced in 2005, and it is unlike any other award. Although the winners receive a prize of $100,000 each, the real prize is that they are granted a WISH. “A wish to change the world”. There are no formal restrictions on the wish. We ask our winners to think big and to be creative.
A colleague recently took me to task for consulting Jews and Christians on how to keep American Buddhism alive. He didn’t agree with either premise–that Jews and Christians could offer advice to Buddhists, or that Buddhism was in any danger of decline. But he was wrong on both counts. American Buddhism, which swelled its ranks to accommodate the spiritual enthusiasms of baby boomers in the late 20th century, is now aging. One estimate puts the average age of Buddhist converts (about a third of the American Buddhist population) at upwards of 50. This means that the religion is almost certain to see its numbers reduced over the next generation as boomer Buddhists begin to die off without having passed their faith along to their children. And Jewish and Christian models offer the most logical solution for reversing that decline.
The basic problem is that non-Asian converts tend not to regard what they practice as a religion. …
…Having left the religion of their birth, often with good reason, American converts tend to be wary of anything approaching religious indoctrination, even if that means failing to offer their children the basics of a religious education. This has the advantage of giving Buddhist children great freedom of religious expression, with the disadvantage of not giving them any actual religion to express. The result is a generation of children with a Buddhist parent or two but no Buddhist culture to grow up in. … OpinionJournal – Taste