Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Via Ram Dass

Ramakrishna said, "Only two kinds of people can attain to self-knowledge: those whose minds are not encumbered at all with learning - that is to say, not overcrowded with thoughts borrowed from others - and those who, after studying all the scriptures and sciences, have come to realize that they know nothing."

That last part is when the jnana yoga path is really working, because the "know nothing" is the next step in this trip. You learn and you learn and you learn until you realize that with all you've learned, you don't know anything - and that's the route through. You use your intellectual models to get you going - they're really helpful for that - but you don't cling to the models; you keep letting go of them, letting go of the intellectual structures. Otherwise they get in your way.

Via Sri Prem Baba

Via Daily Dharma / November 30, 2016: The Mind’s Potential

The mind has the capacity for great things; it is not meant to behave in petty ways.

—Huineng, "Prajna"

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Via Lionsroar: Among the Bodhisattvas at Standing Rock

Lion’s Roar spoke with Wendy Egyoku Nakao, abbot of the Zen Center of Los Angeles, about her work to thwart the Dakota Access Pipeline, in order to – as the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and their allies have put it – “protect our water, our sacred places, and all living beings.” Following news of use of increased force against protestors at Standing Rock, her message is particularly urgent.

Thanks for talking to Lion’s Roar, Egyoku. I understand that you’ve been to Standing Rock not once, but twice. How long have you been involved, and how did that come to be?
Wendy Egyoku Nakao: In the summer of 2014, the Zen Peacemakers held a Native American Bearing Witness Retreat (NABW) in the Black Hills of South Dakota. It was held in a meadow in Santee Sioux land. During this retreat, several Native American Elders, mostly Lakota, spoke to us about their history and current situation. They asked us to listen to their stories and to participate in their ceremonies if we’re invited into them. There is a great suspicion of non-native peoples due to the genocide and breaking of all treaties by the U.S. government.

I have attended the Bearing Witness retreats at Auschwitz-Berkinau, which have been happening for twenty-one years now, and Rwanda for the twentieth anniversary of their genocide. The NABW was a first attempt to bear witness to the genocide in our own country. The effects of this retreat continue to resonate in many ways: a small retreat was held in the Cheyenne River reservations this summer, a Dakota Native American Bearing Witness is being held in Minnesota this month, winter clothing has been sent to Pine Ridge reservation, and visits to Standing Rock are ongoing.

I go to the Oceti Sakowin (OS) encampment to support a Native American friend who has her own camp within OS, to and to bear witness to their stand and the birthing and emergence of a new Native American nation. I have a deep resonance with the Native peoples and a vow to address the hard-wired instincts we seem to have to destroy the first peoples of this land. I also find that Native American spirituality is deeply resonant with the earth and, as a Zen Buddhist, I have come to live my life from a place of deep listening and ceremony/prayer.

Also, living at the Zen Center of Los Angeles, I have always been keenly aware of the people who lived here before us — the Tongva and Chumash tribes — and the need to honor them and their ancestors. These are people who were savagely enslaved and decimated to make room for the settlers.

Could you say more about how being in L.A. has honed that keen awareness?
I have always felt a unique “sense of place” in the city of Los Angeles. The little Zen mountain of ZCLA is a power spot; one can certainly feel the energy of the place just walking in. The roots of spiritual energy go deep. We are on sacred land of people going back thousands of years. I feel that the energy and voices of the Native Americans from all those generations past are continually speaking to us when we listen to the sense of this place.

What would you most like Lion’s Roar and Buddhadharma’s readers to know about the DAPL situation?
We need to understand that the Native American call to stand against the DAPL and to protect the water has had the effect of unifying the Native American tribes for the first time in recent memory. In addition, indigenous peoples throughout the world, and non-native allies, are being drawn to the energetic vortex of these encampments to offer support. The encampments are providing the context for inter-tribal healing, reclaiming of their cultural practices, renewing their ceremonies and prayer as a way of life and protest, and forging a viable identity as Native Americans. Essentially, the Native peoples are “decolonizing” by standing against their genocide and letting corporations and governments know that they have every right to exist and live on their land.

On your second trip to Standing Rock, you attended in your capacity as a priest, along with other clergy. What can you tell us about that gathering and the common ground that was (or was not) found there?
Rev. John Floberg, who has had twenty-five years of relationship with the Standing Rock Sioux through the Episcopal Church in North Dakota, issued a call for clergy to come “Stand with Standing Rock.” He’d hoped for 100, but in the end, over 500 clergy representing some fifteen denominations attended. The unifying factor was to stand with Standing Rock against the DAPL and for the protection of the water for all. I spotted at least seven Buddhist clergy there.

Rev. John laid out the agreement of the participants: Prayerful. Peaceful. Nonviolent. Lawful. We were asked not to engage in any violence and to treat law enforcement with respect. We were free to express our faith through our dress and speeches and to stand in solidarity with the Standing Rock Sioux nation.

One of the most important moments was the repudiation of the 15th-century Doctrine of Discovery by eight Christian Churches on the morning of the gathering. This doctrine, issued through Papal Bulls which are still on the books of the Catholic Church, sanctioned the domination and destruction of indigenous peoples by explorers and missionaries in the interests of the spreading of Christianity. The effects of this colonizing document reverberate in the world today through our laws and basic attitudes of racism. (In 2014 at the Zen Peacemaker retreat, Steve Newcomb, a Native American lawyer who has dedicated his life to having this document renounced, taught us about its pernicious effects.)

The ceremony for renouncing the document began with representatives from eight Christian churches, which had already repudiated the document, each taking turns reading a statement of renunciation in front of Tribal Elders. Then copies of the document were given to each Elder and subsequently burned. All clergy and people at the camp in attendance were witnesses, with Rev. Floberg stating that “We [the Protestant churches represented] were wrong” about the document. Very powerful.

Following the ceremony, each clergy member was smudged with sage and then joined a procession to the bridge where a violent confrontation between militarized police and unarmed Native Americans had taken place a week prior. The burned-out remains of trucks and tires littered the bridge. On the other side, were manned army tanks and sound cannons.

The gathering at the bridge was marked by short speeches by various clergy, and the singing of hymns. Police helicopters are in constant surveillance there, so it was hard to hear many of the speakers. Among the most moving speakers to me were an African American woman pastor and a Muslim American woman, who each spoke of how the doctrine of discovery has affected their people. Roshi Joe Bobrow said a few words at the gathering and led the crowd in a few lines of “Kwan Um Bosa.”

The day prior to the gathering, Rev. John had crossed the bridge, approached the police in tanks, and asked to speak with them. He told them about the upcoming clergy gathering and also explained the doctrine of discovery, which he told them was the reason the militarized units were on the bridge and the Native Americans were asking to be respected and heard.

After the gathering was over, several Christian clergy went to the capital of Bismarck with the intention of performing civil disobedience on behalf of stopping the pipeline. I think about 14 were arrested.

Are you heartened that President Obama is considering rerouting the DAPL?

No, because the violence continues with militarized police becoming more aggressive against unarmed protectors acting in prayer and ceremony, and pipeline construction continues night and day. President Obama needs to act now to stop the pipeline because the president-elect will likely not be so inclined.

I think we are heading for more confrontation in the days ahead. The First Nation peoples are taking a ceremonial and prayerful stand for healing from historical trauma and declaring their right to live on this earth. The DAPL folks have continued their actions, with the support of the Morton County law enforcement, regardless of injunctions, and are poised to go under the Missouri River. The mainstream media all but ignores what is happening. The current POTUS has been weak on the issue; the future POTUS is invested in Energy Transfer Partners. I encourage everyone to Stand with Standing Rock and protect the Water. Water is Life.

For more information about Standing Rock / DAPL, visit

Via Lionsroar: A New Look at the Heart Sutra, from Thich Nhat Hanh and Norman Fischer

Buddha statue holding flowers.
Photo by Chris Ensey.

Zen teacher Norman Fischer looks at the famed Heart Sutra and explains why compassion and emptiness go hand in hand. Plus, Thich Nhat Hanh offers his new translation of the Heart Sutra, which teaches the transcendent wisdom that frees us from fear, wrong perceptions, and suffering.

The key term in Buddhism’s Heart Sutra is the Sanskrit word shunyata, usually translated into English as “emptiness.” As the sutra says in its opening lines, “All dharmas [things, phenomena] are empty.” Eyes, ears, noses, tongues, bodies, minds: all external objects—and all Buddhist teachings—are empty.

The word “emptiness” is a fair translation of shunyata, but it has the drawback of sounding negative, even despairing. The emptiness of the Heart Sutra is something else entirely. It’s good news of joyful freedom and liberation. Commentators to the sutra often ask the question, “Empty of what?” and answer, “Empty of separate self, empty of weightiness, empty of burden, empty of boundary.”

The Chinese, searching for a word that might translate shunyata, used the character for “sky.” All dharmas are empty like the sky—blue, beautiful, expansive, and always ready to receive a bird, a wind, a cloud, the sun, the moon, or an airplane. The emptiness of the Heart Sutra isn’t the emptiness of despair; it’s the emptiness of all limitation and boundary. It is open, released.

When I am bound inside my own skin and others are bound inside theirs, I have to defend and protect myself from them. And when I do place myself among them, I must do it carefully, which is hard work, because I am often hurt, opposed, and thwarted by others. But when there’s openness, no boundary between myself and others—when it turns out that I literally am others and others literally are me—then love and connection is easy and natural.

This is why the emptiness teaching of the Heart Sutra, which seems to be rather philosophical and dour, is the necessary basis for compassion. Emptiness and compassion go hand in hand. Compassion as transaction—me over here, being compassionate to you over there—is simply too clunky and difficult. If I am going to be responsible to receive your suffering and do something about it, and if I am going to make this kind of compassion the cornerstone of my religious life, I will soon be exhausted. But if I see the boundarylessness of me and you, and recognize that my suffering and your suffering are one suffering, and that that suffering is empty of any separation, weightiness, or ultimate tragedy, then I can do it. I can be boundlessly compassionate and loving, without limit. To be sure, living this teaching takes time and effort, and maybe we never entirely arrive at it. But it’s a joyful, heartfelt path worth treading.

In Mahayana Buddhism, compassion is often discussed in terms of absolute and relative compassion. Absolute compassion is compassion in the light of emptiness: all beings are empty; all beings are, by virtue of their empty nature, already liberated and pure. As the sutra says, suffering is empty, and relief from suffering is also empty.
But this would be one-sided and distorted. Relative compassion—human warmth and practical emotional support—completes the picture. Absolute compassion makes it possible for us to sustain, joyfully, the endless work of supporting and helping; relative compassion grounds our broad view of life’s empty nature in heart connection and engagement. Either view by itself would be impossible, but both together make for a wonderfully connected and sustainable life.

The Insight That Brings Us to the Other Shore

The insight of prajñaparamita, the perfection of wisdom as taught in the Heart Sutra, is the ultimate truth, transcending of all conventional truths. It is the highest vision of the Buddha.
Prajñaparamita is the liberating insight that helps us to overcome all pairs of opposites, such as birth and death, being and non-being, defilement and immaculacy, increasing and decreasing, subject and object, and so on. All phenomena are products of dependent arising: that is the main point of the prajñaparamita teaching. This helps us to get in touch with the true nature of no birth/no death, no being/no non-being, etc., which is the true nature of all phenomena.
This is a state of coolness, peace, and non-fear that can be experienced in this very life, in your own body and in your own five skandhas. It is nirvana. As it is said in a very beautiful sentence in the nirvana chapter of the Chinese Dharmapada, “Just as the birds enjoy the sky, and the deer enjoy the meadow, so do the wise enjoy dwelling in nirvana.”—Thich Nhat Hanh
while practicing deeply with
the Insight that Brings Us to the Other Shore,
suddenly discovered that
all of the five Skandhas are equally empty,
and with this realization
he overcame all Ill-being.

“Listen Sariputra,
this Body itself is Emptiness
and Emptiness itself is this Body.
This Body is not other than Emptiness
and Emptiness is not other than this Body.
The same is true of Feelings,
Perceptions, Mental Formations,
and Consciousness.

“Listen Sariputra,
all phenomena bear the mark of Emptinesss;
their true nature is the nature of
no Birth no Death,
no Being no Non-being,
no Defilement no Immaculacy,
no Increasing no Decreasing.

“That is why in Emptiness,
Body, Feelings, Perceptions,
Mental Formations and Consciousness
are not separate self entities.
“The Eighteen Realms of Phenomena
which are the six Sense Organs,
the six Sense Objects,
and the six Consciousnesses
are also not separate self entities.

“The Twelve Links of Interdependent Arising
and their Extinction
are also not separate self entities.

“Ill-being, the Causes of Ill-being,
the End of Ill-being, the Path,
insight and attainment,
are also not separate self entities.

“Whoever can see this
no longer needs anything to attain.

“Bodhisattvas who practice
the Insight that Brings Us to the Other Shore
see no more obstacles in their mind,
and because there
are no more obstacles in their mind,
they can overcome all fear,
destroy all wrong perceptions
and realize Perfect Nirvana.

“All Buddhas in the past, present, and future
by practicing
the Insight that Brings Us to the Other Shore
are all capable of attaining
Authentic and Perfect Enlightenment.

“Therefore Sariputra,
it should be known that
the Insight that Brings Us to the Other Shore
is a Great Mantra,
the most illuminating mantra,
the highest mantra,
a mantra beyond compare,
the True Wisdom that has the power
to put an end to all kinds of suffering.
Therefore let us proclaim
a mantra to praise
the Insight that Brings Us to the Other Shore.

“Gate, Gate, Paragate, Parasamgate, Bodhi Svaha! Gate, Gate, Paragate, Parasamgate, Bodhi Svaha! Gate, Gate, Paragate, Parasamgate, Bodhi Svaha!”
Thich Nhat Hanh translates the Heart Sutra‘s closing Sankrit mantra as: Gone, gone, gone all the way over, everyone gone to the other shore. Enlightenment!

Image: “I have arrived I am home” calligraphy by Thich Nhat Hanh, available in the Lion’s Roar Store.

Via Sri Prem Baba

Via Daily Dharma / November 29, 2016: Act on Your Compassion

Compassion, as Confucius said, is not something that’s quantifiable. Unless you do it, you don’t know what it is.

—Karen Armstrong, "Compassion Restored"

Monday, November 28, 2016

Via God / FB: SMITE!

Via JMG: Associated Press Issues Reporter Guidelines For Using The Term “Alt-Right”: They’re Really Just Racist Nazis



Politico reports:
In a memo to reporters writing about the “alt-right,” John Daniszewski, vice president for Standards at the Associated Press, cautioned journalists to be specific and deliberate when writing about a label that many say is just a euphemism for white nationalism.
“Avoid using the term generically and without definition, however, because it is not well known and the term may exist primarily as a public-relations device to make its supporters’ actual beliefs less clear and more acceptable to a broader audience,” Daniszewski wrote. “In the past we have called such beliefs racist, neo-Nazi or white supremacist.”
Daniszewski said that when writing about extreme groups, journalists should be as specific as possible. “We should not limit ourselves to letting such groups define themselves, and instead should report their actions, associations, history and positions to reveal their actual beliefs and philosophy, as well as how others see them,” he wrote.
 Read the original and more here on JMG

Homosexuality: It's about survival - not sex | James O'Keefe | TEDxTallaght

Via Daily Dharma / November 28, 2016: Qualities of a Good Teacher

A good teacher who embodies lovingkindness, compassion, sympathetic joy, and equanimity will surely operate with his or her students in a generous spirit of deep listening and selfless action, and will be open to feedback, willing to challenge the status quo.

—Daniel Clarkson Fisher, "The Teacher Racket"

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Via FB:(copied and pasted verbatim) important read.

Yale historian and Holocaust expert Timothy Snyder wrote: "Americans are no wiser than the Europeans who saw democracy yield to fascism, Nazism, or communism. Our one advantage is that we might learn from their experience. Now is a good time to do so." Snyder's a member of the Council on Foreign Relations (which includes former Secretaries of State), and consults on political situations around the globe. He says, "Here are twenty lessons from the twentieth century, adapted to the circumstances of today.

1. Do not obey in advance. Much of the power of authoritarianism is freely given. In times like these, individuals think ahead about what a more repressive government will want, and then start to do it without being asked. You've already done this, haven't you? Stop. Anticipatory obedience teaches authorities what is possible and accelerates unfreedom.

2. Defend an institution. Follow the courts or the media, or a court or a newspaper. Do not speak of "our institutions" unless you are making them yours by acting on their behalf. Institutions don't protect themselves. They go down like dominoes unless each is defended from the beginning.

3. Recall professional ethics. When the leaders of state set a negative example, professional commitments to just practice become much more important. It is hard to break a rule-of-law state without lawyers, and it is hard to have show trials without judges.

4. When listening to politicians, distinguish certain words. Look out for the expansive use of "terrorism" and "extremism." Be alive to the fatal notions of "exception" and "emergency." Be angry about the treacherous use of patriotic vocabulary.

5. Be calm when the unthinkable arrives. When the terrorist attack comes, remember that all authoritarians at all times either await or plan such events in order to consolidate power. Think of the Reichstag fire. The sudden disaster that requires the end of the balance of power, the end of opposition parties, and so on, is the oldest trick in the Hitlerian book. Don't fall for it.

6. Be kind to our language. Avoid pronouncing the phrases everyone else does. Think up your own way of speaking, even if only to convey that thing you think everyone is saying. (Don't use the internet before bed. Charge your gadgets away from your bedroom, and read.) What to read? Perhaps "The Power of the Powerless" by Václav Havel, 1984 by George Orwell, The Captive Mind by Czesław Milosz, The Rebel by Albert Camus, The Origins of Totalitarianism by Hannah Arendt, or Nothing is True and Everything is Possible by Peter Pomerantsev.

7. Stand out. Someone has to. It is easy, in words and deeds, to follow along. It can feel strange to do or say something different. But without that unease, there is no freedom. And the moment you set an example, the spell of the status quo is broken, and others will follow.

8. Believe in truth. To abandon facts is to abandon freedom. If nothing is true, then no one can criticize power, because there is no basis upon which to do so. If nothing is true, then all is spectacle. The biggest wallet pays for the most blinding lights.

9. Investigate. Figure things out for yourself. Spend more time with long articles. Subsidize investigative journalism by subscribing to print media. Realize that some of what is on your screen is there to harm you. Bookmark PropOrNot or other sites that investigate foreign propaganda pushes.

10. Practice corporeal politics. Power wants your body softening in your chair and your emotions dissipating on the screen. Get outside. Put your body in unfamiliar places with unfamiliar people. Make new friends and march with them.

11. Make eye contact and small talk. This is not just polite. It is a way to stay in touch with your surroundings, break down unnecessary social barriers, and come to understand whom you should and should not trust. If we enter a culture of denunciation, you will want to know the psychological landscape of your daily life.

12. Take responsibility for the face of the world. Notice the swastikas and the other signs of hate. Do not look away and do not get used to them. Remove them yourself and set an example for others to do so.

13. Hinder the one-party state. The parties that took over states were once something else. They exploited a historical moment to make political life impossible for their rivals. Vote in local and state elections while you can.

14. Give regularly to good causes, if you can. Pick a charity and set up autopay. Then you will know that you have made a free choice that is supporting civil society helping others doing something good.

15. Establish a private life. Nastier rulers will use what they know about you to push you around. Scrub your computer of malware. Remember that email is skywriting. Consider using alternative forms of the internet, or simply using it less. Have personal exchanges in person. For the same reason, resolve any legal trouble. Authoritarianism works as a blackmail state, looking for the hook on which to hang you. Try not to have too many hooks.

16. Learn from others in other countries. Keep up your friendships abroad, or make new friends abroad. The present difficulties here are an element of a general trend. And no country is going to find a solution by itself. Make sure you and your family have passports.

17. Watch out for the paramilitaries. When the men with guns who have always claimed to be against the system start wearing uniforms and marching around with torches and pictures of a Leader, the end is nigh. When the pro-Leader paramilitary and the official police and military intermingle, the game is over.

18. Be reflective if you must be armed. If you carry a weapon in public service, God bless you and keep you. But know that evils of the past involved policemen and soldiers finding themselves, one day, doing irregular things. Be ready to say no. (If you do not know what this means, contact the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and ask about training in professional ethics.)

19. Be as courageous as you can. If none of us is prepared to die for freedom, then all of us will die in unfreedom.

20. Be a patriot. The incoming president is not. Set a good example of what America means for the generations to come. They will need it."

ETA: Feel free to share, but please copy+ paste into your own status or else it will not be viewable to all of your friends.
The root of fear is the feeling of separateness that can exist here, within oneself. The root of the fear is within the model one has of oneself. That’s where fear starts. Once that feeling of separation exists, then you process everything from either inside or outside in terms of that model. It then keeps reinforcing the feeling of vulnerability, because there are incredibly powerful forces moving both inside and outside of you.

The transformative process of spiritual work is reawakening to the innocence of going behind that model of separation that one has, that cuts you off, that made you a tiny little fragile somebody. A lot of the power comes from a freeing of our own fragility.

Via Daily Dharma / November 27, 2016: Imperfectly Perfect

A cup is more valuable chipped. He was broken. I am broken. And when we can see that we are all chipped and broken, we begin to value our life as an expression of the teaching that we are truly perfect and complete, just as we are.

—Pat Enkyo O’hara, "Remembering Roshi"

Via Sri Prem Baba – Awaken Love / Flower of the Day: 11/26/16

“How do I know if I am putting my gifts and talents at the service of the greater purpose? How do I know if I am being a channel of love? When we are in the right place, or when we are occupying our place in the world, naturally our innate potentials manifest through our actions. When we are in our rightful place, we have the feeling that we fit in; we feel as though we belong to the whole. We feel comfortable and there is no need to exert much force to complete our tasks because they are a source of satisfaction and pleasure. When we have no hopes of anything in return for that which we do, we become a channel of love. Our actions become our source of contentment.”

Sri Prem Baba

Via Daily Dharma / November 26, 2016: Finding Inner Fulfillment

When we rely on things like a job, a spouse, or money to fulfill us, we’re in an unhappy situation, because we’re banking on something external.

—B. Alan Wallace, "What Is True Happiness?"

Friday, November 25, 2016

Via JMG: Nation’s Largest Labor Union Denounces “Failed” Education Policies Of Trump Nominee Betsy DeVos


Via press release from the National Education Association:
Every day, educators use their voice to advocate for every student to reach his or her full potential. We believe that the chance for the success of a child should not depend on winning a charter lottery, being accepted by a private school, or living in the right ZIP code. We have, and will continue, to fight for all students to have a great public school in their community and the opportunity to succeed no matter their backgrounds or circumstances.
Betsy DeVos has consistently worked against these values, and her efforts over the years have done more to undermine public education than support students. She has lobbied for failed schemes, like vouchers — which take away funding and local control from our public schools — to fund private schools at taxpayers’ expense. These schemes do nothing to help our most-vulnerable students while they ignore or exacerbate glaring opportunity gaps. She has consistently pushed a corporate agenda to privatize, de-professionalize and impose cookie-cutter solutions to public education. By nominating Betsy DeVos, the Trump administration has demonstrated just how out of touch it is with what works best for students, parents, educators and communities.
The National Education Association advocates for investing in smart strategies that we know help to improve the success of all our students, including creating more opportunities and equity for students, classes small enough for one-on-one attention, modern textbooks and a well-rounded curriculum for every student. We also know that the voices of educators — those who know the names of the students they educate — should always be present at the table when making decisions that impact student success. Educators will continue to focus on raising their voices in support of their students and against any effort by the Trump administration to undermine the educational opportunity of all public school students.
The NEA has three million members.

Make the jump here to read the original and more

Via JMG: Civil Rights Group Denounces Betsy DeVos


From the LGBT rights group Freedom For All Americans:
The Michigan billionaire is a troubling choice, given her extreme history of supporting anti-LGBT causes and opposing efforts to bring fairness and equality to LGBT Americans. Between 2010 and 2013, the DeVos family and their various foundations have given millions of dollars to anti-LGBT groups, including Focus on the Family, Family Research Council and the Alliance Defending Freedom.
Each of these organizations has fought vehemently against protecting LGBT students from discrimination and harassment. They have also lobbied for legislation to prohibit students from using the restroom that matches their gender identity; opposed rights for same sex parents; and are fighting to require education professionals – including teachers, counselors, therapists, administration and more – to out LGBT students to their parents, even if they are not ready.
DeVos, her family, and their foundations were seen as leaders in the push to ban marriage between loving, committed same-sex couples in Michigan and California.
She has also given more than half a million dollars to the National Organization for Marriage, a group that worked for years to block marriage between same-sex couples and now has made its mission clear to roll back the freedom to marry.

Make the jump here to read the original and more

Via Sri Prem Baba

Via Daily Dharma / November 25, 2016: Give Up Control

When we reach out to what is unknown to us, we let go of the notion that we can control what we experience.

—Ken McLeod, "Where the Thinking Stops"

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Via a good friend / FB

Via Ron Bell / FB:


O Thou Creator and Giver of Life Itself –

We thank you for families and Life itself,
be with those who have lost their dear ones.

We thank you for our homes,
be with those who are homeless.

We thank you for good health,
be with those who are in pain or illness.

We thank you for living in relative peace,
be with those in the midst of ravaging war.

We thank you for water and food,
be with those who thirst and hunger.

We thank you for friends,
be with those who are lonely and alone.

We pray in your name – your call to actively love, Amen.”

Ron Bell

Via Daily Dharma / November 24, 2016: Thanksgiving Dharma

Even the simple act of naming the things we love about being alive can help us as we move from gratitude to honoring our pain for the world.

—Joanna Macy and Sam Mowe, "The Work That Reconnects"

Via Have A Gay Day / FB:

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Via Faith In America

Dear Faith In America Supporters,


Let me first state clearly that I believe so strongly that we must either change anti-LGBT religicals or we must marginalize their role in society.  It’s not an either or, but both. 

As we end the year with the holiday season, please consider making Faith in America an important part of your giving.  As you consider what organizations you will support in 2017, please think about reassessing who recognizes the real work that needs to be done now with such powerful forces of anti-LGBT religious voices against equal legal and spiritual rights.  I would contend we are doing the work that needs to be done.  Our goal is to educate those that are in conflict and willing to learn, and to marginalize the role of those that are not.
Here’s why
As we all emerge from the fog of the election results, many of us are left wondering how we move forward onto this horizon that seemingly portends such danger to the gains we as a country have made in recent years.  At this time, Faith in America feels it is important to identify the threats to continued justice for the LGBT community…and so many other vulnerable groups….. as put forth by the new administration, to place in perspective how viable these threats are and to offer solid solutions about how those of us who value justice can leverage this setback to justice as an impetus for greater change.  The very real silver lining is that sometimes it takes a kick in the butt like this to wake more people up to do more….to ultimately gain more. I believe WE can.

The choice of Mike Pence as running mate was the first indication that Donald Trump had a ‘faith strategy’….a strategy to woo evangelical voters.  Many looked at Trump’s pandering to the likes of Franklin Graham, James Dobson or Jerry Falwell, Jr. as disingenuous or cynical, but the reality is, he was smart to do it and it was clearly a factor in his winning.  On the other hand, Hillary Clinton did not have an effective faith strategy and definitely did not come up with an effective and innovative way to convince this important voting block that in fact her past performance proves that she was the candidate with strong moral values.  When I think about ‘what is a good Christian?’…Hillary is definitely it.  Mike Pence is the worst of the worst kind of person masking his outdated, ill-informed religious bigotry as his being a ‘Christian.’  Mr. Pence, I’ve met good Christians and you’re not one of them!

Trump not only courted voter’s hostile to the LGBT community while occasionally saying something more moderate, but now looks like he will potentially seek to pursue policies the Vice President elect in fact championed as governor in his home state. 

More concretely, this new administration has committed to nullifying executive orders of the Obama administration, inclusive likely of the protections offered to LGBT professionals employed by federal contractors.  Besides the real-life impact, it has a strong symbolic message: the government will not protect those that are discriminated against.

Most disturbingly, is this administration’s professed commitment to the furtherance of LBGT discrimination through the guise of emphasizing “state’s rights” and “religious freedom” – two ruses presently employed at the state level to deny equal rights to LGBT individuals.  Principally, it is the administration’s intent to further this agenda through the appointment of a Supreme Court Justice in the tradition of Scalia.  Regardless of what he says that he believes marriage equality is settled law, if Trump appoints a Scalia type to the bench, all bets are off.

Finally, through new appointments to the Department of Health and Human Services, any efforts thus far to identify and ameliorate the public health crisis that is attendant to the LGBT community by virtue of its minority status will likely be curbed.  And by virtue of the extremely harmful teachings that vulnerable kids grow up with.

Taken as a whole, the foregoing can seem overwhelming and insurmountable.  With this said, it is important to pause and determine how likely and immediate each of these threats are. 

Sadly, there can be anticipated a broad milieu that will seek to frame the conversation of LGBT rights in hostile terms.  Knowing the president elect’s experience, he will likely delegate much responsibility to vice president Pence and in so doing it can be expected Pence will seek to further his extreme views wherever possible…and clearly, his views are based on his religious teachings.  It is reasonable therefore to anticipate that federal protections through Obama’s executive order will be the first assault.

Now that the Executive and Legislative branches are controlled by the GOP, it can be expected that legislation will be crafted that will further their aforementioned causes of states’ rights and religious freedom.  It is hoped that Democrats’ filibuster maneuvers would be employed in defense of the LGBT community.  Whatever pieces of legislation which are successfully passed, however, ultimately must be Constitutional.  Therefore, the appointment of a Scalia judge it is feared will potentially allow for the Constitution to be re-shaped. 

It is important to note that in the era of Scalia, great gains were made for LGBT rights.  A new Scalia judge will sadly not move the court in the progressive direction we had all hoped, however, it will not fundamentally alter the composition of a court which struck down DOMA and made marriage equality the rule of the land. 
Lastly, any overtures regarding Constitutional Amendments must be tempered with the knowledge that such proposed Amendments will never ultimately clear the extremely high bar set to affect such change.  There simply is not sufficient support to cause such mechanization's to turn. 

If this administration can be held to one term, we are hopeful that lasting, destructive change can be averted.  HOWEVER, THIS PROFOUND IF IS IN THE HANDS OF US WHO ARE COMMITTED TO HOLDING THIS ADMINISTRATION ACCOUNTABLE.

So where does this leave us?
Aaron Sorkin penned a beautiful letter to his wife and daughter this week, grieving this nation’s present malady, but more importantly reminding his loved ones of the great responsibility his household now bears to arise to a momentous occasion.  The time for tweets and News Feed posts is more important than ever.  You can be a huge asset in educating, in moving our messages more viral to a much wider audience.  Will you commit 15 minutes a day to watch our social media, like, comment and share?  Now we must pick up peaceful arms, roll up our sleeves and place all hands-on deck.  Will you help us hold fund raisers? Support our fundraising efforts by sharing with friends and family?  By March 1, 2017 we need to raise $ 2 million so we can quickly enhance the implementation of our efforts.

We are moving across a horizon now where the hostilities of a minority yet influential group of sadly uneducated are in plain view. They are uneducated about who LGBT people are, their accomplishments and goodness in life, and the extreme suffering too many have been subject to.  They have been misled by their religious leaders. They interpret Scripture in an outdated and misguided way.  I’ve met too many parents who tell me they actually never really read “the clobber verses” until their child came out….and once they did, they realized they were wrong or not really applicable to their loving child.   Faith in America would like to encourage all of you to see the opportunity this presents for those who embrace love and justice for ALL.  The curtain has been pulled back and the prejudicial motivations of those who ushered in this administration are in plain view.  We must now offer remedy in the form of knowledge alternatives….be they medical or theological…. and we must seek out our political and allies as stakeholders to champion our causes.  Now is the time to choose and rally around our fair minded and compassionate leaders.

More specifically, for those of you who have graciously supported the cause of Faith in America – now more than ever we need all of your help to protect what progress has been made and continue to raise awareness about the LGBT public health crisis.  Hundreds of thousands are tormented with mental illness, homelessness, and, one to two thousand take their lives each year.  Consistent with FIA’s stated goal of ending religious based teachings, which underlies this epidemic, we are launching two ground breaking, game changing initiatives:
  1.  Medical Advisory
We are assembling concrete data led by prominent psychiatrists, physiologists and pediatricians to educate anti-LGBT people….from religious leaders to parents and all….about the very real and dangerous harm anti-LGBT religious teachings have on LGBT people’s mental health, especially youth.  Distilling it down to the basic root cause of the vast majority of anti-LGBT behaviors, we must give more than a theological reason to stop the toxic teaching that “homosexuality is a sin.”  More on this to follow in the months to come.
  1. Campus accreditation's
Hundreds of campuses across this country employ LGBT discriminatory language in their school’s bi-laws.  At the time when youth’s principal lifespan task is to form deep, intimate relationships – our LGBT students are precluded from achieving this monumental lifespan task.  Is it any wonder why there are such disproportionately high rates of suicide among college aged LGBT students?
Faith in America has conceived what it believes to be a game changer to end these teachings on college campuses.  Leveraging the legal expertise of board members Roberta Kaplan, Howard Vine, and Shannon Minter, along with legal counsel Phil Wells, FIA will be executing a comprehensive strategy to end these teachings on campuses across the nation. 

These campaigns are called END THE HARM.

We need your help to do this.  Please give of your time and money.  We have run our organization mostly through volunteer efforts. Now we must have professional full time help to mount the kind of effort we are compelled to accomplish. END THE HARM now requires countless people hours to do pain staking research and data base population, as well as meeting convening’s. We need your help on social media. Additionally, this will be enhanced and significantly benefit from dedicated public relations and media staff to elevate the cause, and make it part of the mainstream conversation. We are assembling the team now. Your generous donations will have a profound, measurable impact on the lives of LGBT youth everywhere.

United, together we will successfully combat forces of fear and lack of knowledge, of animus which has been unleashed before our eyes.  Your partnership now can be the force for good that triumphs over evil and fear. I know from personal experience that Faith In America's work provides hope to our youth and gives them promise for a new horizon filled with love and justice and.... a“whole” life.

I want to share something that happened to me on Election Day.  One of our long-term employees came to see me. With tears in their eyes, told me about how their 20 something child came out over the weekend.  For generations, this family has attended and still does, what has become one of the most virulently anti-LGBT churches in our rural area. But when their childcame out, as they told me, they knew that everything I had been saying in Faith in America's messaging had been "right." Their 3 year younger child read our website and saw a speech I gave and told his parent that “Mitchell was right."  Before leaving we stood up and hugged, and this person told me they loved me.  It was quite emotional and I must admit, nourishing…..makes my commitment to this work worthwhile. I instinctively asked if they felt their child was a sinner. Looking in my eyes, the verdict: no. This is our work. To make a world where children are not just accepted, but embraced. If need be, one at a time. With your increased support, we can reach much larger numbers.

I’ll end as I started: As we end the year with the holiday season, please consider making Faith in America an important part of your giving.  As you consider what organizations you will support in 2017, please think about reassessing who recognizes the real work that needs to be done now with such powerful force of anti-LGBT religious voices against equal legal and spiritual rights.  I would contend we are doing the work that needs to be done.  Our goal is to educate those that are in conflict and willing to learn, and to marginalize the role of those that are not.

Mitchell Gold
Co-Founder, Faith in America                                                                     

Support our work? Make a tax-deductible contribution to Faith In America today. 

Via Ram Dass


You know what happens when things get like they’re getting, when it’s becoming increasingly destabilized?

In the late 60’s we had the Vietnam and Anti-Vietnam forces in this culture that were destabilizing. What happens in the presence of that destabilization, where there is human unconsciousness is that people get frightened, and when they get frightened, they use certain mechanisms; they go into denial, they become more fundamentalist; they try to find values they can hold onto, to ward off evil. They cling and become more ultra-nationalist. There’s more ethnic prejudice, there’s more racial prejudice and anti-semitism. It all increases, because this fear isn’t just in us, this is a worldwide thing.

These changes are happening very rapidly, and they are destabilizing changes. People respond with fear, and the question we must ask ourselves today is, “Is there any place you can stand inside yourself where you don’t freak out, where you can be quiet enough to hear the predicament and find a way to act in a way that is at least not contributing to the further destabilization?”

That’s a fair request.

Via Sri Prem Baba

Via Daily Dharma / November 23, 2016: How Gratitude Leads to Generosity

Gratitude, the simple and profound feeling of being thankful, is the foundation of all generosity.

—Sallie Tisdale, "As If There is Nothing to Lose"

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Via Sri Prem Baba

Via Daily Dharma / November 22, 2016: A Mind that Does Not Cling

Liberation is about cutting, or dissolving, or letting go of, or seeing through—choose your image—the attachment to anything. The description of the mind of no-clinging may be different in the different schools, but the experience of the mind of no-clinging is the same.

—Joseph Goldstein, "How Amazing!"

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Via Ram Dass


 Just play with the silence for a moment. Instead of using it as expectancy, waiting for something to happen, flip it just slightly and just be in it.

Are you really here or are you just waiting for the next thing?

It’s interesting to see where we are in relation to times; whether we’re always just between what just happened and what happened next, or whether we can just be here now.
Let’s just find our way here to be together. If you’re feeling agitated, just notice the agitation. If you’re warm, be warm. If you’re cold, be cold. If you’re overly full, be overly full. Be it, whatever it is, but put it all in the context of a quiet space, because there’s a secret in that, and it’s worth playing with.

Via Lion's Roar:

In 2015, philanthropists revivified the great Buddha statues of Bamiyan, destroyed by the Taliban in 2001, with 3D light projection.
Our tools for awakening constantly change to keep up with our sneaky, evolving delusions. It is said that the Buddha developed 84,000 methods for awakening. In the 2600 years since, there have been countless more. So this Lion's Roar Weekend Reader focuses on innovation: How are we creating and preserving tools for enlightenment? How are we fostering inclusivity and compassion? How does science fit? I found inspiration and hope in writing these stories. I hope reading them may do the same for you. —Sam Littlefair, Associate Editor,
In Pakistan and Afghanistan, modern conflicts have seen the demolition of great Buddhist monuments. But preservationists are working hard to memorialize or restore their legacies.
Nine years after its face was destroyed by Taliban militants, the famous Jahanabad Buddha has been restored. The sculpture, a massive cliff-face carving, was widely hailed as one of the most important pieces of Buddhist art in the region, second only to Afghanistan’s giant Bamiyan Buddhas. Those statues, which stood at 115 and 174 feet tall were destroyed by the Taliban in 2001. [...] 

Via Sri Prem Baba