Thursday, July 30, 2009

a little vent on the state of racism

I like to think of myself as a fairly open minded person. I try not to judge people (i fail at this often) but when i do i judge them on their actions, not their appearance. I can't understand how such an archaic mindset as racism is still around, but even in 2009 and as far north as you can get before you get your feet wet, i still run into it on a daily basis. Living in Cleveland, we don't have a massively diverse culture in my opinion. We have smatterings of just about everyone but it is predominatly black and white. Now i don't know what it is about looking different from one another but it sure makes a difference when interacting with different colored people. One of my real good friends i worked with (he had to good fortune to move on to a more rewarding place of employment) is black and i am white. I noticed that black people would ignore me when i wished them good morning but would smile and wave at my friend. I asked if he knew them or had talked with them before and they were total strangers. On the reverse of that several of the white employees would not tarry and talk to me when my black friend was around and working with me.
This kind of thinking seems self destructive and self defeating. My friend is a source of great humor and insight in my life and couldn't even dream of not talking to him just because he is black. Edward James Olmos of Battlestar Galatica fame spoke at a special conference with the United Nations a little while ago and just recently he was interviewed on G4TV's Attack of the Show and he commented on his experience there. He revealed that the UN is changing the charter to never again use the word race to define or seperate a group of people. There is only the human race, not the black, brown, yellow, white, etc race. Just humans. With all the "forward" thinking that supposedly goes on here in the United States and all the higher thinking that everyone claims to do, why does it take a SciFi series to show us what we should be doing?
I have been a fan of the series (i have yet to see the last season though) and i am impressed how cleverly the directors and writers touch on such topics as racism, terrorism, forgiveness, and war and people find it entertaining. I just wish that the greater populace could take a deeper message away from the couch with them.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

The Five Precepts

Here is one of the things I ponder on most and try my hardest to focus on in daily life, the Five Precepts. They are the guide on how the lay practitioner is to live their life. Wikipedia says:

1. Affirm life; Do not kill
2. Be giving; Do not steal
3. Honor the body; Do not misuse sexuality
4. Manifest truth; Do not lie
5. Proceed clearly; Do not cloud the mind

I grew up Presbyterian so I like the ritualistic way these are stated but to boil them down to their basics we are to refrain from killing, stealing, sexual misconduct, lying, and using intoxicants. Having gone to church most my life these sound real familiar, as in Ten Commandments familiar. All except the no intoxicants (lookin at you Catholics :) are mirrored in Buddhism, Christians just added on a few extra Commandments.

The Precepts are here to help us become more like the Buddha and achieve enlightenment. I cannot see a murder or a thief becoming enlightened, nor a rapist or a person unable to tell the truth. Those were easy for me to integrate into my life. The final Precept was herder for me. I came from a fraternity where we were known for our parties and our ability to hold our alcohol. Since having children my desire for drinks slackened significantly but I still enjoy a drink now an then. I can understand that to become enlightened one must have a clear mind and alcohol does the opposite so it is something to work on.

That's my little blurb on the Five Precepts, just imagine a world if everyone followed these five simple rules (unless you're a bar owner...that'd be horrible).

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Buddhism Books

I have recently been reading two books to help me learn more about buddhism and I highly recommend picking them up.

One is Essential Buddhism: Everything You Need to Understand this Ancient Tradition. This is the book I first picked up about Buddhism and it was clearly written with great examples, and good background on The Buddha.

The other is a smaller and more 'casual' read. Coffee With The Buddha is a more lighthearted approach written as if the author is, surprise surprise, having coffee with The Buddha. It's much less daunting than Essential Buddhism which can look like a textbook but it still provides a lot of great examples.

I'll let ya know if I find some more good page turners.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Four Noble Truths

Now for my bit on the Four Noble Truths .

The Buddha said that life is suffering. To many that sounds like a very pessimistic view but to overcome this suffering Buddha gave us the Four Noble Truths. The Truths define suffering, where it came from and how to overcome it and become enlightened.
Let's start off by defining the Four Noble Truths.

1. The Nature of Suffering. Birth, death, aging, illness, pain, having what is displeasing, seperation from what is pleasing; all these and more are suffering.

2. The Origin of Suffering. Suffering comes from craving. Wanting what we cannot have, wanting what we have to last longer, that leads to suffering.

3. The Cessation of Suffering. By ending the cravings, we end the suffering and the endless cycle of rebirth.

4. The Way Leading to the Cessation of Suffering. Shows us how to end suffering throught the Noble Eightfold Path; which is right view, right intention, right speech, right action, right livlihood, right effort, right mindfulness, right concentration.

According to the Buddha we are suffering and torment because we want things. If you step back and look, it really makes sense. How often have you gotten the advertisement for some big sale on a massive HDTV and thought how you couln't live without it, or what you could cut out in order to afford it? Or perhaps you have to work an extra job you hate in order to afford it? But if you didn't crave that extra large TV then you wouln't be stressed about all the ways you can't afford it and you could just enjoy watching your programs or spending time with friends and family. I know that many of us get caught up in having the newest and shiniest things, so much so that we have a catch phrase (keepin up with the Jones'), but in doing so we ruin ourselves. I love computers and technology and it updates and outdates itself at a blinding rate and I used to get caught up in that expensive cycle. Now I look at what I need it to do and if it does that, then I am happy with it and found that my computers can last years instead of months.

There is so much to be said about giving up craving that I could drone on for pages and probably lose any followers I accumulate, but the best example to keep in mind are the monks who dedicate themselves to Buddhism completely. They have nothing, they give up all forms of money and have to beg and barter for meals. They have nothing and want nothing, and they seem content with the world. Amazing!

I will continue my series next time with the Noble Eightfold path and how to end suffering.

tiny buddha

In my links section is tinybuddha's twitter feed (a great place for daily buddhist quotes) but on his feed yesterday i saw that he is opening a seperate website and if you go and check out the pre-launch you can register to win an awesome gift set containing
  • How to Practice: the Way to a Meaningful Life, the Dalai Lama
  • The Power of Now, Eckhart Tolle
  • Peace Is Every Step: The Path of Mindfulness in Everyday Life, Thich Nhat Hanh
  • Tea starter kit, by Kevin Rose, sold at Samovar Tea Lounge
  • Yoga mat
  • Tiny Buddha statue

How COOL!?!?! check it out at

Friday, July 10, 2009

Buddha quote

"Better than a thousand hollow words, is one word that brings peace." ~Buddha
taken from

One of the things I LOVE about buddhism is it's emphasis on minding your words. You are taught to not say hurtful things and also not to have idle words. I'm sure most of you have worked with someone who talks just to talk and fill silence. I don't understand why silence is so uncomfortable for so many people. Is it just the way we are brought up in today's society with TV's and radios blaring all the time that we need to have some sort of audio stimulation every waking moment?
I enjoy meaningful, thoughtful conversation, but to just prattle on with small talk to me is like scraping nails on a chalkboard and will usually refuse to do it (just ask my wife how difficult it can be to make me participate in a conversation if i don't feel inclined).
What I really struggle with is how to politely ask people to be quiet and choose their words before they speak. I have a co-worker who MUST talk all the time. We joke that in order for her to exhale properly she must be gossiping about someone. And since I've adopted buddhism i've tried to think of a way to tell her that she could find peace if she just quieted her mouth and listened to the world and others for a few moments (that's not even touching on the hurtful gossip she spreads).
Any suggestions?

Thanks for reading :)

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Mala (prayer) beads

A little while ago (sometime shortly before father's day) i received 18 bead Mala bead bracelet from my family as a gift from an awesome etsy store. If you have any need for Mala beads of any length (and the owner will help you choose the right mala for you if you are unsure) or insense.
check out Meditation on etsy

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Buddhism defined

Wikipedia defines Buddhism as:

  • Buddhism is a family of beliefs and practices considered by most to be a religion[1][2] and is based on the teachings attributed to Siddhartha Gautama, commonly known as "The Buddha" (the Awakened One), who was born in what is today Nepal.[3][4] He lived and taught in the northeastern region of the Indian subcontinent and most likely died around 400 BCE in what is now modern India.[5]

There is a lot in those two little sentences that makes Buddhism different from many others. First thing that sticks out to me is that it is a family of beliefs that 'most' consider a religion. Buddhism as I have learned thus far does not believe in an almighty and omniscient god like most every other religion i have come across. There are gods and demons and titans and ghosts, but those are all other forms to be re-incarnated to and interestingly enough, they are less desire able than the human form (but I'll save that for another post). Back to what i was saying, Buddhism is considered by most to be a religion but by some it's considered to be a philosophy. This is a stark contrast to Christianity, Judaism, Muslim, and all the others that would be wholly offended to be thought as such.

Another thing that I find interesting about Buddhism is that the person that started it, is 100% confirmed to have lived and taught in a certain area in a certain time.

Thanks for reading, I will try to put more up on the 8 fold path, 4 noble truths, karmic wheel, and more as i can and as i learn more!!!


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