Digital Dharma

The Middle Path, One Day At A Time


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Nice Folks, Those Insurance People – BOOOOO CIGNA!

On Thursday, the family rallied supporters online and staged a protest at Cigna’s Glendale office with about 150 people, including many members of the local Armenian community and the California Nurses Assn., which had released statements supporting the family’s cause.

Later in the day, Cigna released a statement approving the transplant payment.

“Although it is outside the scope of the plan’s coverage, and despite the lack of medical evidence regarding the effectiveness of such treatment,” spokesman Wendell Potter wrote, “Cigna HealthCare has decided to make an exception in this rare and unusual case, and we will provide coverage should she proceed with the requested liver transplant. Our thoughts and payers are with Nataline and her family at this time.”

Nataline died about 6 p.m.

Family blames HMO for teen’s death – Los Angeles Times


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Excuse me for not dying

What would Buddha do?

Every spring and fall, enlightenment-seekers from all over come here to find out, converging for arduous weeklong retreats at the Bodhi Manda Zen Center in a red rock canyon among the thermal springs and Indian pueblos west of Santa Fe.

Dressed in black robes, they strive to live in the moment and awaken to the oneness of everything by rising at 3 a.m. for 18-hour sessions sitting lotus-style in the zenda, or meditation hall, eating communal vegan meals in silence, chanting and taking restorative dips in the hot pools.

But mostly they come to practice with an impish, smooth-faced Japanese monk, Joshu Sasaki Roshi, a 100-year-old Rinzai Zen master, one of the oldest in the world, who tells followers, “Excuse me for not dying.”

Monk says, ‘Excuse me for not dying’ / Rinzai Zen master challenges students with tough love – Buddhist style


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Priests are happy without wives

I never have been able to understand lay folk who are obsessed with the abolition of celibacy. It may well be an appropriate modification of the church in a time when most American young men do not find the priesthood an attractive way to spend their life. However, a cursory reading of the research literature on the personal and professional satisfaction among the clergy and reports from the spouses and children of Protestant (and Greek Orthodox and rabbinic) clergy indicates that family relations are an enormous problem for many of them. In addition to the usual problems of spouse and children to which all humans must respond, married clergy are subjected to pressures from their parishioners (who often assume that the spouse is an unpaid member of the parish team) and ecclesiastical authority who often assume that ministerial families must be like Caesar’s wife — beyond reproach in every way.
Priests are happy without wives :: CHICAGO SUN-TIMES :: Andrew Greeley


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Prayer and humor hold a combat trauma unit together in Afghanistan

First comes a chirping alarm over the PA system, then a woman’s lilting voice wafts over this dusty military camp: “Attention on the FOB, Attention on the FOB. Mustang blue. Mustang blue.” The tone belies the seriousness of the matter, which is that casualties are incoming and the Army’s 396th Combat Support Hospital team – “the Mustangs” – should be ready. The number of victims are color-coded: red for one, white for two, blue for three, and black for mass casualties.

US medics, nurses, doctors – and a chaplain – converge in interlocking tents that form the hospital, preparing for the arrival of three Afghan National Army soldiers injured when their vehicle rolled over an improvised explosive device. … Military chaplains


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Chinese checker: Dalai’s new succession plan

 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.

Chinese checker: Dalai’s new succession plan-Special Report-Sunday Specials-Opinion-The Times of India


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Blessed, or spoiled?

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.


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2008 TED Prize winners

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.

TED | TEDBlog: Announcing 2008 TED Prize winners


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Kite-flying in Darfur

Minneapolis – For Patrick McGrann, the sky isn’t his limit. It’s his field of play, his diplomatic space. It’s where he performs hand-to-hand acts of kindness and low-budget economic development for street kids in Kenya, rural kids in Burma (Myanmar) and, coming soon, orphans in a Darfur refugee camp.

Amid the sand, winds, and despair of Sudan, Mr. McGrann is poised to launch a unique effort in hope of rehabilitating traumatized children. He’s going to tell these young people of Darfur to … go fly a kite.

A ‘kite runner’ says it’s OK to have fun in Darfur | csmonitor.com


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Monk puts new face on Buddhism

PORT ARTHUR — Bhante Kassapa is the new, blue-eyed face of Vietnamese Buddhism.

The U.S. Air Force veteran, one-time Franciscan monk and former airport communications trainer will this weekend become what is thought to be the first white American to don the robes of a senior monk in the Vietnamese Buddhist tradition.

Port Arthur monk puts new face on Buddhism | Chron.com – Houston Chronicle


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An Interview with His Holiness the Dalai Lama

Chris Megerian, The Emory Wheel: Your role as Dalai Lama has been very unique from all previous Dalai Lamas in your political nature. I was wondering how you saw the role of the Dalai Lama evolving in future generations.

DL: Future generations? Nobody knows. *laughs*

CM: Do you think it will remains as political a role as it has been recently?

DL: No, no, no. As early as 1969, I publicly made statement to whether the very institution of the Dalai Lama should continue or not for the Tibetan people. Some people, you see, get the impression that the Dalai Lama institution is so important for Tibetan nation or Tibetan Buddhism. It’s wrong. Some occasions the Dalai Lama institution very strong. Some occasions, the Dalai Lama institution, it has ceased. But Tibetan spirituality, Buddhism, Tibetan nation will remain. So for my own case, ’til my death, I am fully committed to promotion of human value and promotion of religious harmony. After me, after my death, my responsibility now finished. *laughter*

So as a Buddhist, I believe, you see, the next sort of rebirth. I don’t know where rebirth comes, whether this planet, or some other planet more peaceful. More happier. *laughs* Next question. …

An Interview with His Holiness the Dalai Lama | The Emory Wheel


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The Nobel Peace Prize for 2007

The Nobel Peace Prize for 2007

The Norwegian Nobel Committee has decided that the Nobel Peace Prize for 2007 is to be shared, in two equal parts, between the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and Albert Arnold (Al) Gore Jr. for their efforts to build up and disseminate greater knowledge about man-made climate change, and to lay the foundations for the measures that are needed to counteract such change.

Press Release – Nobel Peace Prize 2007


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How many monks are there in Burma?

Amid historic demonstrations against the Burmese government, 10,000 maroon-robed monks protested the military junta in Yangon on Sunday. The next day, 1,000 monks led a crowd of almost 100,000 in a 12-mile march. How many monks does Burma have?

How many monks are there in Burma? – By Michelle Tsai – Slate Magazine