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The Buddha and the Scientist

The physical reality is changing constantly every moment.  This is what the Buddha realized by examining himself.  With his strongly concentrated mind, he penetrated deeply into his own nature and found that the entire material structure is composed of minute subatomic particles which are continuously arising and vanishing.  In the snapping of a finger or the blinking of an eye, he said, each one of these particles arises and passes away many trillions of times.

“Unbelievable,” anyone will think who observes only the apparent reality of the body, which seems so solid, so permanent.  I used to suppose that the phrase “many trillions of times” might be an idiomatic expression not t be taken literally.  However, modern science has confirmed this statement.

Several years ago, an American scientist received the Nobel Prize in physics.  For a long time he had studied and conducted experiments to learn about the subatomic particles of which the physical universe is composed.  It was already known that these particles arise and pass away with great rapidity, over and over again.  Now this scientist decided to develop an instrument that would be able to count how many times a particle arises and passes away in one second.  He very rightly called the instrument that he invented a bubble chamber, and he found that in one second a sub-atomic particle arises and vanishes 10 to the power of 22 times.

The truth that this scientist discovered is the same as that which the Buddha found, but what a great difference between  them!  Some of my American students who had taken courses in India later returned to their country, and they visited this scientist.  They reported tome that despite the fact that he has discovered this reality, he is still an ordinary person with the usual stock of misery that all ordinary people have!  He is not totally liberated from suffering.

No, that scientist has not become an enlightened person, not been freed from all suffering, because he has not experienced truth directly.  What he has learned is still only intellectual wisdom.  He believes this truth because he has faith in the instrument which he has invented, but he has not experienced the truth for himself.

I have nothing against this man nor against modern science.  However, one must not be a scientist only of the world outside.  Like the Buddha, one should also be a scientist of the world within, in order to experience truth directly.  Personal realization of truth will automatically change the habit pattern of the mind so that one starts to live according to the truth.  Every action becomes directed toward one’s own good and the good of others.  If this inner experience is missing, science is liable to be misused for destructive ends.  But if we become scientists of the reality within, we shall make proper use of science for the happiness of all.

From Vipassana Meditation by William Hart, (HarperSanFrancisco. 1987.)  Narrated by SN Goenka

Are We Listening?

“Hear now this, O foolish people and without understanding, that have eyes and see not, that have ears and hear not”.  Jeremiah 5:21

The year is 2019 and everyone is talking about the environment, especially in the wake of the school strike for climate change, started by the remarkable Scandinavian teenager Greta Thunberg. It seems to be a new conversation but, in fact, scientists have been speaking, writing and almost screaming about this subject for many years. Some of us have been listening, but, on the whole the powers that be have not really got the message that “business as usual” cannot be sustained, and major changes will be needed if humanity is to continue to exist on this planet.

In the 1950’s and 1960’s, the pioneering biologist Rachel Carson presented detailed observations of ecosystems which were being disrupted, on an unprecedented scale, by the use of chemicals, and particularly by the use of pesticides and herbicides. In her classic book Silent Spring, which was published in 1962, she describes, chapter by chapter, chilling scenarios such as the near total depletion of salmon in rivers which had received run off from areas sprayed with insecticides. She catalogued many other instances of harm done to plant, animal and human life due to indiscriminate use of chemicals.  The powers that be, who were interested in promoting the farming and forestry industries, had no real understanding or interest in “ecology”, and so were not inclined to listen. However, Rachel Carson did catch the attention of President John Kennedy, and eventually she testified in congressional hearings. Her work has been cited as being largely responsible for the establishment of the Environmental Protection Agency in 1970. Had she not died from cancer in 1964, at the age of 57, we would certainly have heard a lot more from her. But, also, since Rachel Carson’s time, pesticides with greater toxicity have continued to be introduced and have become more and more pervasive throughout the food chain. Genetically modified crops are designed specifically to tolerate high concentrations of toxins applied to the fields, even as we learn that pesticides are implicated in cancer and autism. Since 2016, the US government has actively dismantled many environmental protections.  So, are we listening?

Another modern classic, Diet for a Small Planet, was first published in 1971. The author, Frances Moore Lappe, concerned herself with the problem of world hunger. In this book, she shows how meat centered farming (especially that which involves grain fed animals) uses vastly more water, fuel and land, and that widespread shifting to a plant centered diet would go a long way to alleviating world hunger, while conserving those same limited resources, namely, water, fuel and land. Diet for a Small Planet presents a hypothetical “all plant diet” together with nutritional analyses to prove that such a diet contains ample protein and other key nutrients.  To show that such a way of eating is feasible, the analysis is followed by practical cooking instructions for  ingredients unfamiliar to the American public, such as whole grains and beans. Frances Moore Lappe has continued to write, teach and organize internationally, and has received 19 honorary doctorates to date. And yet, the lungs of the world, the Amazon rain forests, continue to be torched in order to grow food for beef cattle. The demand for beef has never been higher. So, is anyone listening?

The American space program gave us the chance to see our very own planet, photographed on the way to the moon, in 1972. The “blue marble” photograph showed a breathtakingly beautiful blue sphere with wisps of white cloud against the backdrop of space. The image showed us our only home, where we all must live.  Nearly 20 years later, the Voyager space probe sent back an image of the earth as a barely visible Pale Blue Dot. The astronomer and philosopher Carl Sagan shared his perspective on this image.  “the Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors so that, in glory and triumph, they could  become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot…. There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another, and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we have ever known”.

These words have been widely applauded and quoted. Yet nations continue to build nuclear arsenals, and recent reports tell us that the amount of plastic waste in our oceans has come to outweigh all the fish in the seas. So, is anyone really listening?

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In 2019, a scientific paper of great scope and significance was published in The Lancet, a top medical journal. This paper, Food in the Anthropocene, was authored by 37 experts from 16 different countries, and brought together data from the fields of human health, agriculture and environmental science. The aim of this undertaking was to develop evidence based global scientific targets for healthy human diets from sustainable food production systems. It speaks of feeding a projected population of 10 billion humans on planet Earth in the year 2050, with a diet whose elements are known to enhance health and reduce the burden of chronic disease. At the same time, the emphasis in farming would need to shift to products and farming methods that will ensure achievement of the standards set out in the UN Sustainable Development Goals, and the Paris Agreement of 2016, so that planet Earth will remain inhabitable for humans.

This 40 page paper is full of meticulous detail, looking at farming outputs with respect to greenhouse gas production, land use and degradation, pollution of waterways from fertilizers, pesticides and animal waste, biodiversity loss, and so on. It essentially connects many of the dots from pre-existing research, so that the big picture can be seen. The paper comes out with a “reference diet” that can be produced through farming methods such as conservation agriculture, which limit damage to the environment and can even regenerate soils. This reference diet can be adapted to different regions with different climates and cultures.  [Reference 1]

This landmark paper notes that healthy diets consist of a variety of plant based foods, while minimizing animal based foods, refined grains and processed foods. To achieve the targets set out in the paper would require a 50% reduction in unhealthy foods.

Food production is the largest cause of global environmental change, and portion for portion, production of animal based foods and particularly beef, use more land and energy and produce more greenhouse gases and pollution than any of the plant based foods, including beans, nuts, seeds and grains as  major sources of plant protein.  [Reference 2]

These concepts have been presented before, notably by Rachel Carson and Frances Moore Lappe whose books sold millions of copies. But the Lancet paper really brings it all together, connecting the different disciplines and giving a very specific template for individuals and also for policy makers and governments so that harmful practices can be reduced and beneficial ones adopted. It has a chance to work, if we listen and if world leaders listen.

I would like to emphasize that Food in the Anthropocene is not someone’s blog or a touchy-feely opinion. In fact it could never have been written by a single person since no individual could possibly master so many different scientific fields, and it relies on whole bodies of pre-existing research.

It is an example of what human beings with a shared purpose can achieve, uniquely, by working together. The purpose, a noble one, is to make a better world for the future, a future which many of the authors may not live to see. Neither will they know the beings, humans and others, who will benefit or who will be spared unnecessary suffering, if the recommendations in this paper are followed. As far as we know, only humans have the capacity to envision working for the benefit of the future, and the ability to communicate and cooperate in order to make it happen.

We can rest assured, however,that if the world continues with business as usual, and climate change accelerates, there will be untold suffering from extreme weather events, more and more frequent droughts, floods, heat waves, crop failures, whole areas of the world becoming too hot to inhabit, displacement of populations, conflict over scarce resources, tropical diseases appearing in formerly temperate climates, and much much more.

They were not listening, they’re not listening still, Perhaps they never will.”  (Starry Starry Night, by Don McLean)

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2019 it was, and at the time it seemed reasonable to talk about 2050, to plan changes to do some day, some time, or whenever. There was still plenty of time to breathe, to sleep walk and to go about business as usual, at least in the affluent West.

But now it is 2020, and we are truly in unexplored territory. Corona virus has knocked the whole world sideways, and we are just at the beginning.

If authorities had been listening to the concerns of epidemiologists, they would have understood the need to prepare for a pandemic. There have been several viral epidemics in recent years, all originating in animal viruses which have jumped from species to species, mutating along the way and gaining the capacity to infect humans. The conditions that support this process include having different species crowded together as in the “wet markets” of China, but also the crowded and unsanitary condition of factory farming for meat. Physician, public health expert and author Dr Michael Greger described this danger in his 2006 book, Bird Flu, a Virus of  Our Own Hatching.  The so called “Spanish flu” of 1918 was a bird flu, and the epidemiologists and public health doctors have been anticipating a pandemic for some time, especially in the wake of SARS, MERS, H1N1 flu, and Ebola, which all originated in animal populations.

Corona virus is the first pandemic of the twenty first century but is not likely to be the last.

If the powers that be needed any more reason to promote a shift from a food culture based on factory farmed animals, perhaps COVID 19 will convince them.

For those of us who claim to care, who claim to act from compassion, then also, maybe 2020 is the time to see clearly, and let go of the meat on our plates, or reduce it drastically.  If not for our own health, if not for the animals, if not for the environment then as a way to stop sponsoring the food system that gives rise to pandemics.

As Don McLean sang to us years ago, “They would not listen, they did not know how. Perhaps they’ll listen now”.

References:

  1. Food in the Anthropocene, in The Lancet.com, published online Jan 16, 2019, Table 1
  2. Food in the Anthropocene, Figure 4

3. Bird Flu, a Virus of Our Own Hatching, on dr.greger.org for print edition. Free digital editions may be found on the internet.

4. “Dr Greger Told Us About Corona Virus in 2008,” Plant Based News, on YouTube

Disclosures: Dr Miriam Maisel is a GP with a diploma in Lifestyle Medicine, and promotes a whole food plant based diet for health improvement and prevention and reversal of chronic disease.
This article has recently been published in Medium Forum.

https://medium.com/@miriammaisel

 

 

 

Scientific Perspectives: The Heart Sutra and the Atom

As His Holiness the 14th Dalaï-Lama says, Buddhism is scientific religion. In his first teaching the Buddha explained the universality of cause and effect: “All phenomena arise from causes”[1]. Moreover, he repeatedly asked his followers to make their own opinion, even about his own words. Buddhism considers science as a first step and also as a solution, since the root cause of problems is ignorance. Therefore, modern science too can be used on the path. Continue reading

SPINACH PAKODA

Ingredients
2 cups leaves of spinach
1 cup of gram flour (besan)
2 green chilies chopped or 1/2 teaspoonful chili powder
1 big onion finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon cumin powder
Pinch of asafoetida (hing)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup of water or as required
oil for deep frying

Process
Wash and clean spinach leaves well.
Cut thickly or use as it is.
Mix all the ingredients in gram flour and beat well.  It will become a thick paste.
Mix cut spinach leaves in the paste and beat again.
Add more eater if needed.
Heat oil in the frying pan till smoke starts to come.

To make pakoda crispy, mix a tablespoon of heated oil in gram flour.  Fry small balls in the oil till they become light brown.  Adjust the heat accordingly.

Time Required  30 – 35 minutes

Serves  3 – 4 persons

From The Joys of Nepalese Cooking by Indra Majapuria

Despatches from The Hill

An experience of going through coronavirus
I had originally been due to be away on retreat for most of March.  It was cancelled as the first wave of international cancellations began.  It was fortuitous, however, I found out, that I had been preparing for a significant retreat for many months.  Because now we were indeed plunged into retreat, not just a small group of people in a carefully planned retreat centre with an atmosphere of peace around, but pretty much one third of the whole world in the situation of gradually, but inexorably, being directed to retreat into the heart of our immediate lives, and told to stay there.  And this amongst a fearful and confusing situation being variously reported and analysed by many different experts.  An unprecedented and unparalleled set of circumstances: either a recipe for disaster, or a time of enormous potential for stopping, taking stock and reappraising our lives.

It has led many of us to come into contact with the core values of humanity, as kindness and care for all our fellow people on this earth and in our communities.  A great generosity of spirit has come out in all corners of society, in our health workers and in everyday interactions.  But the nature of humanity is that we also face our basic anger, greed and ignorance and if we don’t take care their patterns will overwhelm the crucible we now find ourselves in.  Which is why I felt the necessary approach was to see it all as retreat and to bring our practice to where we find ourselves now as strongly as ever we could.

It was interesting for me to notice, though, how our ‘retreat’ changed when we really felt the presence of Coronavirus amongst us.  Before that, I felt happy and lucky to have health, a nice home to be in and time to dedicate to practice.  Every aspect of our entertainment and distraction out in the wider world was being shut down, bringing us all to dwell more fully on the simple pricelessnesses of life: the unfolding daffodils and spring’s green shimmering.  I knew where all the birds were nesting and observed the daily unfolding of the chestnut tree leaves.

But then one weekend my husband started coming down with something after work. He is an ‘urgent care’ out-of-hours GP doctor in Oxfordshire, treating seriously unwell patients at home and in nursing homes.  He’d been using all the facemasks and hand gel and distancing protocol, he’d washed his hands till they were raw, but it seems he still managed to contract the virus through treating patients with Covid symptoms.  I think you know when you’re under attack from a virus at close quarters – I started slathering the whole kitchen, door knobs and kettle handles and even the milk in the fridge, with sanitising gel.  I tried to separate us in the house and distance from each other.  But it only lasted a few hours because you cannot live like this.  Fearing hugging your own husband.  By the evening I just looked at him and thought, we’re going to get it.  And we sat down and had dinner together as usual and the next day I started with the symptoms.

As it happens, I experienced mild symptoms, as have our two daughters.  At first, I thought I had a migraine and my daughter thought she had hay fever.  Taken singly, I would not normally have thought anything more about each of our illnesses than I would about some bug or other we get and throw off after feeling a bit rubbish for a day or a few.  It was because we all came down very quickly, within a day or even hours, of each other, with very similar, and some slightly strange, symptoms (like a ‘smoky’ feeling in the throat or a gravely feeling in the chest).

All I know is that fighting this virus in my body, finally, after all the hype and fear and panic circulating around the world, felt like a relief.  I didn’t even know initially what I was fighting, whether I had ‘coronavirus’ or a migraine or whatever else, but just giving in and ‘being ill’ and letting the body get on with doing what it knows how to do, coming into contact with this true and immediate reality was a kind of salvation.  Before we give anything a name or a diagnosis, the body is there dealing with it.  In the end, this is our first, and our last, defence.  It is our embodied reality.  It felt real and like I could deal with it, in a way we cannot deal with unrelenting fear or limitless ideas.  But we can deal with whatever is ultimately real, through experiencing it.  And it was reassuring to watch over my children, if they have to have it, rather than fear them having it some time when I am not there to care for them.

So, the journey of being ‘safe at home away from Coronavirus’ to ‘in danger in our very home, with it being brought right into our midst’ to ‘fighting it in the cells of the body’ to ‘cleansing it out’ has actually felt like a tremendous release, in our case, and has brought a freedom.  Now, people – and surfaces – all look safe again to me.  I don’t need to circle round anyone I meet out walking in the woods – Well, I do, for their peace of mind and because it is currently the law; but I don’t feel afraid of being near someone or like I will henceforth have to banish myself away from people in order not to bring a threat to them.  I feel safe again.

I think it’s really important to realise this point will come, we will all be able to be close again once more.  This virus will move on.  It is the nature of things.  This does not diminish the loss in any death from this virus or otherwise, but it gives us a ground to stand on, to be able to face it all.  We have had models of diseases before, with high predictions of deaths, for Bird Flu and BSE and SARS and Swine Flu, none of which were borne out in the real world to the extent of the predictions.  Viruses have their lifespan too, and life meets these viruses in ways that maybe cannot be predicted on mathematical models.  Perhaps this is the place of prayer or intention or how we can influence things by how we act.  Nature has her own checks and balances, not least the fact that as viruses mutate, they often become less severe.

At some stages in this journey I have also been filled with an intense tornado of fear, quite unmanageable and literally ‘petrifying’ (specifically thinking of my husband having to see patients with this ‘terrible’ disease).  In fact, for a while, I noticed I was subtly (and not-so-subtly) angry – frustrated, irritable and a bit all over the place.  Until one day, through practice and meditation and basically just coming into the body and accepting where I was really at for once, I woke up in enormous fear.  And I realised I wasn’t really, underneath it all, angry, half so much as I was afraid.  Of course I was, you only have to watch the news for 20 minutes and you must be afraid (or not listening).  This ‘real’ fear only lasted an hour or two and then was gone, but it had been bubbling under there this whole time.

And so I have relearned the value of coming into the body: of feeling the earth, of widening my awareness so I feel grounded and whole and broad and connected; so that nature is holding the whole of me and I cannot be afraid, I cannot be anywhere other than okay in myself, just breathing and resting on the earth.  The practice of ‘shammatha,’ calm abiding, saves us, even in this moment, even when nothing else has changed.  And then, I think, to have this enormous care and concern for our wide society, and especially the vulnerable, which is the good side of what is being brought out everywhere; then it is so much easier to bear and probably more help too.

We are all learning that we need to give ourselves space and time to stop inwardly and rest and calm (turning off all the news and information stream from that connection was important for me).   Whatever we are dealing with, there is no better way to prepare to face it than to look after ourselves and cultivate good health.

Meditation-wise, I found it invaluable to spend time taking awareness step by step through the body, easing out the mind and tensions found along the way, (actually I always find spending time on this helpful).  Visualising refreshing and cleansing white light permeating through to all the parts of the body can potentise this and I found it calming and healing.  I think it’s important we bring our usual practices to this situation and not feel they are separate from it.

Lastly, the great value of nature as a healer and holder of anxiety.  So many people have been commenting on this in their lives I think, whether it is the woods or countryside or just a flowering tree in a nearby garden.  Even a nature programme on TV, I have found, can bring a relief like diving into a deep clear pool of refreshingly cool water, nourishing us.  We can all feel the deep restorative power of nature and yes, it does fire up in me a desperate urge to protect whatever of it we can.

And, for whatever reason we may have been plunged into ‘retreat’ at home, truly stopping and reflecting on life can only be a good thing.  And so, my next question, was how to use this time well, this very unusual opportunity it brings us all.

[  Note: Perhaps I need to qualify my approach to turn off the news etc, by mentioning that the other half of our family-isolation here includes a pretty full-on effort on the part of my husband and his research team, collecting and interpreting evidence to understand Coronavirus, Covid 19 and the current health, social and NHS implications.  It is his job as Professor of Evidence-Based Medicine at Oxford University, now located in a hut outside our back door, buzzing with phone calls and interviews from morning till night.  Every family conversation includes mention of the latest updates and how they should be understood.  I am not suggesting turning away from the suffering in any way, but taking care to understand things in context.  There are many aspects of what is unfolding we need to stop and analyse more clearly before we really know what is going on.   See:  cebm.net.]

Retreat in Spring – The Wood Element
However, we have come by this situation, it is in our hands to make as best we can of it.  The more consciousness and light and clarity we can bring out now, as always, and maybe particularly now, the better.

I am trained as an acupuncturist, and in particular a Five Element acupuncturist.  This form of acupuncture takes as its model of health and well being, the theory of the Five Elements – five phases of emery that make up nature’s archetypal and fundamental ebbs and flows, that create and underlie all of life.  So I turned to this theory for inspiration at this time.

An acupuncturist is interested in diagnosing and facilitating the balance of the five elements in a person, through the phases of their life and the challenges they may encounter.  Thus any symptoms that arise are treated at their very foundation, through encouraging the balance and healthy interplay of all five elements in a person.

These elements also make up nature that is all around us, in just the same way; nature that we are made from and nature we are held by.  One way we can get in touch with the different strength and expression of each of these elements is by observing the flow of nature through the year, each season embodying a fundamental ‘flavour’ or expression (at least in temperate climates with several seasons).  So, wintertime expresses particularly nature coming back to her essence, the quiet hibernation that replenishes us and puts us back in touch with our deepest resources and essential nature.

           Bluebell Woods

Once this phase is completed, the next phase naturally arises out of it, the beginning of the expression of that fundamental hidden nature out into the world: springtime and the ‘Wood Element.’  This will lead us on toward the blossoming of full maturation in summer, the nourishment of harvest in late summer and through to the natural letting go of autumn, so that we would once again return full cycle to the essence in wintertime. Or at least, these ebbs and flows give us a chance to follow these natural cycles (although we do tend to over-ride them a bit, us silly old human beings, don’t we?)

The ancient Taoists taught as a great fundamental of their approach to life that, if we can live in harmony with nature, and these flows of the elements of nature, we experience health and well being, the elements naturally balancing within us.  And of course, the cycles described by the elements don’t just happen over a year; they are happening for all of us in myriad ways all the time.  They happen over a lifetime, over a day, in relationship with others, over the course of a project or endeavour, anything that has a natural organic lifespan.  So this is a way of looking at our lives and consciously bringing out the best, the harmony, the wholeness, inherent in life’s potential.

So I put my thinking cap on, at the beginning of this strange time we find ourselves in, to see what the theory suggests would be good things to include in a way of life, or retreat, at this time of year.  The Wood element is all about going forward in life: direction and planning, creative expression, guided by an over-reaching vision for our life.  As winter turns to spring it is a natural time for us to go forward and start being more active in the world again.  So, all the more challenging that it is just at this moment we have all needed to turn back and go within, into our homes.

But that need not stifle the natural Wood movement.  We just have to be a little more conscious and creative at finding ways to express this healthfulness.  What nourishes and supports the Wood in us all is things like:

  • Structure, a daily plan or direction, as in the way a trellis gives a climbing plant a structure to grow through
  • Regularity / rhythm, of meals and sleep and so forth
  • Exercise and movement, whether its outside in nature or stretching / yoga at home
  • Artistic / creative expression
  • Direction / Intention, we can still contemplate these and consider them, even at such a time of openness and uncertainty. They may be even more important for us to shine light on at such a time.

So it may be that devising a lifestyle in our new way of life involving these will help.

[  Theoretical note: The Five Elements as I talk about them here are as they are taught in acupuncture theory and practice in the west in current times, taken primarily from ancient Taoist classical texts, but informed also by Japanese approaches, and brought through the ages in this way.  Seeing the world in terms of Five Elements is a basic philosophy common to Eastern philosophies in general and has an important expression also in Tibetan Buddhism.  I find the two systems totally compatible and, in some ways, fully informing of each other, but they are given slightly differently.  The Chinese / Taoist system talks of Water, Wood, Fire, Earth and Metal (corresponding to winter through to autumn, as given above).  The Tibetan Buddhist teachings talk of Water, Air, Fire, Earth and Space.

Sometimes the Taoist system is drawn with Earth in the centre of the other 4, as a pivot, and I think the teaching is somewhat more like the elements are presented as grounded in the medium of Earth.  Sometimes the Tibetan or Buddhist system talks of the ‘Four Elements in Space’ (Space as the fifth element), i.e. they are presented more as grounded in Space as their medium.  To my mind, they are different ways of looking at the same thing, but entirely compatible.  However, I should make clear, the Tibetan Buddhist theory of Five Elements does not map them onto the seasons.  They are given as the feminine consorts or counterparts of the male Buddhas which are the heads of the Five Buddha Families.

It would no doubt all be the same in the end (experientially), I think, but I find the way the elements are talked about in acupuncture theory more accessible to share with people, for us to use as a day-to-day understanding of the elements and how they shape our health and lives.  Whereas, it seems to me, the Tibetan Buddhist five elements, especially as the consort Buddhas of the Five Buddha Families, is a very subtle and refined theory and requires quite a lot of prior understanding before we can even start to grasp its reality as a description and expression of life.

See, for example, ‘Everyday Consciousness and Primordial Awareness’ by Khenchen Thrangu Rinpoche for a definitive description of the Five Buddha Families and the corresponding Five expressions of Primordial Wisdom which manifest as the Five Elements and constitute thereby worldly appearances.]

Looking ahead, Transition and Integration
Although no one is really in the space of working out how we are going to go forward from this strange world we find ourselves in now, a friend commented to me how it would likely be ‘like a cork popping out of a bottle.’  I thought, ‘No!’ and realised this stage to come will be important too.

How we integrate what this time brings us and how we move forward, whenever the time comes, I think we should be aware of this, contemplate it while we can and take care how we come out of this place, so we bring our hard-won treasures with us.  I think it is just about staying aware, taking care, going gently but being present and open to what is always arriving.

These were just some thoughts I had at this time.  Apologies for any mistakes and well-wishing to all.

 

Mary Heneghan
Mary Heneghan is an acupuncturist, writing here from atop a hill on the edge of Oxford city where she lives with her family, a city she continues to love since coming here as a student 30 years ago.  She teaches meditation and kum nye yoga and has two daughters who are at university and just finishing school (or would be if they weren’t at home painting, applying facemasks and heading out to stack shelves at supermarkets).  She has followed Ringu Tulku’s teachings as a heart practice for many years and is one of the Directors of Bodhicharya Publications.

 

Oxford lies as if under a spell,
deserted and quiet, with only sunshine to fill the streets.

  

        These photos taken at midday on a Thursday on my daily walk …
        It feels as if a princess somewhere has pricked her finger on a spindle,
       and all the world has fallen into a deep, deep sleep…

Pablo Neruda (1904-1973), a Chilean poet, wrote this poem in the 1950’s:

Keeping Quiet

Now we will count to twelve

And we will all keep still.

 

For once on the face of the earth

Let’s not speak in any language.

Let’s stop for one second

And not move our arms so much.

 

It would be an exotic moment

Without rush, without engines,

We would all be together

In a sudden strangeness.

 

Fishermen in the cold sea

Would not harm whales

And the man gathering salt

Would look at his hurt hands.

 

Those who prepare green wars,

Wars with gas, wars with fire,

Victories with no survivors,

Would put on clean clothes

And walk about with their brothers

In the shade, doing nothing.

 

What I want should not be confused

With total inactivity.

Life is what it’s about;

I want no truck with death.

 

If we were not so single minded

About keeping our lives moving,

And for once could do nothing,

Perhaps a huge silence

Might interrupt this sadness

Of never understanding ourselves

And of threatening ourselves with death.

Perhaps the earth can teach us,

As when everything seems dead

And later proves to be alive.

 

Now I’ll count up to twelve

And you keep quiet and I will go.

DESIDERATA

Go placidly amid the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence. As far as possible without surrender be on good terms with all persons. Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even the dull and ignorant; they too have their story. Avoid loud and aggressive persons, They are vexations to the spirit. If you compare yourselves with others you may become vain and bitter; for always there will be greater or lesser persons than yourself.

Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans. Keep interested in your own career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time. Exercise caution in your business affairs; for the world is full of trickery. But let this not blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive from high ideals; and everywhere life is full of heroism. Be yourself. Especially do not feign affection. Neither be cynical about love; for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment it is as perennial as the grass. Take kindly the counsel of the years, Gracefully surrendering the things of youth. Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings.

Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness. Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars; you have the right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should. Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be, and whatever your labours and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul. With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.

From Living and Dying in Peace. Poem by Max Ehrmann

 

LAMENT FOR THE LOSS OF WILD FOOD

Wild Fact of the Day:
Once humankind used 7000 species of plant and 1069 species of fungi as foods. 

A single community averaged 120 wild species in their daily diet providing a massive range of nutrients (vitamins, minerals, etc)  and phytochemicals, such as plant-made serotonin that keeps us all happy. Each country studied records a dietary range of 300 to 600 wild species once eaten. 

There were no simple divisions: we were hunter-gathers, cultivator-collectors, farmer-foragers, agro-pastoralists, fisher-foragers, and our strength was dietary diversity. It was never just farming until around 300 years ago (UK) and many other modern cultures still have over 20% wild food in their diets. In 12 remaining traditional hunter-gather communities studied, between 30% and 93% of calories are wild not farmed. 

Sadly today over 50% of the entire globe’s daily calorie intake (and, I would argue, nutrient intake) comes from just 3 species – carb laden corn, wheat, rice. And 80% of calories from just 12 species – you know the other 9, those sad, tasteless, watery supermarket vegetables. No wonder city dwellers only have a third of the beneficial gut bacteria species that foragers have. 

The result of the loss of our wild food diversity – and the exercise spent collecting and catching it – is that we have become sick, sad and obese! 

Edible wild leavesAs one researcher puts it the “gradual replacement by store-bought produce causes discernable and significantly negative impacts on nutritional security at household and community levels”. 

Just saying…

I live in a field in West Lothian. 4 wild acres where I am planting and encouraging medicinal and foraging species. I have been fascinated by herbs and plants since childhood. My original interest was sparked by a wild childhood in Kenya, where I was introduced to herbal medicine by a local Kikuyu herbalist at the age of six. We were outdoors most of the time and I remember with joy the freedom of those early years. I love foraging for wild food as well as wild medicine and would happily never visit a supermarket again.
For the latest on events and courses please visit Monica on www.monicawilde.com

Also on twitter.com/monicawilde
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linkedin.com

 

RINGU TULKU ARCHIVE MEMBERSHIP

Archive Membership

 

RTRshade

This Ringu Tulku Archive was built and is managed by dedicated volunteers. All initial development costs were generously funded by Bodhicharya Publications.

However, storing and delivering such a huge amount of media like this in a secure and professional way, requires a paid delivery system. Each time a video or audio file is played, we have to pay for that delivery. Therefore paid annual membership is crucial to the survival of the archive.

Given the preciousness of what we are storing and delivering, we think its worth it and we hope you do too.

Annual membership allows you access to the Archive of teachings and the Courses, except for a few restricted teachings. It also gives you almost immediate access to the audio recordings that Rinpoche makes as he tours the world. We hope to add these to the website as soon as we get them.

All three membership types are the same. The only difference is how much you are able to offer. Each membership is an annual subscription which renews automatically each year, but your subscription can be stopped at any time via your membership account page.

We also offer free membership to the Bodhicharya monastic sangha and individuals in particularly difficult financial circumstances. To apply for that please contact us here.

Membership Payments will be administered by Bodhicharya Publications in the UK. Should any profit arise from the Archive Memberships, it will be used to support other Bodhicharya

PANEER WITH PEAS

Cooking time:
30 minutes

1/4 kg of paneer (chopped into 2cm cubes)
1 cup of peas
1 large tomato (chopped small)
OR 1 tablespoon of tomato puree
11/2 teaspoons of coriander powder
1/4 teaspoon of rurmeric powder
1 tablespoon of garlic finely chopped
1/4 teaspoon of crushed chilies
3/4 teaspoon of salt
1/4 cup of  green coriander leaves (chopped)
1 cup of water

OIL FOR FRYING

4 tablespoons of oil
1/4 teaspoon of cumin seeds
1 large onion (finely chopped)

Heat oil on a wok and fry the paneer pieces until golder brown (alternatively they can be brushjed with oil and grilled or sauted).

Heat oil in a good size frying pan, add cumin seeds.  When browned, mix in the oinions and fry until brown.  Mix in the garlic and all the other spices and stir for a few seconds.

Add tomatoes and cook until the liquid has evaporated (with puree, the cooking time will be less).  Mix in the paneer and peas, cover and cook on low hear for 3 to 4 minutes.  Add water and cook for a further 5 to 7 minutes (tossing it around once or twice).  Ensure that the vegetable is not dry.  before seving add coriander.

This dish can be cooked without onions and garlic: At the baghaar stage, with cumin seeds, add 1/2 teaspoon of asafoetida and leave out the onions and garlic altogether.

This and paneer with spinach are standard dishes found on most Indian restaurant menus in the UK and India.

BAGHAAR is the method in which whole spices, such as cumin or mustard seeds, are browned in hot oil or ghee before any other ingredients can be added.
From Feasts of India by Mridsu Shailaj Thanki, Jaganath Press.

NOW IS THE TIME FOR ACTION

You. Yes you! Did you know that what you do to the Earth, you do to yourself?

When you nurture the planet, you look after your body. For only by nourishing yourself with food that grows in healthysoils, pollinated by insects, with clean water and the right amount of sunshine, does your body stay strong and free from disease. As as you are nourished so too is the Earth.

Continue reading

HEALTH INDEPENDENCE AND RESISTANCE IN OUR BRAVE NEW WORLD

 

PolItIcal upheavals are causing widespread anxiety about many issues, including health care, all over the world. Where do we go from here and what can we do on an individual basis to improve our own situation?

First let me say, as a doctor, I see health care as a vital human right. I regard universal access to healthcare as a hallmark of a genuinely humane society which values “love of one’s neighbor”, whereas the absence of such a system may well be a sign of the opposite.

Many health problems arise from causes that we cannot control directly as individuals. among these are accidents, natural disasters, wars, genetic conditions, illnesses caused by pollution of the environment, illnesses whose causes remain unknown, etc. Continue reading

INSTALLATIONS OF OUTER SPACE

To make the hypnotic artworks, Krakow-based duo Przemek Podolski and Marta Basandowskaby start by arranging the complex designs as a 3D computer model.

The structures range from simple cubes to impressively complex geometric designs which they use to represent outer space.

Basandowska says that she and Podolski then use a series of different knotting techniques to weave the yarn around various nails and bring the artwork to life.

Once the threads are properly woven around the nails, the couple uses black lights and projection mapping to illuminate the massive installations.

We are making bigger and braver installations every year,” says Basandowska. “It is completely different when you’re making installations with an area of 30 meters supported by steel structures and creating something using several thousand knots.”

The couple’s String Art Installations have been displayed at a variety of arts and music festivals, but if you want to keep up with their future work, you can visit their Instagram page, YouTube channel, or website.

POHA POTATOES

 

This is a simple, spicy Indian lunch or brunch made with rice and potatoes. Perfect as a side dish with curry, too.

Ingredients

Method

  1. Boil the potatoes until cooked. Drain and set aside to cool, then peel and cut into 1cm/½in cubes.

  2. Put the rice in a sieve and wash gently but thoroughly under cold running water. Empty it into a bowl, cover generously with water and leave to soak for two minutes. Drain and leave in the sieve set over a bowl.

  3. Put the oil in a large, non-stick frying pan and set it over a medium-high heat. When hot, add the asafoetida and the urad dal. As soon as the dal starts to pick up a little colour, add the mustard seeds, cumin seeds and chilli (whatever type you are using). As soon as the mustard seeds start to pop, a matter of seconds, add the curry leaves (take care as they will splutter), then the onion and potatoes. Lower to a medium heat and fry, stirring now and again, for 3-4 minutes or until the onion and potatoes are slightly browned. Sprinkle a pinch of salt over the top and stir.

  4. Add the poha rice, gently breaking up any lumps, and sprinkle ½ teaspoon of salt and the sugar over the top. Cook on a low heat for 3-4 minutes, tossing frequently by lifting all the ingredients from the bottom of the pan with a flat spatula and folding them over, until the poha is heated through. Cover and set aside until you are ready to eat.

  5. To serve, garnish the poha potatoes with fresh coriander and serve with lime or lemon wedges.

Recipe Tips

Serve with fresh salad and/or raita.

BBC wepage

BRINGING IT ALL BACK HOME

Can we love our families fully while upholding the Buddha’s teaching on non-attachment?

Sometimes people ask me if there isn’t a conflict between the Mahayana instruction to see all beings as close relatives, worthy of our affection and compassion, and Buddhist teachings on non attachment. Perhaps they are thinking of Jetsun Milarepa’s words:

When you look at your child
Firstly he is a soft-spoken young god.
Then he is a distant-hearted neighbour.
Finally he is an enemy and creditor.
So I let go of children.

We cannot separate Buddhist doctrine and practice from how Buddhists actually live in the world. How do they square non attachment with love and compassion, and what does this say about how we should relate to our families? Most Buddhists in Asia, far from exhibiting some chilly spiritual disdain for such matters, usually demonstrate great affection for their families. I can testify that my own teachers are no exception. Indeed, my master, Sakya Trizin Rinpoche, is a wonderful example of a father and now grandfather who is, at the same time, an unflagging source of kindness and loving guidance to his students. It’s striking how often my other principal teacher, Karma Thinley Rinpoche, though an ordained abbot, emphasizes the value of family life as an environment for training in the key Mahayana virtues.

It is, however, undeniable that we must let go of some level of attachment in our personal relationships. Continue reading

MEDITATION

Because of the complexity of various forms of meditation, the text is broken up into two main areas, although it could be broken down much further.

Judeo/Christian

Buddhist

CHRISTIAN MEDITATION
This seems to take the form of prayer in order to appreciate the revelations of god.  This can be done by concentrating on a passage in the bible and considering its meaning in the context of a love of god.  It is also a tool used to increase knowledge and cognisance of Christ.

Continue reading

HOW TO FIND INNER PEACE

If you are reading these words, it means that you either realize you’re not at peace and want to be, or the sound of the word drew you … it’s something you haven’t really thought about, but it resonates and you want it in your life.

The universal truth is that we all suffer.  Whether rich or poor, young or old, regardless of gender or any other factor … we all suffer psychically. 

Why?  Because we are prisoners of our ego-mind.  We are controlled by the feelings and perceptions … the emotions, judgments, cravings, and attachments … that are the ego-mind’s reactions to our life experiences.  It is these feelings that are actually the cause of our suffering.  But we nevertheless identify with them; we’ve lost connection with our true self, our heart.  If we were only able to reconnect with our heart, we would be able to free ourselves from the control of our ego-mind and experience the inner peace and happiness that is our birthright.

We cannot change the world around us.  It is what it is.  But we can change how we relate to ourselves and that world.  And by doing so, we can control whether we suffer or experience peace. 

This is not some new age theory. These truths have been taught for thousands of years by the mystical traditions of all three Abrahamic faiths … Christian Gnosticism, Kabbalah, and Sufism … as well as Buddhism.

Helping people of all faiths as well as non-believers learn these truths and walk this challenging path is the purpose of How to Find Inner Peace. Why will this book help people when others haven’t? It is reality-based; it grows out of the turmoil of life. And it lays out a practical, step-by-step approach to finding inner peace.  If you want inner peace, believe it or not the choice is yours.

The book is available  in both softcover – $12.95, and eBook – $9.99 formats.

                      Ronald Hirsch

BIO:
Ronald Hirsch  has had a varied career as a teacher, legal aid lawyer, survey researcher, nonprofit executive, composer, writer, and volunteer.  Having found Buddhism at age 49, he has walked the path of Buddhism 25 years now.   Along the way, he has had the good fortune to have had some powerful teachers who opened many gates for him. His Zen practice follows no particular lineage but reflects the teachings of his Vietnamese and Korean Zen mentors.

 

He is the writer of the award-winning blog, www.ThePracticalBuddhist.com, and the author of three books on Buddhist practice and one ecumenically spiritual work, Raising a Happy Child.  He is also the author of We Still Hold These Truths, acclaimed by James Fallows, National Correspondent, The Atlantic, as “a systematic and serious effort to make the [presidential] debate as clear and valuable as it can be. Agree or disagree with his specific conclusions, the questions he is asking are the right ones for the public this year.”  He grew up in Reading, Pennsylvania and resides in New York.

https://www.thepracticalbuddhist.com/how-to-find-inner-peace.html

LIVING AND DYING IN PEACE

Living & Dying in Peace

Dying in a graceful and joyful way – the practice that we need to work on.

Ringu Tulku Rinpoche

Our vision for this evolving website is that there will be ongoing guidance and instruction from Ringu Tulku on living a peaceful, purposeful life and how to face, embrace and engage with the end of life, dying and death. From this, and other sources, suggestions can be gathered and offered for the dying person, the family, the care givers, the medical staff, undertakers and the bereaved.

The intention is also to provide information for those who wish to understand a little more about the Tibetan Buddhist way of life and death, and how we can enhance and extend our positive qualities, our loving kindness, compassion and wisdom for ourselves and for the benefit of all beings.

It is a website for everyone but with some particular Buddhist practices that could be adapted and applied to people of all faiths or of no faith. If you are interested, please visit our website:

http://livinganddyinginpeace.org

livinganddyinginpeace.org