Thursday, September 22, 2011

Maybe the media got lost on the way to "Occupy Wall Street"

It looks like "Occupy Wall Street" has been stone-walled by mainstream media -- they're not talking about it! Or perhaps the event is in such a remote and unknown corner of the US that even the most intrepid news team and camera crew cannot find their way there. Maybe. Or perhaps mainstream media has lost its heart, no longer reporting truthful and relevant news, and merely functions as a machine. Perhaps. In fact, one radio talk show host has denounced "Occupy Wall Street" as a futile effort, and this come from someone who touts herself as a liberal talk show host. Interesting. The worst yet: maybe they don't care. Truly, money is the root of all evil. If uses wisely and without greed, money can do a lot of good; but if it's driven by selfish desires and solely for personal gain, then it can create hell on Earth. 

It is high time that the common folk takes action. No matter how minute that act, it will create a ripple effect that reaches out and connects with the heart of the world, the heart of a compassionate humanity. 

Direct from the front line, A Message from Occupy Wall Street:
This is the fifth communiqué from the 99 percent. We are occupying Wall Street.
On September 21st, 2011, Troy Davis, an innocent man, was murdered by the state of Georgia. Troy Davis was one of the 99 percent.
Ending capital punishment is our one demand.
On September 21st, 2011, the richest 400 Americans owned more wealth than half of the country's population.
Ending wealth inequality is our one demand.
On September 21st, 2011, four of our members were arrested on baseless charges.
Ending police intimidation is our one demand.
On September 21st, 2011, we determined that Yahoo lied about being in spam filters.
Ending corporate censorship is our one demand.
On September 21st, 2011, roughly eighty percent of Americans thought the country was on the wrong track.
Ending the modern gilded age is our one demand.
On September 21st, 2011, roughly 15% of Americans approved of the job Congress was doing.
Ending political corruption is our one demand.
On September 21st, 2011, roughly one sixth of Americans did not have work.
Ending joblessness is our one demand.
On September 21st, 2011, roughly one sixth of America lived in poverty.
Ending poverty is our one demand.
On September 21st, 2011, roughly fifty million Americans were without health insurance.
Ending health-profiteering is our one demand.
On September 21st, 2011, America had military bases in around one hundred and thirty out of one hundred and sixty-five countries.
Ending American imperialism is our one demand.
On September 21st, 2011, America was at war with the world.
Ending war is our one demand.
On September 21st, 2011, we stood in solidarity with Madrid, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Madison, Toronto, London, Athens, Sydney, Stuttgart, Tokyo, Milan, Amsterdam, Algiers, Tel Aviv, Portland and Chicago. Soon we will stand with Phoenix, Montreal, Cleveland and Atlanta. We're still here. We are growing. We intend to stay until we see movements toward real change in our country and the world.
You have fought all the wars. You have worked for all the bosses. You have wandered over all the countries. Have you harvested the fruits of your labors, the price of your victories? Does the past comfort you? Does the present smile on you? Does the future promise you anything? Have you found a piece of land where you can live like a human being and die like a human being? On these questions, on this argument, and on this theme, the struggle for existence, the people will speak. 
Note: For the complete message, please visit Occupy Wall Street's website.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Walking down memory lane: teacher's expectations

I was re-reading one of the books on classroom management and when I came to the part about teacher's expectation, an old memory from high school resurfaced. When I was in the 10th grade, my family moved to a different town and I was transferred to a new high school. The guidance counselor placed me in AP History, telling me that it was a special class, handpicked by the teacher, but since my grades from my other school showed that I can handle the challenge, she had decided to place me in his class. I didn't think anything about it.

On my first day of class, the first thing the teacher conveyed to me, in front of the whole class, was that he didn't choose me to be in his classroom since all of his students were special. Imagine how I'd felt: he was saying in so many words that I didn't belong there. Two days later, we had a test and I scored a 98, the highest in the class. Imagine his surprise. The students' attitude toward me changed, because the attitude of the teacher also changed: he praised me and complimented me for doing so well having only been in the class for a few days. 

He turned out to be a not-so-bad teacher who did care for his students. Regardless, had I been someone less capable, or had I gave in to his low expectation of me, or had low self-esteem, and ended up doing poorly in his class -- my entire year in his class would have been a disaster for my personal development. Who knows what kind of emotional scars I would have had of that incident. Even now, even though I did well in the class I aced it, I still remembered the incident, over 20 years later.

Teachers are the beacons of hope and light for students -- how we guide them will shape and mold them for the rest of their lives. 

Friday, September 9, 2011

Sustainable Eating

A great article by Bill Gee on vegetarianism. Click here for the full article.

Sustainable Eating Part 2: Vegetarian Awareness Month

There is little doubt about it that Americans are addicted to meat, and the evidence is overwhelming that a diet high in animal products is not only bad for your health but it is also bad for the environment. As a person who has not eaten meat for five years, I can tell you firsthand how difficult it is to explain to non-vegetarians the benefits of changing their diets, but getting people to actually consider changing their behavior is like trying to convince a nicotine addict to stop smoking or a alcoholic to stop drinking.

Sustainable Barbeque?
Nathan Myhrvold recently wrote an article for Bloomberg regarding Texan’s love of Barbeque. His headline says it all, “Texas’s Cult of Smoke”. At first glance you might assume that the article will be pointing out the insanity in cutting down acres of mesquite hardwood in order to feed the “eternal fire” at Smitty’s Market in Lowell Texas, but there is hardly a discouraging word in the entire article. The article even points out how bad the beans are so that customers are encouraged to eat more meat like that's a good thing!
In preparing this article, I found it extremely discouraging to not find any articles or studies that evaluated the environmental impact of the cult of barbeque beyond the benefits of propane verses charcoal. Have we become so addicted to the practice that even organizations like the Sierra Club are more content to seek a compromise with long-time barbeque fans rather than pointing out the fact that America’s barbeque and meat habit is destroying natural habitat, polluting the air, reducing the water table, and increasing our healthcare costs at the same time?

Failed Vegetarians
The reason why most people stop eating a vegetarian diet is because they simply don’t know how to eat a diet without meat in it. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve met people who have told me that they tried eating a vegetarian diet, but they got tired of eating salads all the time, and they couldn’t stand the fact that they didn’t have a lot of energy. There is a myth among meat eaters that a vegetarian diet is simply a normal diet without the meat. That instead of a 10-ounce porterhouse and a side of (mostly untouched) greens, the vegetarians will just go for the greens and leave the table hungry.
When I first began eating a mostly vegetarian diet, I cannot tell you how many people told me that my new diet would actually be BAD for my health! At the time, I was overweight, I had Stage One Hypertension, my cholesterol was slipping into the danger zone, and I was often tired, moody, and I was passing kidney stones every other month. In other words, at 35 years-old, I was falling into a high-risk group for a heart attack, stroke, colon cancer, and renal failure, yet my friends and family simply assumed that my diet had nothing to do with that!

Since changing my diet, my blood pressure is under control, my cholesterol is manageable, I have plenty of energy, I’m more productive than ever and I haven’t passed a kidney stone in four years.

Vegetarian Etiquette
A word of warning about taking the pledge: it won’t be easy. When I first made the change to my diet, I cannot tell you how many times I was hanging out with friends and finding there was very little for me to eat. There was one time when I attended a banquet where there was absolutely nothing on the menu I could eat as even the salad and the dinner rolls contained meat. At a family picnic, the only thing I could eat was an ear of corn and hamburger bun. (My family didn’t even bother packing lettuce and tomatoes for their burgers)
Today, rather than depend on my friends and family to prepare enough food for me to be satisfied, I bring my own “main course”. If I’m going to a picnic, I take along a couple of mushroom burgers. If I’m going to a dinner where I know my choices are likely to be limited, I eat before I arrive, or if the meal is “potluck”, I’m sure to bring something that I’ll be able to eat and I know others are likely to enjoy as well.

The one thing you should never do is wear your vegetarianism on your shoulder like a newfound religion. You will never be able to convince anyone to change their diets or improve their health by being an ass about it.

Cold Turkey
In conclusion, in the spirit of doing something good for yourself and the rest of the world, consider taking the pledge next month to eat a vegetarian diet. Do it for a day, or try it for the entire month. As long as you plan your meals carefully, you won’t starve. Being a vegetarian doesn’t mean you’re eating nothing but salads all day. It’ll surprise you how much good food loaded with easily digestible fats and protein is out there.
There may come a time within our lifetimes when sustainable, mostly vegetarian eating will become a necessity, so why not give it a try right now? Your body and your community may thank you for it.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Mean Greens: A University of North Texas Cafeteria Goes Vegan

When students returned this August for their fall classes at the University of North Texas in Denton, Texas, they were treated to a healthy surprise – the UNT Dining Services has converted the Maple Hall cafeteria to become a new 100% all-vegan full-service cafeteria, Mean Greens. The decision was based on a survey of University of North Texas students in which 15% responders were vegetarian and 5% were vegan – and, of course, to attract more students with specific dietary preferences to the campus.

In order to create the perfect vegan menu, UNT Dining Services staff visited a number of restaurants in the Dallas-Fort Worth area for inspiration, and according to a press release by the UNT Dining Services, “The culinary staff has been creating recipes using nothing but fresh herbs, vegetables, fruits, beans, and whole grains.” Apparently, the University of North Texas is the first in the US to open an all-vegan cafeteria to meet the plant-based needs of its students.

But that’s not all – the UNT Dining Services will also make, on the spot, any vegan dish upon request by concerned students. In “White Paper: A Vegan Diet,” published by the UNT Dining Services, vegetarian or vegan options are offered at other cafeterias on campus, with each item being labeled with a “V” next to each item. However, “If a nutrition card is not available on the food being served or the student has questions about the food preparation, a manager is always available to assist the student with his or her questions. If a student is still concerned about food preparation of the item, he or she can ask for the food to be prepared a different way as long as the ingredients needed are available in the cafeteria.” Moreover, managers at non-vegan cafeterias are requested to maintain at least one vegetarian option daily for students who didn’t want to eat meat for either environmental, compassionate, or health reasons. Students at the University of North Texas can also visit a registered dietician at the UNT Wellness Center for consultations on the planning of a healthy and balanced vegan lifestyle.

In an interview with NT Daily, Ken Botts, director of special programs for UNT Dining Services, stated, “We put a lot of effort into designing recipes that would provide protein, would provide the necessary vitamins and nutrition to a balanced diet, so chances are, you’ll get a better balanced opportunity in your food choices at Maple than you would at any other eating establishment in and around campus.” Opened to the public on August 22, the concept for an all-vegan cafeteria began a year ago.

Speaking to the University of North Texas News Service, Botts commented, “Most schools only have one or two cafeterias, so it is difficult for them to dedicate an entire dining hall to one type of cuisine. We are fortunate to have five cafeterias on our campus, so it made sense to diversify the dining halls to offer more variety. UNT has a very diverse population with many different tastes and lifestyles, and we believe that this new dining option will be attractive to current students and community members.”

In addition to begin the first vegan university cafeteria in the nation, Mean Green is also going green: plates are used instead of the traditional cafeteria trays, which cut water usage by 40 percent. And surprisingly, not all students who dined at now popular vegan cafeteria are vegans or vegetarians – they’re simply students who love good, healthy food.

Impressed by the university’s decision to provide healthy food to its student body, Animal-rights group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals honored the University of North Texas with the Compassionate Campus award. Kudos to UNT for blazing the vegan trail in the cattle-country Lone Star State!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

US Top Climate Scientist Arrested in Protest of the Keystone XL Pipeline

NASA's climate scientist, Dr. James Hansen
Photos: Josh Lopez via tarsandsaction on Flickr/CC BY

The arrest of US preeminent climate scientist James Hansen on August 29, 2011, for protesting outside the White House has brought more media focus to an issue that has been pretty much ignored by mainstream media. With arrests now climbing to nearly 600 in over a week, what exactly has caused famed NASA’s scientist to take to the street with faith leaders and commit a peaceful act of civil disobedience? The proposed Keystone XL tar sands pipeline by TransCanada that is now sitting on President Obama’s desk, waiting for a green light. 
Photo by Tar Sands Action
The Keystone XL is a 1700-mile pipeline that runs from Canada through the US, carrying tar sands oil from Alberta, Canada, through the US to the Gulf Coast. According to Tar Sands Action, “If built, the pipeline could bring as much as 900,000 barrels per day through the U.S., and put fresh water, clean air and the climate at risk.” Back in June 2011, Dr. James Hansen explained in an essay, “Silence is Deadly,” why tar sands, and the proposed Keystone XL, is disastrous for our nation as well as the planet.
The U.S. Department of State seems likely to approve a huge pipeline to carry tar sands oil (about 830,000 barrels per day) to Texas refineries unless sufficient objections are raised.  
The scientific community needs to get involved in this fray now. If this project gains approval, it will become exceedingly difficult to control the tar sands monster. 
Although there are multiple objections to tar sands development and the pipeline, including destruction of the environment in Canada and the likelihood of spills along the pipeline's pathway, such objections, by themselves, are very unlikely to stop the project. 
An overwhelming objection is that exploitation of tar sands would make it implausible to stabilize climate and avoid disastrous global climate impacts. The tar sands are estimated (e.g., see IPCC AR4 WG3 report) to contain at least 400 GtC (equivalent to about 200 ppm CO2). 
Easily available reserves of conventional oil and gas are enough to take atmospheric CO2 well above 400 ppm. However, if emissions from coal are phased out over the next few decades and if unconventional fossil fuels are left in the ground, it is conceivable to stabilize climate. 
Phase out of emissions from coal is itself an enormous challenge. However, if the tar sands are thrown into the mix it is essentially game over. There is no practical way to capturethe CO2 emitted while burning oil, which is used principally in vehicles. 
Governments are acting as if they are oblivious to the fact that there is a limit on how much fossil fuel carbon we can put into the air. Fossil fuel carbon injected into the atmosphere will stay in surface reservoirs for millennia. We can extract a fraction of the excess CO2 via improved agricultural and forestry practices, but we cannot get back to a safe CO2 level if all coal is used without carbon capture or if unconventional fossil fuels are exploited. 
I am submitting a comment that the analysis is flawed and insufficient, failing to account for important information regarding human-made climate change that is now available. I note that prior government targets for limiting human-made global warming are now known to be inadequate. Specifically, the target to limit global warming to 2°C, rather than being a safe "guardrail", is actually a recipe for global climate disasters. I will include drafts of the "Paleoclimate Information", "Earth's Energy Imbalance" and "The Case for Young People and Nature" papers, which are so far only published in arXiv; we will submit revised versions of all
of these papers for publication this summer. 
I also will comment that the pipeline project does not serve the national interest, because it will result in large adverse impacts, on the public and wildlife, by contributing substantially to climate change. These impacts must be evaluated before the project is considered further. 
It is my impression and understanding that a large number of objections could have an effect and help achieve a more careful evaluation, possibly averting a huge mistake. Brief pointed comments may be just as well as longer statements.
James Hansen
 As predicted, just last week the State Department has already approved of the pipeline.

To date leading environmentalist, author, and founder of the climate campaign Bill McKibben, former White House official and Yale dean Gus Speth, gay rights activist Lt. Dan Choi, Dr. James Hansen, an 84-year-old grandmother, and many others have been arrested. Supporters for the protest include dozens of religious leaders, Sen. Bernie Sanders (VT-I) and celebrities Mark Ruffalo, Thom Yorke, Danny Glover, Josh Fox, and 20 top US scientists.

Environmentalist, author & founder of Bill McKibben being arrested
Photo: Shadia Lopez
Renowned gay rights activist, Lt. Dan Choi, being arrested in front of the White House.
Photo: Josh Lopez
According to Bill McKibben, “This is the largest civil disobedience action in the environmental movement in a generation, and if they really aren’t even discussing it with the president, that signals a deep disrespect for their supporters, especially young people who have demonstrated that the environment is a top priority.”

Let’s hope President Obama is listening and paying attention, and shows that he cares about the environment and our nation by tossing the Keystone XL proposal right in the garbage bin. Do the right thing, Mr. President.

Note: For the full text of Dr. James Hansen's "Silence is Deadly," please visit

Saturday, July 23, 2011

"Song of a Yogi's Joy" & "Milarepa and the Pigeon"

I was reading Garma Chang's translation of The Hundred Thousand Songs of Milarepa, a very well-known Tibetan enlightened master (1040-1123), and came across these two songs which I really like -- "Song of a Yogi's Joy" and "Milarepa and the Pigeon." They have some very relevant advice, even for modern-day spiritual practitioners or ordinary humans.

Tibetan Yogi Jetsun Milarepa

"The Song of a Yogi’s Joy"

Obeisance to all Gurus

The Master of Yoga, the Jetsun Milarepa, in obedience to his Guru’s orders, went from Junpan to Yolmo Snow Range, where he dwelt at the Tiger Cave of Senge Tson in the woods of Singalin. The local goddess of Yolmo appeared in a gracious form, obeying the Jetsun’s orders and rendering her best service to him. Milarepa remained there for some time in a deeply inspired mood.

One day, five young nuns came from Mon to visit him. They addressed him thus: “It is said that this place is full of terror, and an ideal place in which to attain great improvement in meditation. Can this be true? Have you found it so?” Milarepa then sang in praise of the place:

Obeisance to you, my Guru!
I met you through having accumulated great merits,
And now stay at the place you prophesied.

This is a delightful place, a place of hills and forests.
In the mountain-meadows, flowers bloom;
In the woods dance the swaying trees!
For monkeys it is a playground.
Birds sing tunefully,
Bees fly and buzz,
And from day until night the rainbows come and go.
In summer and winter falls the sweet rain,
And mist and fog roll up in fall and spring.
At such a pleasant place, in solitude,
I, Milarepa, happily abide,
Meditating upon the void-illuminating Mind.

Oh, happy are the myriad manifestations!
The more ups-and-downs, the more joy I feel.
Happy is the body with no sinful Karma (retribution),
Happy indeed are the countless confusions!
The greater the fear, the greater the happiness I feel.
Oh, happy is the death of sensations and passions!

The greater the distress and passions,
The more can one be blithe and gay!
What happiness to feel no ailment or illness;
What happiness to feel that joy and suffering are one;
What happiness to play in bodily movement
With the power aroused by Yoga.
To jump and run, to dance and leap, is more joyful still.

What happiness to sing the victorious song,
What happiness to chant and hum,
More joyful still to talk and loudly sing!
Happy is the mind, powerful and confident,
Steeped in the realm of Totality.

The most extreme happiness
Is the self-emanation of self-power;
Happy are the myriad forms, the myriad revelations.
As a welcoming gift to my faithful pupils,
I sing of yogic happiness.

Thereupon, Milarepa initiated the five young nun-novices and gave them the verbal instructions. After practicing these teachings for some time, the light of inner Realization was born within them. Milarepa was overjoyed and sang the “Nectar of Instruction”:

Oh, my Guru, he who shows
The unmistakable path to Liberation,
The Perfect Savior, the great Compassionate One,
Pray, never leave me, ever remain
Above my head as my crest-jewel!

Hearken, followers of the Dharma (true teaching),
Ye meditators seated here,
Though the teachings of Buddha are most numerous,
He who can practice this Profound Path
Is gifted indeed!

If you wish to become a Buddha in one lifetime,
You should not crave the things of this life,
Nor intensify your self-longing,
Else you will be entangled between good and evil,
And you may fall into the realm of misery.

When you give service to your Guru,
Refrain from thinking, “I am the one who works,
He is the one who enjoys.”
Should you have this kind of feeling,
Quarrel and discord will surely follow,
And your wish can never be fulfilled.

When you observe the Tantric Precepts,
Cease association with the vicious,
Else you will be contaminated by evil influences,
And you may risk breaking the Precepts.

When you engage in study and learning,
Do not attach yourself to words with pride,
Else the dormant fire of the Five
            Poisonous Passions will blaze,
And virtuous thoughts and deeds will be consumed.

When you meditate with friends in retreat,
Do not attempt too many things,
Else your virtuous deeds will cease,
And your devotion will be distracted.

When you practice the Path with Form
            of the Whispered Transmissions,
Do not exorcise demons, nor curse ghosts for others,
Lest demons rise within your mind
And a longing for worldly aims will blaze.

When you have acquired Experience and Realization,
Do not display your miraculous powers, nor prophesy,
Lest the secret words and symbols slip away
And merits and spiritual insight will diminish.

Beware of these pitfalls and avoid them.
Commit not evil deeds. Eat not beguiling food.
Take not the burden of the corpse.
Utter not sweet words to please others.
Be humble and modest, and you will find your way.

The nuns then asked Milarepa how they might find their own way, beseeching him for further instruction. In reply, Milarepa sang:

I pay homage to my Guru, the gracious one.
I pray you to vouchsafe me your grace-waves.
Pray help me, the mendicant, happily to meditate.

Though you children of the new generation
Dwell in towns infested with deceitful Karma (retribution),
The link of Dharma (true teaching) still remains.
Because you have heard the Buddha’s teaching
You now come to me,
And thus avoid going astray.

By constant practice of the Accumulation-of-Merits
You will foster an aptitude for devotion.
The grace-waves will then enter you,
While the corresponding and actual Realization will grow.

But even if you do all this, it will help but little
If you cannot reach full mastery.
Having pity on you, I now give you this instruction.
Listen closely, my young friends!

When you remain in solitude,
Think not of the amusements in the town, 
Else the evil one will rise up in your heart;
Turn inward your mind,
And you will find your way.

When you meditate with perseverance and determination,
You should think upon the evils of Samsara (migration and transmigration)
And the uncertainty of death.
Shun the craving for worldly pleasures;
Courage and patience then will grow in you,
And you will find your way.

When you solicit the deep teachings of the Practice,
Do not long for learning, nor to become a scholar,
Else worldly actions and desires will dominate;
Then this very life will be thrown away.
Be humble and modest,
And you will find your way.

When the various experiences come to you in meditation,
Do not be proud and anxious to tell people,
Else you will disturb the Goddesses of Mothers.
Meditate without distractions,
And you will find your way.

When you accompany your Guru,
Do not look upon his merits or demerits,
Else you will find mountains of faults.
Only with faith and loyalty
Will you find your way.

When you attend holy meetings
With brothers and sisters in the Dharma (true teaching),
Do not think of heading the row,
Else you will arouse both hate and craving,
And offend against the Precepts.
Adjust yourselves, understand each other,
And you will find your way.

When you beg for alms in the village,
Do not use the Dharma (true teaching) for deceit and exploitation,
Else you will force yourself down to the lower Path.
Be honest and sincere,
And you will find your way.

Beyond all else remember, at all times and places,
Never be overweening, nor of yourself be proud,
Else you will be overbearing in your self-esteem
And overloaded with hypocrisy.
If you abandon deceit and pretense,
You will find your way.

The person who has found the way
Can pass on the gracious teachings to others;
Thus he aids himself and helps the others, too.
To give is then the only thought
Remaining in his heart.

The disciples were all greatly inspired with the determination to practice diligently and to renounce the world. An unalterable faith in the Jetsun was established in them. They said, “We want to offer you a golden Mandala. Pray accept it, and give us the practical teaching of the View, Practice, and Action.”

Milarepa replied, “I do not need the gold; you may use it to maintain your meditation. As for the teaching of the View, Practice, and Action, I shall tell you. Pray hearken to my song”:

Oh, my Guru! The Exemplar of the View, Practice, and Action,
Pray vouchsafe me your grace, and enable me
To be absorbed in the realm of Self-nature!

For the View, Practice, Action, and Accomplishment
There are three Key-points you should know:

All the manifestation, the Universe itself, is contained in the mind;
The nature of Mind is in the realm of illumination
Which can neither be conceived nor touched.
These are the Key-points of the View.

Errant thoughts are liberated in the Dharmakaya;
The awareness, the illumination, is always blissful;
Meditate in a manner of non-doing and non-effort.
These are the Key–points of Practice.

In the action of naturalness
The Ten Virtues spontaneously grow;
All the Ten Vices are thus purified.
By corrections or remedies
The Illuminating Void is ne’er disturbed.
These are the Key-points of Action.

There is no Nirvana (Eternal Bliss) to attain beyond;
There is no Samsara (migration and transmigration) here to renounce;
Truly to know the Self-mind
It is to be the Buddha Himself.
These are the Key-points of Accomplishment.

Reduce inwardly the Three Key-points to One.
This One is the Void Nature of Being,
Which only a wondrous Guru
Can clearly illustrate.

Much activity is of no avail;
If one sees the Simultaneously Born Wisdom,
He reaches his goal.

For all the practitioners of Dharma (true teaching)
This preaching is a precious gem;
It is my direct experience from yogic meditation.
Think carefully and bear it in your minds,
Oh, my children and disciples.

The disciples then asked Milarepa, “As we understood you, the unmistakable guide along the Path of Practice is to pray to one’s Guru with great earnestness. Is there anything else beyond this?” Milarepa smiled and answered, “The Tree of Guidance has also many branches.”

In explaining this to them, he sang:

The Guru, the disciple, and the secret teachings;
Endurance, perseverance, and the faith;
Wisdom, compassion, and the human form;
All these are ever guides upon the Path.

Solitude with no commotion and disturbance
Is the guide protecting meditation.
The accomplished Guru, the Jetsun,
Is the guide dispelling ignorance and darkness.
Faith without sorrow and weariness
Is the guide which leads you safely to happiness.

The sensations of the five organs
Are the guides which lead you to freedom from “contact.”
The verbal teachings of the Lineage Gurus
Are the guides which illustrate the Three Bodies of the Buddha.
The protectors, the Three Precious Ones,
Are the guides with no faults or mistakes.
Led by these six guides,
One will reach the happy plane of Yoga –
Abiding in the realm of Non-differentiation
In which all views and sophisms are no more.

Remaining in the realm of self-knowledge and self-liberation
Is indeed happy and joyful;
Abiding in the valley where no men dwell,
With confidence and knowledge, one lives in his own way.
With a thundering voice,
He sings the happy song of Yoga.
Falling in the Ten Directions is the rain of fame;
Brought to blooming are the flowers and leaves of Compassion.
The enterprise of Bodhi encompasses the Universe;
The pure fruit of the Bodhi-Heart thus attains perfection.

The disciples thought, “It makes no difference now to the Jetsun where he stays. We will invite him to our village.” Thereupon they said to Milarepa, “Revered One, since your mind no longer changes, there is no need for you to practice meditation. Therefore, for the sake of sentient beings please come to our village and preach the Dharma for us.” Milarepa replied, “Practicing meditation in solitude is, in itself, a service to the people. Although my mind no longer changes, it is still a good tradition for a great yogi to remain in solitude.” He then sang:

Through the practice of meditation I show gratitude to my Guru.
Pray grant me your grace, ripen and liberate me.
You, gifted disciples, the followers of Dharma,
Heed carefully, with all attention
While I sing of the profound Essential Teaching.

The great lioness in the upper snow mountain
Poses proudly on the summit of the peak;
She is not afraid –
Proudly dwelling on the mountain
Is the snow lion’s way.

The queen vulture on Red Rock
Stretches her wings in the wide sky;
She is not afraid of falling –
Flying through the sky is the vulture’s way.

In the depths of the great ocean
Darts of the Queen of fish, glittering;
She is not afraid –
Swimming is the fish’s way.

On the branches of the oak trees,
Agile monkeys swing and leap;
They are not afraid of falling –
Such is the wild monkey’s way.

Under the leafy canopy of the dense wood,
The striped tiger roams and swiftly runs,
Not because of fear or worry –
This shows her haughty pride,
And is the mighty tiger’s way.

In the wood on Singa Mountain,
I, Milarepa, meditate on Voidness,
Not because I fear to lose my understanding –
Constant meditation is the yogi’s way.

Without distraction, the yogi meditates absorbed
Upon the pure Mandala of Dharmadhatu (Realm of Truth),
Not because he fears to go astray –
But to hold to Self-quintessence is the yogi’s way.

When he works on the Nadis, Prana, and Bindu
He avoids hindrances and errors,
Not that the teaching has faults in itself –
But it is a good way to improve true Realization.

With natural and spontaneous behavior
One surely meets with countless ups-and-downs,
Not because there is discrimination and dualistic thought –
But because to manifest all, is causation’s nature.

When he develops other beings by
            demonstrating the power of Karma (retribution),
Though seemingly he sees as real both good and evil,
It is not because he has gone astray in his practice,
But because, to explain the truth to different people,
He must use appropriate illustrations.

Those great yogis who have mastered the Practice,
Never desire anything in this world.
It is not because they want fame that
            they remain in solitude;
It is the natural sign springing from their hearts –
The true feeling of non-attachment and renunciation.

Yogis who practice the teaching of the Path Profound,
Dwell always in caves and mountains;
Not that they are cynical or pompous,
But to concentrate on meditation is their self-willing.

I, the cotton-clad, have sung many songs,
Not to amuse myself by singing sophistries,
But for your sake, faithful followers who assemble here,
From my heart I have spoken words helpful and profound.

The disciples then said to Milarepa, “One may live alone in solitude, but it is necessary to have food and a suitable dwelling in which he can meditate properly.” The Jetsun replied, “I have my own food and dwelling which I will illustrate for you.”

I bow down at the feet of the wish-fulfilling Guru.
Pray vouchsafe me your grace in bestowing beneficial food,
Pray make me realize my own body as the house of Buddha,
Pray grant me this sure knowledge.

I built the house through fear,
The home of Sunyata, the void nature of being;
Now I have no fear of its collapsing.
I, the Yogi with the wish-fulfilling gem,
Feel happiness and joy where’er I stay.

Because of the fear of cold, I sought for clothes;
The clothing I found is the Ah Shea Vital Heat.
Now I have no fear of coldness.

Because of the fear of poverty, I sought for riches;
The riches I found are the inexhaustible Seven Holy Jewels.
Now I have no fear of poverty.
Now I have no fear of thirst.

Because of the fear of loneliness, I searched for a friend;
The friend I found is the bliss of perpetual Sunyata (Voidness).
Now I have no fear of loneliness.

Because of the fear of going astray,
I sought for the right path to follow.
The wide path I found is the Path of Two-in-One.
Now I do not fear to lose my way.
I am a yogi with all desirable possessions,
A man always happy where’er he stays.

Here at Yolmo Tagpu Senge Tson,
The tigress howling with a pitiful, trembling cry,
Reminds me that her helpless cubs are innocently playing.
I cannot help but feel a great compassion for them,
I cannot help but practice more diligently,
I cannot help but augment thus my Bodhi-Mind.

The touching cry of the monkey,
So impressive and so moving,
Cannot help but raise in me deep pity.
The little monkey’s chattering is amusing and pitiful;
As I hear it, I cannot but think of it with compassion.

The voice of the cuckoo is so moving,
And so tuneful is the lark’s sweet singing,
That when I hear them I cannot help but listen –
When I listen to them,
I cannot help but shed my tears.

The varied cries and cawing of the crow,
Are a good and helpful friend unto the yogi.
Even without a single friend,
To remain here is a pleasure.
With joy flowing from my heart, I sing this happy song;
May the dark shadow of all men’s sorrows
Be dispelled by my joyful singing.

The disciples were all deeply moved, and a feeling of weariness with Samsara (migration and transmigration) overwhelmed them. They swore to Milarepa that they would never leave the mountain. Afterwards, through the practice of meditation, they all reached the state of perfection.

One day, Milarepa’s patron Buddha told the time had come for him to go to Tibet proper and there meditate in solitude to help sentient beings. The patron Buddha also prophesied the success of his career in helping people and in spreading the Dharma (true teaching). Hence, about this time, Milarepa decided to go to Tibet.

This is the story of Yolmo Snow Mountain.

"Milarepa and the Pigeon"

Obeisance to all Gurus

In accordance with the prophecy of his Patron Buddha, Milarepa went to Tibet proper from Yolmo. He arrived at Gu Tang and lived in a cave, absorbing himself in the Meditation of the Great Illumination.

One day a pigeon wearing golden ornaments came to Milarepa. The bird nodded, bowed, and circled him many times. Then it flew away in the direction of the Immaculate Rock. Milarepa understood that this must be a spell of the Non-men to make him welcome. So he followed the pigeon and went up to the hill, where he found a heap of white rice. The bird pecked at the rice with its bill and brought some to Milarepa as if showing him hospitality and welcome. Milarepa, surprised and delighted, broke into song:

Oh! My gracious Guru, Marpa Lho Draug Wa,
From the depth of my heart I think of you.
In deepest earnestness I meditate on you.
That I never be separated from you, is my prayer.

Merging the Self-mind with the Guru is indeed a happy thing.
Manifestation itself is the essences of Reality.
Through the realization of this unborn Dharmakaya (a body of the Buddha, composed of the Buddha’s teachings),
I merge myself in the Realm of Non-effort.
To both the high and low Views am I indifferent.
In the mind of Non-effort I feel happiness and joy.

The nature of Mind is the Light and the Void.
By realizing the awareness of Light-Void,
I merge myself in the original state of Non-effort.
To good and bad experiences am I indifferent.
With a mind of Non-effort, I feel happiness and joy.

The Six Senses and Sense Objects of themselves
            dissolve into the Dharmadhatu
Where the Non-differentiation of subject and object is realized.
I merge with happiness and sorrow into one;
I enter the original state of Non-effort.
To right and wrong actions, am I indifferent.
Happy indeed is the Non-effort mind.

The very nature of the Dharmakaya
Is identified through its myriad forms;
The myriad forms are the Nirmanakaya of Buddha.
With this understanding in mind,
Whatever circumstance I may encounter,
I am free in the happy realm of Liberation!
To return to the home of Buddha
I have no longing!
Happy indeed is this mind of Non-effort.

Whereupon the pigeon, with seven companions, came nearer to Milarepa. They all bowed to him and circled him many times, as the first bird had done before. Milarepa thought, “These pigeons must be Non-men. I shall ask them and see whether they will tell the truth.” So he said, “Who are you, and why do you come here?” The pigeons then broke the spell and displayed their real forms as female Devas. Their leader said, “We are the angel-maidens of Heaven. Because we have great faith in you, we come here to learn the Dharma (true teaching) from you. We beseech you to give us the instructions.”

In response, Milarepa sang:

Oh! The wondrous Transformation Body of my Guru!
Pray, kindly grant me your grace-wave.

You eight charming maidens of Heaven,
Who appeared just now in pigeon form,
Your spell was fine, and in conformity with the Dharma!
If you, the eight beautiful maidens of Heaven,
Wish to practice the white Dharma of Buddha,
Pray remember the meaning of this song.

Though worldly happiness and pleasure
Seem delightful and pleasing,
They soon will pass away.

Though high-ranking ladies are proud and exultant
In their lofty dignity,
What refuge and shelter do they have?

To dwell in the fiery home of Samsara
Sometimes seems pleasant, but is mostly misery.

If a well-endowed and well-loved son
Has no self-respect and makes no self-effort,
His father will meet nothing but distress.

If a disciple commits evil deeds,
He must fall into Samsara,
No matter how superb his Guru may be.

You maidens of Heaven, the conjurers of the pigeons!
It is easy for you to ask for Dharma,
But hard to have deep faith in it.
You should remind yourselves
Of the inevitable misfortunes
Connected with worldly joys.
The pains and miseries of this life,
You should regard as friends leading you toward Nirvana.
As for me, I am very grateful for
The misfortunes I have met.
Oh, my friends, bear this in mind, and do the same!

The Devas smiled at Milarepa and said, “We shall do so.” Then they made obeisance and circumambulated him many times. The Jetsun then asked the angels, “Why did you come here in pigeon forms?” They replied, “You are a yogi who has not the slightest attachment to yourself, nor any desire for this worldly life. It is only for the sake of Bodhi and welfare of sentient beings that you have remained in solitude and meditated without distraction. With our heavenly eyes, we have been able to see you; and with respect and faith we now come to you for Dharma. But in order to conceal our real form from sinful beings, we have transformed ourselves into pigeons. We pray that your Reverence will now be kind enough to go up into Heaven with us and preach the righteous Dharma (true teaching) for us.” But Milarepa replied, “As long as life lasts, I shall remain in this world to benefit sentient beings here. You must know that Heaven is far from dependable; it is not eternal, and one should not rely on it. To be born in Heaven is not necessarily a wonderful thing. You should pay heed and follow these instructions”:

I bow down at the feet of Marpa Lho Draug.
Oh, Father Guru! Pray grant me your
            grace-wave and accomplishment.

You, eight beauties of the Deva-realm,
Have offered me white rice, the wondrous fruit of Dhyana (a state of deep meditation).
Eating it my body is strengthened, and my mind enlivened.
As a token of my gratitude, I sing this song of Dharma to you.
Now, lift up your ears, and listen to me carefully.

Even though one reaches the highest Heaven of the White Devas,
It has no permanent value and meaning!
Lovable and touching are those flowers of youth in Heaven.
But however pleasant it may seem to be,
In the end comes separation.

Although the bliss in Heaven seems to be very great,
It is merely a deceitful mirage, a bewildering hallucination;
In fact, it is the very cause of the return to suffering!

Thinking of the miseries of the Six Realms in Samsara,
I cannot help but have a feeling of disgust and aversion –
A feeling of anguish and distressed emotion!
Should you intend to practice the teaching of Buddha,
You must take refuge in the Three Precious Ones and pray to them.

Sentient beings in the Six Realms
You should consider as your parents.

Give to the poor, and offer to the Guru!
For the benefit of all, dedicate your merits.
Always remember that death may come at any moment.

Identify your body with Buddha’s body!
Identify your own voice with Buddha’s Mantra.
Contemplate the Sunyata of self-awakening Wisdom,
And always try to be master of your mind!

The Devas of Heaven said, “In ignorant beings like us, the Klesas (sources of suffering) always follow the mind. Pray give us a teaching with which we can correct this fault, so we may depend upon it and practice it frequently.”

In response to their request, Milarepa sang:

Obeisance to Marpa, the gracious one!
Pray grant me the blessing of virtuous remedy.

Should you, oh faithful lady Devas, intend
            to practice the Dharma (true teaching) often,
Inwardly you should practice concentration and contemplation.
The renunciation of external affairs is your adornment.

Oh, bear in mind this remedy for external involvement!
With self-composure and mindfulness, you should remain serene.
Glory is the equanimity of mind and speech!
Glory is the resignation from many actions!

Should you meet disagreeable conditions,
Disturbing to your mind,
Keep watch upon yourself and be alert;
Keep warning yourself:
“The danger of anger is on its way.”
When you meet with enticing wealth,
Keep watch upon yourself with alert;
Keep a check upon yourself:
“The danger of craving is on its way.”

Should hurtful, insulting words come to your ears,
Keep watch upon yourself and be alert,
And so remind yourself:
“Hurtful sounds are but delusions of the ear.”

When you associate with your friends,
Watch carefully and warn yourself:
“Let not jealousy in my heart arise.”

When you are plied with services and offerings,
Be alert and warn yourself:
“Let me beware, lest pride should spring up in my heart.”

At all times, in every way, keep watch upon yourself.
At all times try conquer the evil thoughts within you!
Whatever you may meet in our daily doings,
You should contemplate its void and illusory nature.

Were even one hundred saints and scholars gathered here,
More than this they could not say.
May you all be happy and prosperous!
May you all, with joyful hearts,
Devote yourselves to the practice of the Dharma!

The maidens of Heaven were all very happy, and in their delight and satisfaction they again turned their bodies into pigeons, and flew up toward Heaven. Milarepa then ate the offered rice, and set out for Gray Rock Vajra Enclosure.

This is the story of the angel-maidens in pigeon form and their offerings.

Monday, June 20, 2011

The Garden Party

Photo by Everyman

Ever heard of the Garden Party? It does sound a little more productive than tea parties, doesn’t it? From its appellation, it appears that members of this party are growing something instead of sitting around drinking tea, shooting the breeze, and talking politics. A quick search on the Internet won’t come up with anything about this movement, which is surprising. The principles of the Garden Party are practical and very doable, especially for this period of time when it’s critical that individuals and families are encouraged to go local and organic. Let’s face it, climate change is a reality. There are plenty of scientific studies that point to the urgent state of our planet, as well as devastating physical manifestations of Mother Nature herself in the forms of earthquakes, tsunamis, tornadoes, droughts, and for some countries, floods. Climate change is here to stay – be it global warming or global cooling – unless humankind does something about it, for example, curb manmade activities that are toxic to our air, our planet, and to the survival of all beings.

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations released a report, “Livestock’s Long Shadow,” which implicates the livestock industry as the number one source of greenhouse gas emissions, 18 percent, more than all the transportation sectors combined. However, in 2009, researchers at the Worldwatch Institute estimated that that number is a bit higher, producing about 32.6 billion tons of carbon dioxide per year. That’s about 51 percent of greenhouse gas emissions. Imagine that. Just reducing our meat consumption – or even better, going vegetarian or vegan – we, as individuals, are already doing our part in the fight to stop or even reverse climate change.

Aside from cutting the meat out of our diet, we can contribute our efforts in another way – going organic. If the world’s agriculture switch to organic farming, not only will we eliminate chemical runoffs of fertilizers into the oceans, which harm marine life as well as create dead zones, but the sustainable methods of organic farming actually absorb 40 percent of the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. That’s why a Garden Party is so important. A Garden Party in every neighborhood – what a wonderful way to have healthy and affordable vegetables, right in our backyard, or windowsill or rooftop.

Let us take a look at the Manifesto of the Garden Party (which can be found in its entirety at the Feral Scholar website):
1. The Garden Party is a collection of people who are committed to designing and implementing local, practical initiatives that:

a. increase food security through local sustainability
b. reduce our dependency on money, on-the-grid jobs, expensive and entropic technology, service agencies, and the government to feed ourselves.

2. The Garden Party is not seeking to acquire power for itself, but to deflate the structures of power by reducing people’s dependencies on those structures, in particular from the industrial food-grid, general-purpose money, and administration/management by employers, service agencies, and government.
The Garden Party is preparing for the ultimate General Strike, whereupon people can quit working for wages, quit requiring money to survive, quit paying taxes, quit obeying cruel, stupid, and unjust laws, and quit requiring resources that are not locally available for survival. This will not happen in one stroke, but little by little, spreading as both root and seed.

3. The Garden Party is peaceable. We do not accept the right of anyone to use physical force to bend the will of another; and we will not use any form of violence against persons as part of any campaign or initiative, no matter how much violence and force might increase our efficacy. The ends do not justify the means.

4. The Garden Party can “bind and loose.” If we voluntarily participate together in a boycott, or pickets against some entity, or any other trans-local initiative, then so be it. It requires no executive bodies, but can be suggested in the course of broad communication. Broad communication is encouraged to share helpful, practical tips, and to describe local activities. If the majority decides to participate in trans-local actions, then the majority will participate. No one will be coerced or expelled who doesn’t. If local groups want to initiate local projects, they need not request permission from anyone. Executive committees are part of the problem, not part of the solution.

5. There are no geographic boundaries for the Garden Party. Anyone anywhere can join.
6. The Garden Party is based on a concept of community that emphasizes the practical and personal, not the ideological. Local groups of the Garden Party should be friends. If you can’t be friends and treat each other with genuine goodwill and affection, then nothing you do will last anyway. A communication network is a good thing, but it is not a community. Communities can share food with each other, tend to each others’ children, nurture one another through times of personal trial, and celebrate together. If you’re too far apart to do these things, then there’s a better word than community.

The only requirement for membership into the Garden Party is to have a garden, be it pots that sit on windowsills or vegetables in plastic containers around the yard. What a wonderful way to empower ourselves, our family, as well as our neighborhoods and community. We are not helpless in the face of climate change. Together as a free-thinking collective, we can make a huge difference.

Kudos to Stan of the Feral Scholar website for the Garden Party concept. May there be members in every neighborhood throughout the world.