31 December 2009

2010 Jain, Taoist, Confucian & Shinto Holidays

* 1/1 to 1/6: Shogatsu/Shinto New Year's Festival--The Kami (Nature Spirits) of the four directions are honored, and prayers for happiness, good health, and prosperity are made. [a/k/a Shihohai, Genshisai, Shinnen-enkai]

* 1/7: Koshogatsu--Shinto rite honoring Goddess Izanami, partner of God Izanagi. They created Nature and the Kami.

* 1/15: Seljin-no-hi/Coming of Age Day--Shinto festival honoring 20-year-old men and women.

* 2/3: Setsuban-Sai--Shinto rite in which good fortune is invoked and evil exorcised. Shinto try to live in harmony with the cosmic forces of the Kami. [a/k/a Bean-Throwing Festival, Turn of the Seasons Festival]

* 2/14 to 2/17: Hsih Nien/Suhl/Tet--Chinese and East Asian Lunar New Year (Year 4708: the Tiger).

* 2/17: Toshigoi--Shinto rite honoring the Kami and offering prayers for a bountiful rice harvest. The Kami are manifestations of the one universal, primordial and eternal, immanent and transcendent Deity, Kuni-Tokotachi-no-Kami. [a/k/a Kinensai]

* 3/3: Girls' Festival--Shinto festival honoring girls. [a/k/a Hina Matsuri, Doll Festival]

* 3/5: Day commemorating the birth of Taoist Lao-Tzu (570? BCE). Taoists seek enlightenment and live in harmony with Nature. [570?-490? BCE; alternate dates 604-531 BCE]

* 3/21: Taoist festival honoring the Shen (Deities) of Water, East, and Spring; prayers are made for growth. Taoists believe the unity of Yin (Eternal Feminine) and Yang (Eternal Masculine) make up the psyche-matter-energy of the eternal all-encompassing Ch'i.

* 3/21: Shunki-Korei-Sai--Shinto rite honoring ancestral spirits. [a/k/a Haru-no-Higan]

* 3/22 to 3/30: Navapad Oli--Jain period of fasting, recitation of holy scripture, and meditation on the principles of right knowledge, right faith, right conduct, and right penance. Jainas honor Arihantas (conquerors of passions), Siddhas (liberated souls), Acharyas (spiritual leaders), Upadhyayas (spiritual teachers), and Sadhus (renouncers). [a/k/a Navapada, Nav-pad Oli, Navapad Oli, Ayambil Oli, Aambil ki Ooli, Oli, Oliji, Siddha Chakra, Navadevata Puja, Vardhaman tap]

* 3/28: Day commemorating the birth of Mahavira Vardhamana Jnatrputra (599 BCE), founder of the Jain faith. Jainas avoid aggression and practice harmlessness, simplicity, and charity to attain enlightenment and unity with Deity. [599-527 BCE: exact dates unknown] [a/k/a Mahavir Jayanti, Mahavira Jayanti, Mahavir Bhagwan's Janma Kalyanak]

* 4/8: Hana Matsuri--Shinto rite honoring the Kami of Flowers. [a/k/a Flower Kami Festival]

* 4/17: Akshay Tritiya--Final day of Jain fast; day of Jain pilgrimage. Jainas practice harmlessness, simplicity, and charity to attain enlightenment and unity with Deity. [Jainas who have undertaken fasts are rewarded with sugar cane juice.] [a/k/a Akshaya Tritiya, Akshaya Thritiya, Akshyatritiya, Akshay Trutiya, Akhatrij, Varshitap Prarana, Varshitap Parna]

* 5/3: Taue Matsuri--Shinto rice-planting festival.

* 5/5: Boys' Festival--Shinto festival honoring boys.

* 6/15: Suijin Matsuri--Shinto rite honoring the Kami of Water. [a/k/a Water Kami Festival]

* 6/21: Taoist festival honoring Shang-Ti/Heavenly Emperor, Father of Justice and Law, and manifestation of the Te (Virtuous Inner Power). Also celebrates the peak of the masculine Yang half of the year and the Shen of Fire, South, and Summer; prayers are made for strength and maturity, and offerings are made to the ancestors.

* 6/30: Oharai/Grand Purification Festival--Shinto rite exorcising evil from the world. [Devotees are purified from offenses committed.] [a/k/a Oh-Harai-Taisai, Great Purification Festival]

* 7/7: Tanabata--Shinto rite honoring the Kami of the Stars. [a/k/a Star Kami Festival]

* 8/15: Kaza Matsuri--Shinto rite honoring the Kami of Wind. [a/k/a Wind Kami festival]

* 9/5 to 9/11: Paryusana--Jain festival of recitation of holy scripture, fasting, self-discipline, introspection, and reserve. Jainas grant forgiveness to others, ask forgiveness of others for harm done, whether knowingly or unknowingly, during the past year, and make vows to avoid causing future harm. The festival ends with a communal meal. [a/k/a Paryusan, Paryushan, Paryushan Parva, Paryushan Mahaparva, Pajjusan] [Ends at Samvatsari a/k/a Samvatatsari]

* 9/23: Taoist festival honoring the Shen of Winds, West, and Autumn; thanksgiving is made for the harvest. Taoists live simply, respect life, and recognize the equality of all.

* 9/23: Shuki-Korei-Sai--Shinto rite honoring ancestral spirits. [a/k/a Aki-no-Higan]

* 9/28: Birthday of Confucius (K'ung Fu-Tzu) (551 BCE). He taught that societal harmony could be realized when individuals acted with loving care for family, concern for friends and neighbors, benevolence to strangers, and respect for all. [Founder of Confucianism.] [Death day 11/29/479 BCE]

* 10/15 to 10/22: Navapad Oli--Jain period of fasting, recitation of holy scripture, and meditation on the principles of right knowledge, right faith, right conduct, and right penance. Jainas honor Arihantas (conquerors of passions), Siddhas (liberated souls), Acharyas (spiritual leaders), Upadhyayas (spiritual teachers), and Sadhus (renouncers). [a/k/a Navapada, Nav-pad Oli, Navapad Oli, Ayambil Oli, Aambil ki Ooli, Oli, Oliji, Siddha Chakra, Navadevata Puja, Vardhaman tap]

* 10/17: Shukaku Matsuri--Shinto rite offering thanks and first fruits of the rice harvest to the Kami. [a/k/a Kannamesai, Harvest Festival]

* 11/6: Day commemorating the death of Mahavira Vardhamana Jnatrputra (527 BCE), founder of the Jain faith. [599-527 BCE: exact dates unknown] [a/k/a Mahavir Nirvana, Mahavira Nirvana, Mahavir Bhagwan's Nirvan Kalyanak]

* 11/10: Jnan Panchami--Day that Jainas celebrate knowledge, education, and holy books with recitations, meditation, and worship. [a/k/a Gnan Panchami, Gyan Panchami, Jnana Panchami]

* 12/1: Suijin-Matsuri--Shinto rite honoring the Kami of Water. [a/k/a Water Kami Festival]

* 12/22: Taoist festival honoring Wang-Mu/Empress Mother, Mother of Compassion and Wisdom, and manifestation of the Tao (Cosmic Power of Creation and Destruction). Also celebrates the peak of the feminine Yin half of the year and the Shen of Earth, North, and Winter; prayers are made for rest and renewal, and offerings are made to the Cosmos.

* 12/22: Tohji-Taisai--Shinto rite honoring Sun Goddess Amaterasu. Storm God Susano-o angered Her, and She withdrew into a cave until enticed out with music and dance.

* 12/31: Oharai/Grand Purification Festival--Shinto rite exorcising evil from the world. [Devotees are purified from offenses committed.] [a/k/a Oh-Harai-Taisai, Great Purification Festival]

[Jainism was founded by Mahavira Vardhamana Jnatrputra in 6th Century BCE India. Jainism is an ascetic religion in which the primary mandate is ahimsa (harmlessness) and the goal is to free the soul from the material existence accumulated from karma. The holy scripture of the Jainas include the Angas (Sermons and Dialogues of Mahavira) and the Digambara Texts. There are two monastic denominations of Jainas: the Svetambara and the Digambara. The former includes orders of women and recognizes spiritual equality; the latter eschew orders of women and clothing. Lay Jainas venerate the Tirthankaras (24 great Jain teachers) at Jain temples. Jain festivals and the Jain calendar (Vir Samvat) are based on the Indian lunisolar calendar (Bikrami calendar or Vikram Samvat). Some Jainas outside of India date the Jain holidays based on the Moon in India, while others date the Jain holidays based on the Moon at their respective locations. Consequently, some Jainas in the United States and Canada may celebrate some of these holidays 1 day before the Indian celebration.]

[Taoism (Daoism) was founded in 3rd Century BCE China by Lao-Tzu. Taoism is a philosophical and spiritual system grounded in Nature and its rhythms. Taoist holy scripture is called the Tao Tsang. It includes the Tao-Te Ching and over a thousand other writings. Taoist holidays and the Taoist calendar are based on the Chinese lunisolar calendar. Chinese religion is a fusion of Taoism and Confucianism, and most Chinese also practice Chinese Mahayana Buddhism.]

[Confucianism was founded in 6th Century BCE China by Confucius (K'ung Fu-Tzu). Confucianism is a philosophical system focused on ethics and social structure.]

[Shinto (Shintoism) originated in Japan. Shinto is grounded in Nature and its rhythms. Shinto practitioners make daily offerings and prayers at home shrines and attend regional or national Shinto Shrines on annual festival days. Though Shinto holidays were previously based on a lunar calendar, the Shinto calendar is now based on the Gregorian calendar, which has been adopted in Japan. Most Japanese practice both Shinto and a form of Mahayana or Tantric Buddhism.]

Excerpted from THE MYSTIC'S WHEEL OF THE YEAR 2010 A Multifaith Calendar Reflecting Eco-Egalitarian Spirituality © 2009 Marija Miovski

30 December 2009

Owning Sexuality: Harness Your Chi To Live and Love Fully

Taoism is a spiritual tradition that embraces our sexual desire and uses it within our bodies as a force for healing and spiritual growth. Desire is a rich and potent part of our human experience. The Taoists think of desire, called sexual energy or jing chi, as part of our life energy, or chi. To be passionate is to be full of chi. The English words “desire” or “passion” connote a feeling of yearning and fervor that includes sex, but they also reflect our strongest feelings about life. When we are passionate about anything–our family, our work, our spirituality, an important social cause–we are investing our chi in this experience. Our passion is what moves us to action and ultimately is what gives us joy. We are passionate about the things that matter most to us.

We often speak of “getting horny” as if we were being invaded by some lewd, demonic (notice the horns) force. But the powerful energy of arousal is basic to our humanity. It is not, as some might lead you to believe, a dark force that separates us from God, but is the essence of what can compel us to live dynamic and fruitful lives. It is the fact that sexual energy is so powerful that has prompted most major religions to control and restrict sexual behavior, especially the behavior of women. Reestablishing our connection with our desire is part of recovering our personal power.

Once you have awakened your passion, or sexual energy, the Healing Love practices, as taught by world-renowned Taoist master, Mantak Chia, can teach you how to direct and refine your sexual energy so that you can benefit from its gifts. Though our modern world suffers from ignorance about sexuality on the one hand and blatant exploitation of sexuality on the other, Healing Love offers a several-thousand-year-old wisdom about how to live in our bodies as sexual beings and to use our passion to become the people we want to be.

Taoist Secrets of Sexuality

Taoism is the foundation of Chinese philosophy and medicine. It is a comprehensive physical and spiritual system that helps individuals to reach their highest potentials. It is perhaps best known in this country as the basis for Traditional Chinese Medicine, which includes acupuncture, herbal therapy, nutrition, massage, the energetic meditation called Chi Kung (pronounced “chee kong”), and the martial art called Tai Chi Chuan (”tie chee chwan”). The Universal Tao system was developed by Mantak Chia to teach Taoist meditative and exercise techniques to balance the body and increase and refine one’s vital energy, or chi (”chee”). The sexual practice, or Healing Love, is an essential part of this system.

“Chi,” the Chinese word for life energy, is the force within our bodies and within the universe that engenders life. The word itself has many translations, such as energy, air, breath, wind, or vital essence. There are 49 cultures around the world that understand the concept of chi in one form or another; examples include Ki (Japanese), Prana (Sanskrit), Lung (Tibetan), Neyatoneyah (Lakota Sioux), Num (Kalahari Kung), and Ruach (Hebrew).

“Western culture” and allopathic medicine, often called Western or conventional medicine, is one of the few cultures that does not have a similar concept, although it recognizes the role of energy at the molecular level. Western medicine is extremely effective for treating acute disease and traumatic injuries. However, I believe that it is, in part, the absence of this concept of “life force” that limits its effectiveness in treating chronic illnesses. Western medicine is just beginning to recognize what the Taoists have known for more than 2,000 years, that directing the flow of our life force, our chi, can improve our health and vitality.

In Taoism you can learn to use your concentration and your breath to activate and move your energy; this practice is called Chi Kung. It involves both concentration exercises and simple movements to facilitate the flow of chi. Used throughout China and now widely practiced in the United States, Chi Kung is an ancient and effective practice for many health issues. I often refer to the Healing Love sexual practice as “Chi Kung for the bedroom.”

Discover Your Chi

Once you become aware of your chi, you’ll find that it’s rather easy to notice and feel it. Try this simple exercise. Briskly rub your palms together until you produce heat. Now slowly separate your palms until they are about an inch apart. You should feel a “cushion” of air between them that may feel like pressure, heat, or tingling. This sensation is the chi passing between your hands.

In all traditions meditative practices calm and focus the mind. The Healing Tao meditative practices do this by focusing on the movement of chi. The basic practice is based on circulating chi through a body circuit called the Microcosmic Orbit, which is like an energy superhighway in the body. The Microcosmic Orbit runs from your tailbone up your spine to your brain (the Back Channel) and then returns down the front of your body in the midline (the Front Channel). By using the focus of your mind, you can direct the chi up the spine as you breathe in and let it “fall” down the Front Channel to your abdomen as you breathe out.

Harnessing Your Chi

As you become adept at sensing and moving your chi, you will also be able to move your sexual energy, or jing chi, in the same pathway. The ability to expand and move your sexual energy is what allows you to increase your pleasure and intensify your orgasms, no matter what your current level of sexual experience is. It also allows you to transform your sexual energy into chi, or life force, which will give you a great deal more energy out of the bedroom as you live your life in the world. And when your chi is strong and your intention is clear, your chi is transformed into spiritual energy, or shen.

The Healing Love practices are rich and powerful enough to do for hours each day, but flexible enough to energize you or help relieve physical or emotional stress in minutes. The sexual practices initially take some time to understand and feel in your body, but they can then be seamlessly integrated into lovemaking with astounding results: more pleasure, intimacy, and vibrancy than you’ve ever experienced.

The Taoist practice offers a practical method to access and integrate the two most powerful healing forces in the world: real love and sexual energy. These practices can increase your pleasure and invigorate your body and soul.

29 December 2009

Feng Shui Preparations for 2010

The year 2010 begins on February 14 and will be represented by the tiger—-a metal tiger to be specific. The tiger naturally holds wood energy based on the concept of the traveling stars (Chinese zodiac); the year according to the Taoist calendar is a metal one. Without going into the details of the Chinese 5 Elements, let me point out that when metal and wood try to team up, metal has a definite advantage. Metal represents a weapon such as a sword or gun and the tiger represents the fresh wood of springtime—-no match for a metal weapon. This is a combination that is definitely in conflict.

Based on this, 2010 will not be a peaceful one, according to Raymond Lo, international Feng Shui master. Although we will see some economic recovery from the turbulence of 2009, there will be more international disagreements, more clashing and more fighting. The metal energy is a destructive weapon. Since most of us aren’t in a position to actively intervene in these world-wide affairs to facilitate peace, my best advice is to try to influence your immediate world, bringing peace to the planet in your own home. Here are some ways to maximize your luck next year, to minimize the challenges, and to bring about some global peace as well:
  1. Bless your home. Your home is your part of the planet that you can impact and inspire. Take a few moments to appreciate and honor it by walking through with a candle, incense, or just your heart-felt intentions. Heal your own internal wars.
  2. Deal with your clutter. You know where it lurks—-get rid of it. It does not create peace in your space.
  3. Do good deeds. Do one good deed a day to offset the global turbulence.
  4. Put a pig in a blanket. According to Chinese zodiac tradition, the tiger and the pig are best friends. In order to keep the tiger on your side and to diminish the negative influences of what could be a challenging year, carry a picture or a small figurine of a pig who will intercede on your behalf (blanket optional).
  5. Line up 5 friends. Think of five people—dead or alive, real or legendary, human or deity—who would be your friends in time of need. Get them lined up in your mind before you actually need them so that you take the time to carefully and thoughtfully make your selection. Then, when a crisis hits, you’ll be prepared. You can call on them either literally or in an energetic way.
No matter what animal sign you may be in the Chinese zodiac system, following any or all of the above suggestions will help you navigate through any difficulties you may encounter.

28 December 2009

羅 馬 書 Romans 第 12 章 - 第 15 章 [King James Version & 繁體中文和合本]

12:1 [kjv] I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.
[hb5] 所 以 弟 兄 們 、 我 以   神 的 慈 悲 勸 你 們 、 將 身 體 獻 上 、 當 作 活 祭 、 是 聖 潔 的 、 是   神 所 喜 悅 的 . 你 們 如 此 事 奉 、 乃 是 理 所 當 然 的 。
12:2 [kjv] And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.
[hb5] 不 要 效 法 這 個 世 界 . 只 要 心 意 更 新 而 變 化 、 叫 你 們 察 驗 何 為   神 的 善 良 、 純 全 可 喜 悅 的 旨 意 。
12:3 [kjv] For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith.
[hb5] 我 憑 著 所 賜 我 的 恩 、 對 你 們 各 人 說 、 不 要 看 自 己 過 於 所 當 看 的 . 要 照 著   神 所 分 給 各 人 信 心 的 大 小 、 看 得 合 乎 中 道 。
12:4 [kjv] For as we have many members in one body, and all members have not the same office:
[hb5] 正 如 我 們 一 個 身 子 上 有 好 些 肢 體 、 肢 體 也 不 都 是 一 樣 的 用 處 。
12:5 [kjv] So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another.
[hb5] 我 們 這 許 多 人 、 在 基 督 裡 成 為 一 身 、 互 相 聯 絡 作 肢 體 、 也 是 如 此 。
12:6 [kjv] Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, whether prophecy, let us prophesy according to the proportion of faith;
[hb5] 按 我 們 所 得 的 恩 賜 、 各 有 不 同 . 或 說 預 言 、 就 當 照 著 信 心 的 程 度 說 預 言 .
12:7 [kjv] Or ministry, let us wait on our ministering: or he that teacheth, on teaching;
[hb5] 或 作 執 事 、 就 當 專 一 執 事 . 或 作 教 導 的 、 就 當 專 一 教 導 .
12:8 [kjv] Or he that exhorteth, on exhortation: he that giveth, let him do it with simplicity; he that ruleth, with diligence; he that sheweth mercy, with cheerfulness.
[hb5] 或 作 勸 化 的 、 就 當 專 一 勸 化 . 施 捨 的 、 就 當 誠 實 . 治 理 的 、 就 當 殷 勤 . 憐 憫 人 的 、 就 當 甘 心 。
12:9 [kjv] Let love be without dissimulation. Abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is good.
[hb5] 愛 人 不 可 虛 假 、 惡 要 厭 惡 、 善 要 親 近 。
12:10 [kjv] Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another;
[hb5] 愛 弟 兄 、 要 彼 此 親 熱 . 恭 敬 人 、 要 彼 此 推 讓 。
12:11 [kjv] Not slothful in business; fervent in spirit; serving the Lord;
[hb5] 殷 勤 不 可 懶 惰 . 要 心 裡 火 熱 . 常 常 服 事 主 。
12:12 [kjv] Rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation; continuing instant in prayer;
[hb5] 在 指 望 中 要 喜 樂 . 在 患 難 中 要 忍 耐 。 禱 告 要 恆 切 .
12:13 [kjv] Distributing to the necessity of saints; given to hospitality.
[hb5] 聖 徒 缺 乏 要 幫 補 . 客 要 一 味 的 款 待 。
12:14 [kjv] Bless them which persecute you: bless, and curse not.
[hb5] 逼 迫 你 們 的 、 要 給 他 們 祝 福 . 只 要 祝 福 、 不 可 咒 詛 。
12:15 [kjv] Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep.
[hb5] 與 喜 樂 的 人 要 同 樂 . 與 哀 哭 的 人 要 同 哭 。
12:16 [kjv] Be of the same mind one toward another. Mind not high things, but condescend to men of low estate. Be not wise in your own conceits.
[hb5] 要 彼 此 同 心 . 不 要 志 氣 高 大 、 倒 要 俯 就 卑 微 的 人 。 〔 人 或 作 事 〕 不 要 自 以 為 聰 明 。
12:17 [kjv] Recompense to no man evil for evil. Provide things honest in the sight of all men.
[hb5] 不 要 以 惡 報 惡 、 眾 人 以 為 美 的 事 、 要 留 心 去 作 。
12:18 [kjv] If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men.
[hb5] 若 是 能 行 、 總 要 盡 力 與 眾 人 和 睦 。
12:19 [kjv] Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.
[hb5] 親 愛 的 弟 兄 、 不 要 自 己 伸 冤 、 寧 可 讓 步 、 聽 憑 主 怒 . 〔 或 作 讓 人 發 怒 〕 因 為 經 上 記 著 、 『 主 說 、 伸 冤 在 我 . 我 必 報 應 。 』
12:20 [kjv] Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head.
[hb5] 所 以 『 你 的 仇 敵 若 餓 了 、 就 給 他 喫 . 若 渴 了 、 就 給 他 喝 . 因 為 你 這 樣 行 、 就 是 把 炭 火 堆 在 他 的 頭 上 。 』
12:21 [kjv] Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.
[hb5] 你 不 可 為 惡 所 勝 、 反 要 以 善 勝 惡 。
13:1 [kjv] Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God.
[hb5] 在 上 有 權 柄 的 、 人 人 當 順 服 他 . 因 為 沒 有 權 柄 不 是 出 於   神 的 . 凡 掌 權 的 都 是   神 所 命 的 。
13:2 [kjv] Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation.
[hb5] 所 以 抗 拒 掌 權 的 、 就 是 抗 拒   神 的 命 . 抗 拒 的 必 自 取 刑 罰 。
13:3 [kjv] For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same:
[hb5] 作 官 的 原 不 是 叫 行 善 的 懼 怕 、 乃 是 叫 作 惡 的 懼 怕 。 你 願 意 不 懼 怕 掌 權 的 麼 . 你 只 要 行 善 、 就 可 得 他 的 稱 讚 .
13:4 [kjv] For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil.
[hb5] 因 為 他 是   神 的 用 人 、 是 與 你 有 益 的 。 你 若 作 惡 、 卻 當 懼 怕 . 因 為 他 不 是 空 空 的 佩 劍 . 他 是   神 的 用 人 、 是 伸 冤 的 、 刑 罰 那 作 惡 的 。
13:5 [kjv] Wherefore ye must needs be subject, not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake.
[hb5] 所 以 你 們 必 須 順 服 、 不 但 是 因 為 刑 罰 、 也 是 因 為 良 心 。
13:6 [kjv] For for this cause pay ye tribute also: for they are God's ministers, attending continually upon this very thing.
[hb5] 你 們 納 糧 、 也 為 這 個 緣 故 . 因 他 們 是   神 的 差 役 、 常 常 特 管 這 事 。
13:7 [kjv] Render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honour to whom honour.
[hb5] 凡 人 所 當 得 的 、 就 給 他 . 當 得 糧 的 、 給 他 納 糧 . 當 得 稅 的 、 給 他 上 稅 . 當 懼 怕 的 、 懼 怕 他 . 當 恭 敬 的 、 恭 敬 他 。
13:8 [kjv] Owe no man any thing, but to love one another: for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law.
[hb5] 凡 事 都 不 可 虧 欠 人 、 惟 有 彼 此 相 愛 、 要 常 以 為 虧 欠 . 因 為 愛 人 的 就 完 全 了 律 法 。
13:9 [kjv] For this, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Thou shalt not covet; and if there be any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.
[hb5] 像 那 不 可 姦 淫 、 不 可 殺 人 、 不 可 偷 盜 、 不 可 貪 婪 、 或 有 別 的 誡 命 、 都 包 在 愛 人 如 己 這 一 句 話 之 內 了 。
13:10 [kjv] Love worketh no ill to his neighbour: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.
[hb5] 愛 是 不 加 害 與 人 的 、 所 以 愛 就 完 全 了 律 法 。
13:11 [kjv] And that, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep: for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed.
[hb5] 再 者 、 你 們 曉 得 現 今 就 是 該 趁 早 睡 醒 的 時 候 、 因 為 我 們 得 救 、 現 今 比 初 信 的 時 候 更 近 了 。
13:12 [kjv] The night is far spent, the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armour of light.
[hb5] 黑 夜 已 深 、 白 晝 將 近 . 我 們 就 當 脫 去 暗 昧 的 行 為 、 帶 上 光 明 的 兵 器 。
13:13 [kjv] Let us walk honestly, as in the day; not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying.
[hb5] 行 事 為 人 要 端 正 、 好 像 行 在 白 晝 . 不 可 荒 宴 醉 酒 . 不 可 好 色 邪 蕩 . 不 可 爭 競 嫉 妒 。
13:14 [kjv] But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof.
[hb5] 總 要 披 戴 主 耶 穌 基 督 、 不 要 為 肉 體 安 排 、 去 放 縱 私 慾 。
14:1 [kjv] Him that is weak in the faith receive ye, but not to doubtful disputations.
[hb5] 信 心 軟 弱 的 、 你 們 要 接 納 、 但 不 要 辯 論 所 疑 惑 的 事 。
14:2 [kjv] For one believeth that he may eat all things: another, who is weak, eateth herbs.
[hb5] 有 人 信 百 物 都 可 喫 . 但 那 軟 弱 的 、 只 喫 蔬 菜 。
14:3 [kjv] Let not him that eateth despise him that eateth not; and let not him which eateth not judge him that eateth: for God hath received him.
[hb5] 喫 的 人 不 可 輕 看 不 喫 的 人 . 不 喫 的 人 不 可 論 斷 喫 的 人 . 因 為   神 已 經 收 納 他 了 。
14:4 [kjv] Who art thou that judgest another man's servant? to his own master he standeth or falleth. Yea, he shall be holden up: for God is able to make him stand.
[hb5] 你 是 誰 、 竟 論 斷 別 人 的 僕 人 呢 。 他 或 站 住 、 或 跌 倒 、 自 有 他 的 主 人 在 . 而 且 他 也 必 要 站 住 . 因 為 主 能 使 他 站 住 。
14:5 [kjv] One man esteemeth one day above another: another esteemeth every day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind.
[hb5] 有 人 看 這 日 比 那 日 強 、 有 人 看 日 日 都 是 一 樣 . 只 是 各 人 心 裡 要 意 見 堅 定 。
14:6 [kjv] He that regardeth the day, regardeth it unto the Lord; and he that regardeth not the day, to the Lord he doth not regard it. He that eateth, eateth to the Lord, for he giveth God thanks; and he that eateth not, to the Lord he eateth not, and giveth God thanks.
[hb5] 守 日 的 人 、 是 為 主 守 的 . 喫 的 人 、 是 為 主 喫 的 、 因 他 感 謝   神 . 不 喫 的 人 、 是 為 主 不 喫 的 、 也 感 謝   神 。
14:7 [kjv] For none of us liveth to himself, and no man dieth to himself.
[hb5] 我 們 沒 有 一 個 人 為 自 己 活 、 也 沒 有 一 個 人 為 自 己 死 。
14:8 [kjv] For whether we live, we live unto the Lord; and whether we die, we die unto the Lord: whether we live therefore, or die, we are the Lord's.
[hb5] 我 們 若 活 著 、 是 為 主 而 活 . 若 死 了 、 是 為 主 而 死 . 所 以 我 們 或 活 或 死 、 總 是 主 的 人 。
14:9 [kjv] For to this end Christ both died, and rose, and revived, that he might be Lord both of the dead and living.
[hb5] 因 此 基 督 死 了 、 又 活 了 、 為 要 作 死 人 並 活 人 的 主 。
14:10 [kjv] But why dost thou judge thy brother? or why dost thou set at nought thy brother? for we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ.
[hb5] 你 這 個 人 、 為 甚 麼 論 斷 弟 兄 呢 . 又 為 甚 麼 輕 看 弟 兄 呢 . 因 我 們 都 要 站 在   神 的 臺 前 。
14:11 [kjv] For it is written, As I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God.
[hb5] 經 上 寫 著 、 『 主 說 、 我 憑 著 我 的 永 生 起 誓 、 萬 膝 必 向 我 跪 拜 、 萬 口 必 向 我 承 認 。 』
14:12 [kjv] So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God.
[hb5] 這 樣 看 來 、 我 們 各 人 必 要 將 自 己 的 事 、 在   神 面 前 說 明 。
14:13 [kjv] Let us not therefore judge one another any more: but judge this rather, that no man put a stumblingblock or an occasion to fall in his brother's way.
[hb5] 所 以 我 們 不 可 再 彼 此 論 斷 . 寧 可 定 意 誰 也 不 給 弟 兄 放 下 絆 腳 跌 人 之 物 。
14:14 [kjv] I know, and am persuaded by the Lord Jesus, that there is nothing unclean of itself: but to him that esteemeth any thing to be unclean, to him it is unclean.
[hb5] 我 憑 著 主 耶 穌 確 知 深 信 、 凡 物 本 來 沒 有 不 潔 淨 的 . 惟 獨 人 以 為 不 潔 淨 的 、 在 他 就 不 潔 淨 了 。
14:15 [kjv] But if thy brother be grieved with thy meat, now walkest thou not charitably. Destroy not him with thy meat, for whom Christ died.
[hb5] 你 若 因 食 物 叫 弟 兄 憂 愁 、 就 不 是 按 著 愛 人 的 道 理 行 。 基 督 已 經 替 他 死 、 你 不 可 因 你 的 食 物 叫 他 敗 壞 。
14:16 [kjv] Let not then your good be evil spoken of:
[hb5] 不 可 叫 你 的 善 被 人 毀 謗 .
14:17 [kjv] For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.
[hb5] 因 為   神 的 國 、 不 在 乎 喫 喝 、 只 在 乎 公 義 、 和 平 、 並 聖 靈 中 的 喜 樂 。
14:18 [kjv] For he that in these things serveth Christ is acceptable to God, and approved of men.
[hb5] 在 這 幾 樣 上 服 事 基 督 的 、 就 為   神 所 喜 悅 、 又 為 人 所 稱 許 。
14:19 [kjv] Let us therefore follow after the things which make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify another.
[hb5] 所 以 我 們 務 要 追 求 和 睦 的 事 、 與 彼 此 建 立 德 行 的 事 。
14:20 [kjv] For meat destroy not the work of God. All things indeed are pure; but it is evil for that man who eateth with offence.
[hb5] 不 可 因 食 物 毀 壞   神 的 工 程 . 凡 物 固 然 潔 淨 、 但 有 人 因 食 物 叫 人 跌 倒 、 就 是 他 的 罪 了 。
14:21 [kjv] It is good neither to eat flesh, nor to drink wine, nor any thing whereby thy brother stumbleth, or is offended, or is made weak.
[hb5] 無 論 是 喫 肉 、 是 喝 酒 、 是 甚 麼 別 的 事 、 叫 弟 兄 跌 倒 、 一 概 不 作 纔 好 。
14:22 [kjv] Hast thou faith? have it to thyself before God. Happy is he that condemneth not himself in that thing which he alloweth.
[hb5] 你 有 信 心 、 就 當 在   神 面 前 守 著 。 人 在 自 己 以 為 可 行 的 事 上 、 能 不 自 責 、 就 有 福 了 。
14:23 [kjv] And he that doubteth is damned if he eat, because he eateth not of faith: for whatsoever is not of faith is sin.
[hb5] 若 有 疑 心 而 喫 的 、 就 必 有 罪 . 因 為 他 喫 、 不 是 出 於 信 心 . 凡 不 出 於 信 心 的 都 是 罪 。
15:1 [kjv] We then that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not to please ourselves.
[hb5] 我 們 堅 固 的 人 、 應 該 擔 代 不 堅 固 人 的 軟 弱 、 不 求 自 己 的 喜 悅 。
15:2 [kjv] Let every one of us please his neighbour for his good to edification.
[hb5] 我 們 各 人 務 要 叫 鄰 舍 喜 悅 、 使 他 得 益 處 、 建 立 德 行 。
15:3 [kjv] For even Christ pleased not himself; but, as it is written, The reproaches of them that reproached thee fell on me.
[hb5] 因 為 基 督 也 不 求 自 己 的 喜 悅 、 如 經 上 所 記 、 『 辱 罵 你 人 的 辱 罵 、 都 落 在 我 身 上 。 』
15:4 [kjv] For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.
[hb5] 從 前 所 寫 的 聖 經 、 都 是 為 教 訓 我 們 寫 的 、 叫 我 們 因 聖 經 所 生 的 忍 耐 和 安 慰 、 可 以 得 著 盼 望 。
15:5 [kjv] Now the God of patience and consolation grant you to be likeminded one toward another according to Christ Jesus:
[hb5] 但 願 賜 忍 耐 安 慰 的   神 、 叫 你 們 彼 此 同 心 、 效 法 基 督 耶 穌 .
15:6 [kjv] That ye may with one mind and one mouth glorify God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
[hb5] 一 心 一 口 、 榮 耀   神 、 我 們 主 耶 穌 基 督 的 父 。
15:7 [kjv] Wherefore receive ye one another, as Christ also received us to the glory of God.
[hb5] 所 以 你 們 要 彼 此 接 納 、 如 同 基 督 接 納 你 們 一 樣 、 使 榮 耀 歸 與   神 。
15:8 [kjv] Now I say that Jesus Christ was a minister of the circumcision for the truth of God, to confirm the promises made unto the fathers:
[hb5] 我 說 、 基 督 是 為   神 真 理 作 了 受 割 禮 人 的 執 事 、 要 證 實 所 應 許 列 祖 的 話 。
15:9 [kjv] And that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy; as it is written, For this cause I will confess to thee among the Gentiles, and sing unto thy name.
[hb5] 並 叫 外 邦 人 、 因 他 的 憐 憫 、 榮 耀   神 . 如 經 上 所 記 、 『 因 此 我 要 在 外 邦 中 稱 讚 你 、 歌 頌 你 的 名 。 』
15:10 [kjv] And again he saith, Rejoice, ye Gentiles, with his people.
[hb5] 又 說 、 『 你 們 外 邦 人 、 當 與 主 的 百 姓 一 同 歡 樂 。 』
15:11 [kjv] And again, Praise the Lord, all ye Gentiles; and laud him, all ye people.
[hb5] 又 說 、 『 外 邦 阿 、 你 們 當 讚 美 主 . 萬 民 哪 、 你 們 都 當 頌 讚 他 。 』
15:12 [kjv] And again, Esaias saith, There shall be a root of Jesse, and he that shall rise to reign over the Gentiles; in him shall the Gentiles trust.
[hb5] 又 有 以 賽 亞 說 、 『 將 來 有 耶 西 的 根 、 就 是 那 興 起 來 要 治 理 外 邦 的 . 外 邦 人 要 仰 望 他 。 』
15:13 [kjv] Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost.
[hb5] 但 願 使 人 有 盼 望 的   神 、 因 信 、 將 諸 般 的 喜 樂 平 安 、 充 滿 你 們 的 心 、 使 你 們 藉 著 聖 靈 的 能 力 、 大 有 盼 望 。

27 December 2009

Chi Nei Tsang Chi Kung Therapy

Chi Nei Tsang is a Chinese Taoist system of healing massage that focuses on the navel center the of the body. It is thought that the navel center is the primary area where imbalances occur that may cause negative emotions, stress, tension, congestion and ultimately illness. Using visceral manipulations and energy work CNT techniques provides a method to balance the energy and thereby improving many vital body functions. Practitioners use a variety of light or deep manipulation techniques to aid in restoring improved function within the internal organs, connective tissue, tendons, muscles, lymph, nerve and endocrine system.

Chi Nei Tsang is part of a larger Taoist paradigm of practice that includes meditation, Tai Chi, and Chi Kung. CNT techniques are easily adaptable to work on yourself as well; thereby offering an opportunity to both heal yourself and teach clients practices to better care for themselves. This system incorporates the Taoist understanding of the meridian systems of energy and the cultivation of energy to keep healthy and create vitality and will add a new dimension to your healing work. These precise techniques will enable energy blockages to be cleared in the abdominal area and within the internal organs long before it is noticed in the periphery of the body.

Many techniques only work with the body's extremities and energy channels, far from the navel center and the organs. Chi Nei Tsang has been called a most "direct system." Working with the "tan tien", a source point for all meridians and energy channels.

25 December 2009

Chan Buddhist New Year's Party

We ring the temple bell 107 times on the night before New Year’s Day and one time on New Year’s Day itself, just past midnight. There are several theories about this custom. For example, one is simply that people have 108 kinds of worldly desires and can get rid of them by ringing a bell. The other theory involves the Japanese word shikuhaku, which means "agony". It so happens that many Japanese words and sounds have several possible meanings. Ku, for example, means either "troublesome" or "nine". Shi means either "death" or "four". So if we do multiplication tables, shi (4) times ku (9) is thirty-six, and ha (8) times ku (9) is seventy-two. Then, thirty-six plus seventy-two is 108 — the number of worldly desires! By ringing the bell that many times, we hope to rid ourselves of this troublesome karma.

Here is a traditional Chinese explanation: Like the knots or beads on a Mala, the bell is considered as an auspicious article in Chinese tradition. At great ceremonies, the temple bell is rung typically 108 times to begin the celebration. There are 12 months, 24 solar terms and 72 hours on the Chinese lunar calendar, 108 in all. According to Buddhist custom, people have 108 worries which are said to be removed by the bell. The bell-ringing at mid-night of New Year's would captivate many people as its echo carries around the vicinity, whether one is close by or just heard it via broadcast.

21 December 2009

The Extreme of Winter Solstice: DongZhi

The Dōngzhì Festival or Winter Solstice Festival (Chinese: 冬至; Pinyin: dōng zhì; "The Extreme of Winter") is one of the most important festivals celebrated by the Chinese and other East Asians during the Dongzhi solar term (winter solstice) on or around December 22 when sunshine is weakest and daylight shortest.

The origins of this festival can be traced back to the Yin and Yang philosophy of balance and harmony in the cosmos. After this celebration, there will be days with longer daylight hours and therefore an increase in positive energy flowing in. The philosophical significance of this is symbolized by the I Ching hexagram fù (復, "Returning").

Traditionally, the Dongzhi Festival is also a time for the family to get together. One activity that occurs during these get togethers (especially in the southern parts of China and in Chinese communities overseas) is the making and eating of Tangyuan (湯圓, Cantonese jyutping: tong1 jyun2; Mandarin Pinyin: Tāng Yuán) or balls of glutinuous rice, which symbolize reunion. Tangyuan are made of glutinuous rice flour and sometimes brightly coloured. Each family member receives at least one large Tang Yuan in addition to several small ones. The flour balls may be plain or stuffed. They are cooked in a sweet soup or savoury broth with both the ball and the soup/broth served in one bowl. It is also often served with a mildly alcoholic unfiltered rice wine containing whole grains of glutinous rice (and often also Sweet Osmanthus flowers), called jiuniang.

In northern China, people typically eat dumplings on Dongzhi. It is said to have originated from Zhang Zhongjing in the Han Dynasty. On one cold winter day, he saw the poor suffering from chilblains on their ears. Feeling sympathetic, he ordered his apprentices to make dumplings with lamb and other ingredients, and distribute them among the poor to keep them warm, to keep their ears from getting chilblains. Since the dumplings were shaped like ears, Zhang named the dish "qǜ hán jiāo ěr tāng" or dumpling soup that expels the cold. From that time on, it has been a tradition to eat dumplings on the day of Dongzhi.

Old traditions also require people with the same surname or from the same clan to gather at their ancestral temples to worship on this day. There is always a grand reunion dinner following the sacrificial ceremony.

The festive food is also a reminder that we are now a year older and should behave better in the coming year. Even today, many Chinese around the world, especially the elderly, still insist that one is "a year older" right after the Dong Zhi celebration instead of waiting for the Chinese New Year.

To Taiwanese people, the festival in winter also plays a very important role. It is also a tradition for Taiwanese to eat “Tangyuan” during this day. They also use the festive food as an offering dish to worship the ancestors.

In an interesting twist, in accordance with ancient Taiwanese history, many people take some of the “Tangyuan” that have been used as offerings and stick them on the back of the door or on windows and tables and chairs. These “empowered” “Tangyuan” supposedly serve as protective talismans to keep evil spirits from coming close to children.

In addition to following some of the customs practiced in China, the people of Taiwan have their own unique custom of offering nine-layer cakes as a ceremonial sacrifice to worship their ancestors. These cakes are made using glutinous rice flour in the shape of a chicken, duck, tortoise, pig, cow or sheep, and then steamed in different layers of a pot. These animals all signify auspiciousness in Chinese tradition.

Another interesting custom in Taiwan is that many people take invigorating tonic foods during this particular winter festival. To the Taiwanese, winter is a time when most physical activities should be limited and you should eat well to nourish your body. This practice follows the habits shown by many animals which follow the law of nature and hibernate throughout winter months to rejuvenate and to preserve life. In order to fight cold temperatures, it is necessary to eat more fatty and meaty foods during winter when your body can better absorb the rich and nutritional foods at this time due to a slower metabolic rate.

Since “Dong Zhi,” is the “Extreme of Winter,” Taiwanese regard it as the best time of the year to take tonic foods. Some of the most widely-popular winter tonic foods enjoyed by Taiwanese to fight cold and strengthen the body's resistance are mutton hot pot and ginger duck hot pot. Other foods like chicken, pork and abalone are also common materials used in making tonic foods with nurturing herbs such as ginseng, deer horn and the fungus cordyceps.

13 December 2009

The Great Liu Bei

Born in Zhuo Commandery (涿, present day Zhuozhou, Baoding, Hebei), Liu Bei was a descendant of Liu Zhen, the son of Liu Sheng, a son of Emperor Jing. His grandfather Liu Xiong (劉雄), and father Liu Hong (劉弘) were both employed as local clerks.

Liu Bei grew up in a poor family, having lost his father when he was still a child. To support themselves, Liu and his mother sold shoes and straw-woven mats. At the age of fourteen, Liu Bei, sponsored by a more affluent relative who recognised his potential in leadership, went to study under the tutelage of Lu Zhi (a prominent scholar and, at the time, former Administrator of Jiujiang). He met and befriended Gongsun Zan (a prominent northern warlord in future) there.

The adolescent Liu Bei was said to be unenthusiastic in studying and displayed interest in hunting, music and dressing. Few of words, calm in demeanor, and kind to his friends, Liu Bei was well-liked by his contemporaries. He was said to have long arms and large earlobes.

Liu Bei, a compassionate and righteous leader, an embodiment of natural charisma (called de in Chinese) built his kingdom on the basis of Confucian values. Liu Bei was related to the ruling family of the Han Dynasty. Liu Bei, Guan Yu and Zhang Fei who, having met by chance in the county of Zhuo in 184, found that all three shared the same desire to serve the country in the tumultuous times. They swore to be brothers the next day in Zhang Fei's backyard, which was a garden full of peach blossoms. Liu Bei was ranked the eldest, Guan Yu the second, and Zhang Fei the youngest. Having done this, they recruited more than 300 local men, acquired horses, forged weapons and joined the resistance against the Yellow Turban rebels.

Bei is worshipped as the patron of shoemakers in Chengdu, which is also known as the "City of Shoes", as more than eighty million pairs of shoes totaling five billion yuan in sales are manufactured there annually. It is said that in 1845, during the reign of the Daoguang Emperor, the shoemakers guild in Chengdu, who called themselves disciples of Liu Bei, sponsored the construction of the Sanyi Temple (三義廟) in Liu Bei's honor. After being relocated many times, the temple can be found in Wuhou District today. Since Mainland China loosened its control on religious practices in recent years, the worship of Liú Bèi among shoemakers has again gained popularity in Chengdu. In 2005, a large procession was carried out in front of the Sanyi Temple to commemorate Liu Bei—the first such event since the founding of the People's Republic of China.

A commentary carried by the Yangtse Evening News (揚子晚報) criticized such practice as mere commercial gimmickry to exploit the fame of Liu Bei. It argued that although Liu Bei sold straw-woven shoes and mats for a living when he was young, he was hardly the inventor of shoes. According to legend, it was Yu Ze (于則) who made the first pairs of shoes with softwood during the time of the Yellow Emperor. However, the criticism did not dampen the enthusiastic shoe industry owners in their decision to erect a statue of Liu Bei in the West China Shoe Center Industrial Zone in Wuhou District.

12 December 2009

New Moon Legend: Twilight of the Jiang Shi

Jiang Shi (simplified Chinese: 僵尸; traditional Chinese: 僵屍 or; pinyin: jiāngshī; literally "stiff corpse") are reanimated corpses that hop around, killing living creatures to absorb life essence (气/氣qì) from their victims. Jiāngshī is pronounced gœngsi in Cantonese, or kyonshi in Japanese. They are said to be created when a person's soul (魄 pò) fails to leave the deceased's body, due to improper death, suicide, or just wanting to cause trouble.

Generally their appearance can range from plain ordinary (as in the case of a recently deceased person) to downright horrifying (i.e. rotting flesh, stiffness, rigor mortis, the like commonly associated with corpses that have been in a state of decay over a period of time). A peculiar feature is their greenish-white furry skin; one theory is this is derived from fungus or mold growing on corpses. They are said to have long white hair all over their heads. The influence of Western Christian vampire stories brought the blood-sucking aspect to the Chinese myth in modern times. The mentioned term 'stiff corpse' alludes to the large phallic erection it has when it is absorbing the soul of a virgin of the opposite sex.

A supposed source of the jiang shi stories came from the folk practice of "Traveling a Corpse over a Thousand Li" (千里行屍), where traveling companions or family members who could not afford wagons or had very little money would hire Taoist priests to transport corpses of their friends/family members who died far away from home over long distances by teaching them to hop on their own feet back to their hometown for proper burial. Taoist priests would transport the corpses only at night and would ring bells to notify other pedestrians of their presence because it was considered bad luck for a living person to set eyes upon a jiang shi. This practice (湘西趕屍) was popular in Xiangxi where many people left their hometown to work elsewhere. After they died, their corpses were transported back to their rural hometown using long bamboo rods, believing they would be homesick if buried somewhere unfamiliar. When the bamboo flexed up and down, the corpses appeared to be hopping in unison from a distance. Once it was a myth. Some people speculate that the stories about jiang shi was originally made up by smugglers who disguised their illegal activities as corpse transportation and wanted to scare off law enforcement officers.

They are sometimes called Chinese vampires by Westerners, despite the fact that unlike vampires, most jiang shi usually have no self-awareness, consciousness or independent thought.

Supposedly jiang shi can be put to sleep by putting a piece of yellow paper with a spell written on it on their foreheads (Chinese talisman or 符, pinyin: fú) and they can be evaded by holding one's breath, as they track living creatures by detecting their breathing. It is also the conventional wisdom of feng shui in Chinese architecture that a threshold (simplified Chinese: 门槛; traditional Chinese: 門檻; pinyin: ménkàn), a piece of wood approximately 15 cm (6 in) high, be installed along the width of the door at the bottom to prevent a jiang shi from entering the household. When uncooked grains or rice thrown in the path of a jiang shi, the jiang shi will stop and count the grains of rice. Sticky rice is believed to draw the evil spirit of the jiang shi out. Other items used to repel jiang shi include chicken's eggs (whereas duck's eggs are ineffective), and the blood of a black dog.

Do you believe?

27 November 2009

Thanksgiving Prayer By Lama Surya Das

May the lamp of love
which eternally burns above
kindle divine fire in our hearts,
and fan that innate spark of divinity into flame-
illumining all, opening our eyes
and consuming our differences,
driving the shadows from our faces.
As love dawns on the horizon,
may our community awaken
in the kingdom of true communion,
which is at hand always.

May we learn to love one another better
even than we love ourselves.

God is great-
may His grace be made manifest.

Love is stronger than death,


26 November 2009

The Third Eye

The third eye (also known as the inner eye) is a mystical and esoteric concept referring in part to the ajna (brow) chakra in certain Eastern and Western spiritual traditions. It is also spoken of as the gate that leads within to inner realms and spaces of higher consciousness. In New Age spirituality, the third eye may alternately symbolize a state of enlightenment or the evocation of mental images having deeply-personal spiritual or psychological significance. The third eye is often associated with visions, clairvoyance (which includes the ability to observe chakras and auras), precognition, and out-of-body experiences, and people who have allegedly developed the capacity to utilize their third eyes are sometimes known as seers.
In Hinduism and Buddhism, the third eye is a symbol of enlightenment. In the Indian tradition, it is referred to as the gyananakashu, the eye of knowledge, which is the seat of the 'teacher inside' or antar-guru. The third eye is the ajna chakra (sixth chakra) also known as brow chakra or brow centre. This is commonly denoted in Indian and East Asian iconography with a dot, eye or mark on the forehead of deities or enlightened beings, such as Shiva, the Buddha, or any number of yogis, sages and bodhisattvas. This symbol is called the "Third Eye" or "Eye of Wisdom", or, in Buddhism, the urna. In Hinduism, it is believed that the opening of Shiva's third eye causes the eventual destruction of the physical universe.

Many Hindus wear a tilak between the eyebrows to represent the third eye.

In the Upanishads, a human being is likened to a city with ten gates. Nine gates (eyes, nostrils, ears, mouth, urethra, anus) lead outside to the sensory world. The third eye is the tenth gate and leads to inner realms housing myriad spaces of consciousness.

According to Max Heindel's Rosicrucian writings, called Western Wisdom Teachings, the third eye is localized in the pituitary body and the pineal gland. It was said that in the far past, when man was in touch with the inner worlds, these organs were his means of ingress thereto, and they will again serve that purpose at a later stage. According to this view, they were connected with the involuntary or sympathetic nervous system and to regain contact with the inner worlds (to reawaken the pituitary body and the pineal gland) it is necessary to establish the connection of the pineal gland and the pituitary body with the cerebrospinal nervous system. It was said that when that is accomplished, man will again possess the faculty of perception in the higher worlds (i.e. clairvoyance), but on a grander scale than it was in the distant past, because it will be in connection with the voluntary nervous system and therefore under the control of his will.

According to the gnostic teachings of Samael Aun Weor, the third eye is referenced symbolically and functionally several times in the Christian Bible's Book of Revelation, which as a whole is seen as a work describing Kundalini and its progression upwards through three and a half turns and seven chakras. This interpretation equates the third eye with the sixth of the seven churches of Asia detailed therein, the Church of Philadelphia.

The third eye is used in many meditation schools and arts, such as in yoga, qigong, many Chinese martial arts, and in Japanese martial arts such as Karate and Aikido.

In terms of Jewish Kabbalah, the Ajna chakra is attributed to the sphere of Chokmah, or Wisdom, although others regard the third eye as corresponding to the non-emanated sephirah of da'ath (knowledge).

In Taoism and many traditional Chinese religious sects such as "chan", "third eye training" involves focusing attention on the point between the eyebrows with the eyes closed in various qigong postures. The goal of this training is to allow students to have the ability in tuning into right vibration of the universe and gain solid foundation into more advanced meditation levels.

In theory, the third eye, also called the mind's eye, is situated right between the two eyes, and expands up to the middle of the forehead when opened. It is one of the main energy centres of the body located at the sixth chakra (the third eye is in fact a part of the main meridian, the line separating left and right hemispheres of the body). In Taoist alchemy the third eye is correlated with the upper dantian.

Some writers and researchers, including H. P. Blavatsky and Rick Strassman, have suggested that the third eye is in fact the partially dormant pineal gland, which resides between the two hemispheres of the brain. The pineal gland is said to secrete dimethyltryptamine (DMT) which induces dreams, near-death experiences, meditation, or hallucinations. Various types of lower vertebrates, such as reptiles and amphibians, can actually sense light via a third parietal eye—a structure associated with the pineal gland—which serves to regulate their circadian rhythms, and for navigation, as it can sense the polarization of light.

It was claimed by C.W. Leadbeater that, by extending an "etheric tube" from the third eye, it is possible for one to develop microscopic vision and telescopic vision. It has been asserted by Stephen Phillips that the third eye's microscopic vision is capable of observing objects as small as quarks.

Three Eyed characters commonly appear in fictions and folklores of Asian cultures. Some of these characters, belong to the so-called "Three Eyed Race", and possess supernatural powers:
  • Erlang Shen (二郎神) - Chinese God with a third true-seeing eye in the middle of his forehead that exists in Taoist and other folklores, who also appears in Chinese fictions, Journey to the West and Fengshen Yanyi.
  • Hiei (飛影) - three-eyed demon from the graphic novel Yu Yu Hakusho.
  • Hosuke Sharaku (写楽保介) - three-eyed boy from the graphic novel The Three-Eyed One.
  • Pai Ayanokoji (綾小路 パイ) - three-eyed girl from the graphic novel 3×3 Eyes.
  • Tenshinhan (天津飯) - three-eyed man from the graphic novel Dragon Ball.
  • H.P. Lovecraft's short story From Beyond (later made into a film of the same name) featured a character who used technology to trigger "dormant organs", including the pineal gland. This activation of the gland gave its owner a form of "augmented sight", allowing them to perceive ultra-violet light, and to see previously invisible creatures.
  • In the The Dresden Files by Jim Butcher, wizards such as Harry Dresden are able to open their third eye to perceive objects and people as they truly are.
  • In Avatar: The Last Airbender, Aang and the gang are chased by a man, hired by Prince Zuko, that uses his third eye to shoot beams of energy.

12 November 2009

Buddhism fastest growing religion in West

Buddhism is being recognized as the fastest growing religion in Western societies both in terms of new converts and more so in terms of friends of Buddhism, who seek to study and practice various aspects of Buddhism.

Dr. Ananda Guruge, leading Buddhist Scholar and former Sri Lankan Diplomat made this observation during a public lecture at the All Ceylon Buddhist Congress Hall Colombo on Friday, April 4. The lecture titled, "Role of the Sri Lankan Leadership in the Protection of Buddhism" was delivered under the auspices of the Buddhist and Pali University, All-Ceylon Buddhist Congress and the Buddhist Times Trust. The Chief Guest was Speaker of the House W.J.M. Lokubandara. Among the others present were Buddhist Congress President Jagath Sumathipala, Venerable Wegama Piyaratana, Venerable Professor Dhammavihari, Major-General (Rtd.) Jaliya Nammuni (Centre for Buddhist Action) and former Archaeological Commissioner Dr. Roland Silva.

Dr. Hema Goonatilake of the Buddhist Times Trust was the Convener who said, "Both on account of a series of Diaspora from China, Taiwan, Korea and Vietnam, adherents to Northern Schools of Buddhism are numerically preponderant. Interestingly, the intellectual interactions between these ethnic Buddhists and those devoted to Buddhism in the West have created a new demand for a deep understanding of early Buddhism as preserved in Pali sources in Southern Buddhism. A similar tendency is evident in the traditionally Northern Buddhist countries also. This demand has been further increased by the popularization of Vipassana Meditation by Mahopasaka S. N. Goenka. What the world needs today is not confined to what is in Pali. The Sinhala works on Buddhism have as much relevance and the translation of Sinhala classics into world languages is also a contribution to Buddhist Studies."

Noting that both Myanmar and Thailand have begun to respond to this demand, he pointed out that opportunities exist for Sri Lankan scholars to initiate cooperative activities with the growing institutions in Southeast Asia such as the World Buddhist University, established by the World Fellowship of Buddhists, and International Association of Buddhist Universities, initiated by Venerable Thepsaphong (now known as Dhammkosajahn).

"I am gratified to note that Dr. Sumanapala Galmangoda is scheduled to lead a team of scholars from Kelaniya University to conduct a panel discussion on Buddhist Ethics in a Conference organized by this Association to be held in Bangkok in September this year. Another opportunity - which is available for Sri Lankans to cooperate in a significant international venture - is to participate in contributing to the Electronic Cultural Atlas Initiative (ECAI) led by Professor Lewis R. Lancaster of University of California Berkeley. Such involvement will also enable our scholars to be trained in using high-tech tools of research, which are increasingly becoming indispensable."

Dr. Guruge recalled that Lanka has many firsts in the history of Buddhism -developing commentaries on the Buddha's teachings in the national language (3rd century BC), reducing to writing the Buddhist canon and its commentaries (1st century BC), sending bhikkhunis to China to establish the bhikkhunisasana (5th century), enabling the dissemination of the commentaries to a wider readership through translations into Pali (5th century), unification of Southern and Northern traditions of Buddhism and evolving a form of ecumenical Buddhism (12th century), spreading that form of Buddhism to Southeast Asia along with Pali literature and traditions of Buddhist architecture and art (12th-15th century), being the foremost centre of Buddhist scholarship from the nineteenth century, taking Buddhism back to India, its land of origin (19th-20th century), serving as the focal point from which Buddhist missionaries took Buddhism to all continents in modern times, and restoring the bhikkhunisasana in Southern Buddhism (20th century).

He stressed the need for maintaining this record said that and no efforts should be spared.

"May the Sangha of Sri Lanka rise up to the challenges of the time and may the powers that be, namely and most importantly the educators and scholars take upon themselves the task of maintaining Sri Lanka's leadership in Buddhist Studies. This can easily be a major objective of the preparations for the next major event in the history of Buddhism – the 2600th anniversary of the attainment of Buddhahood in 2011-2012."

He emphasized that any strategy Sri Lanka develops to maintain her leadership in Buddhist activities has to be based on these advantages that the current internationally recognized scholars enjoy. He recommended the following are the actions for the immediate consideration of all concerned:
  1. It is my conviction that the atmosphere required for the promotion of Buddhist studies has to be developed by a resurgence of dedication to scholarship in the Sangha. The higher education of the Sangha with due emphasis on original scriptural sources in Pali, Sanskrit and other Canonical languages is indispensable. One is no doubt appalled by the falling standard of Pali learning in the country. It is hardly taught in schools and one cannot be altogether satisfied with the standard of Pali teaching in the Pirivenas.

    Sanskrit has gone down even further. Without a very high level of proficiency in these languages, few monastics are in a position to produce the kind of scholarly work that those of a previous generation could. It is the Sangha that had preserved the study of Pali and Sanskrit not only through the Pirivenas but also through schools. Serious attention has to be given to the promotion of these languages if Sri Lanka has to retain its leadership in Buddhist Studies.

  2. A critical mass of research scholars should acquire an excellent command of the spoken and written English because the fruits of their labors would never be known outside the Island unless they are presented in impeccable standard of English. At the same time, our scholars should be able to access the research that is being done in the world. Without such access at least through the medium of English, the greatest danger in our institutions of higher education is that students are not introduced to new knowledge.

  3. Some at least among them should proceed to gain some degree of proficiency in research languages useful for Buddhist Studies such as Chinese, Tibetan, Korean, Japanese and Vietnamese as well as French, German and Italian.

  4. Scholars with ability to speak and write in foreign languages should be given every opportunity (with financial provisions for membership fees, travel and subsidies for publications) to -

    • Become members of international professional associations and organizations such as the Royal Asiatic Societies, International Association of Buddhist Studies, Indian Association of Buddhist Studies, International Association of Sanskrit Studies, etc.;

    • Contribute well-researched learned articles to recognized peer-reviewed foreign journals and also to have their books published abroad. (Equally important is to get articles and books of high quality in national languages translated into foreign languages. It must be stated here that Sri Lankan scholars do publish annually a substantial number of learned articles in English in Felicitation and Commemorative Volumes, the Sri Lankan Journal of Buddhist Studies and University Journals but their outreach to the world is very limited.. The efforts of Professors Y. Karunadasa, Asanga Tilakaratna and Venerable Kuala Lumpur Dhammajoti in this regard are very creditable. The speedy completion of the Encyclopedia of Buddhism has also to receive the highest priority.)

    • Review in national journals important works by foreign scholars both for the purpose of apprising local scholars and students of the availability of new research findings and also to let the international scholars know that their work is under scrutiny by our scholars;

    • Participate in international seminars and conferences, presenting papers and interacting with worldwide scholars to have an international peer review of research done by them in Sri Lanka;

    • Organize periodically international conferences inviting recognized scholars of the world and conducting them with the highest level of efficiency and effectiveness.

04 November 2009

Asian social engagement and the future of Buddhism

What has come to be known as "socially engaged Buddhism," or simply "engaged Buddhism," is a vast array of Asian movements with millions of adherents dedicated to addressing the economic, social, political, and environmental as well as the spiritual needs of modern humankind.

For example, in Southeast Asia, thousands of Buddhist monks work with hundreds of thousands of lay volunteers to rejuvenate village life. In South Asia, millions of Indian Untouchables have converted to form a Buddhist movement for social change and an end to the misery of the caste system. In East Asia, Buddhist lay movements have drawn millions of members by caring for their daily needs. And throughout Asia, Buddhist nuns are founding orders that work for institutional changes in the Buddhist monastic communities and organize social, educational, and health services for the poor.

Western awareness of this historic reformation and reorientation of modern Asian Buddhism was been facilitated by two modern events. First was an international conference on "Socially Engaged Buddhism and Christianity" hosted by DePaul University in Chicago from July 27 to August 3, 1996. This fifth international conference of the Society for Buddhist-Christian Studies included such noted Asian Buddhist leaders as the Dalai Lama, the Ven. Maha Ghosananda from Cambodia, Sulak Sivaraksa from Thailand, and A. T. Ariyaratne from Sri Lanka, as well as leaders from the Japanese Rissho Kosei-kai and Soka Gakkai movements, and the Korean Chogye Buddhist Order.

The second recent event that has helped introduce the West to the new world of socially engaged Buddhism is the publication of Engaged Buddhism: Buddhist Liberation Movements in Asia. The editors of this important volume, Christopher S. Queen and Sallie B. King, have collected an informative set of interpretive essays in what is the first comprehensive study of socially engaged Buddhism in the lands of its origin. The movements they describe in this book are not just developing new forms of Buddhist social engagement, but are doing something much more historically significant: redefining the nature and role of Buddhism in our modern pluralistic world, and thereby the very future of Buddhism. I will try to show how this is true by reflecting on the (1) origin, (2) nature, and (3) scope of socially engaged Buddhism as presented in Engaged Buddhism.

In their introduction and conclusion the editors speculate about the theoretical origins of modern socially engaged Buddhism. Based on my own conversations with people like Sulak Sivaraksa and A. T. Ariyaratne over the past twelve years, I think that Queen correctly perceives the essential change in Buddhist social awareness that has been formative to engaged Buddhism. In traditional Buddhism, the origins of suffering and evil are sought in the mind and heart of the individual person. Social structures have always been seen as reinforcing human bondage to such causes of suffering as hate, greed and delusion. But the traditional responses to this situation have most often emphasized the monastic life where adequate spiritual practice could be provided for personal liberation from these negative and unwholesome factors of human social existence.

In contrast, engaged Buddhism sets its analytical focus on the institutional origins of evil and suffering. Then it shifts its practical focus to addressing directly those aspects of these political, economic, and social institutions that are what Queen calls "manifestations of greed, hatred and delusion." For example, engaged Buddhism recognizes that the root evil of greed in the hearts of the rich and powerful in a particular society is given institutional form in a certain economic system that contributes to the marginalization and oppression of the weaker members of that society. Their response to this situation is not only to help people practice spirituality for the sake of personal liberation, but also to change the economic system for the sake of social liberation.

Is this something new in Buddhism? Both Sallie King and Christopher Queen examine various answers--pro and con--to this question. My own answer is that it is not something new. The Buddha taught, for example, that a king has to eradicate evil not by punishment, but by rooting out the cause of evil through providing such things as facilities to farmers, capital to traders, proper wages to workers, and tax-exemptions to the poor (Kutanada Suttana). The great King Asoka, who ruled much of India from 268-233 B.C.E., represents a model Buddhist ruler who always had his subjects' economic and social well-being as his main concerns. Later in Theravada countries, village elders consulted with local monastics; Buddhist patriarchs had substantial court influence; and monks, when upset about public issues, would turn over their begging bowls thus cutting the flow of merit to the laity. At the beginning of Mahayana Buddhism, the saintly Vimalakirti was presented as a layperson with substantial social engagement. The great Indian philosopher Nagarjuna advised a king to govern with a compassionate socialism that included education for the people, fixed charges for doctors, socially supported health care, and low taxes.

How did Buddhism become disengaged? Christopher Queen gives some reasons from the Southeast-Asian experience. For example, until the nineteenth century Buddhist monks in Sri Lanka held influential advisory and bureaucratic roles in the government as well as high positions in education and the court system. These roles were curtailed by the European colonialists under whom the governmental, legal, and educational systems were changed, and any social and welfare roles were given to the Christian missionaries. East Asian scholars have also shown how a budding Buddhist social service in China was destroyed during the imperial persecution of Buddhism beginning in 845 C.E. Other scholars have described how Buddhism lost its political influence because of the removal of Buddhist monasteries from population centers in Korea, and the depoliticalization of Buddhism in Tokugawa, Japan. My own conclusion is that given more recent political changes in the Asian world, what we are seeing today is the development of socially re-engaged Buddhism.

If this is the case, what is new about these re-engaged Buddhist movements? Sallie King discusses the new influence of social and political theory from the West and from Mahatma Gandhi in the East. She also mentions the fact that these movements have been greatly affected in their outlook by the many human crises in Asia during this century. Seeing these crises as linked to certain economic, political, and social forces that interconnect on a global scale, engaged Buddhists realize that the fate of Asia depends on the fate of the entire world. We are all part of an interconnected web of transnational economic and political relationships. This realization has led engaged Buddhism to what Christopher Queen calls "their vision of a new world."

Given this vision, many engaged Buddhists see themselves as contributing not only to the transformation of the lives of individual Buddhists in Asia, but to the renewal of humankind as a whole. Traditional Buddhism emphasized its insight into the nature of the human person--either in its analysis of our human condition, or of our awakened nature, our Buddha-nature. In the renewal movements, there is a new emphasis on the insight that all humankind makes up one interrelated whole. Socially engaged Buddhists have come to realize the importance of Buddhist ecumenism and interfaith collaboration in working for this ideal of a more united and peaceful world community. It is, I believe, in the ecumenical and interfaith quest for this ideal that engaged Buddhists are redefining the future of Buddhism.

This global vision of a peaceful, united, and pluralistic world not only distinguishes engaged Buddhism from the past, it also distinguishes it from new forms of Buddhist nationalism, sectarianism, conservatism, and fundamentalism that are now present in some parts of the Buddhist world. King and Queen are careful to distinguish socially engaged Buddhist groups from the new fundamentalist Buddhist movements. I applaud their effort. In 1987, two months after I was with Michael Rodrigo in California, he was shot by Buddhist fundamentalists while he was saying Mass in Sri Lanka. Early the next year I was with A. T. Ariyaratne for a week. He helped me understand how those Buddhists who murdered Rodrigo did so thinking that they were protecting their people from non-Buddhist encroachment. While Ariyaratne and other engaged Buddhists are concerned about the erosion of the social values and cohesion of their people, they reject any ideology that leads to such violent action.

For example, Ariyaratne told me that for his village reform movement, there are certain basic human values that take priority over sectarian ideological values. Although he is a Buddhist, when he goes into a village to promote his renewal program, he proposes a moral and social program based on values and ideals that are also shared by the Christian, Hindu, and Muslim members of the village. Here we see the value of interfaith collaboration for unity that celebrates diversity clearly lived out in nonviolent Buddhist social engagement guided by the vision of a more united and peaceful world community.

What are the particular characteristics of engaged Buddhism that enable it to pursue its goals of social change, moral reform, and contributing to a "new world?" Reflecting on the essays in Engaged Buddhism as well as Christopher Queen's and Sallie King's phenomenological description of these movements, I would emphasize three points: the first supports the goal of social change; the second moral reform; and the third global transformation.

First, the leaders of these movements have been personally affected by the great human tragedies of the twentieth century in Asia. This has fostered in them a deep sensitivity to the suffering condition of their peoples and a deeper sense of its social causes. This social awareness has led them in turn to reread their scriptures and to discover therein a concept of liberation that includes this-worldly freedom from social, economic, political, sexual, racial, and environmental oppression. As with Christian liberation theology, their social critique and practical forms of social engagement are guided by new readings of scripture.

Second, these new practices of engaged Buddhism are not monastic-centered, as in the past, but are adapted for the laity. Engaged Buddhist movements are presenting their members with nonmonastic models for moral living--morality that is not pursued in monastic withdrawal, but in the daily life of the factory, office, school room, or home. Hence, there is a new emphasis in Theravada Buddhism on the relational virtues of compassion, loving kindness, sympathetic joy, and equanimity. And in Mahayana Buddhism, the bodhisattva moral ideal of altruistic care for others has been given new social and political expressions suited for the laity.

Third, given this relational and lay emphasis, the practice of engaged Buddhism often takes place in a broad community context. Since the focus of praxis shifts from the monastery to the modern pluralistic world of the laity, new forms of lay Buddhist communal life are evolving that involve positive relationships with members of other religious communities. This has led engaged Buddhists to seek ways of developing Buddhist ecumenism and interfaith collaboration that contribute to the constitution of a new family of humankind. This work is inspired by the engaged Buddhists' global vision of what the Dalai Lama calls "the realization of the oneness of all humankind."

Given this third goal of engaged Buddhism, the spiritual unity of humankind, let us look at the scope of Buddhist ecumenical and interfaith work for this ideal in Asia today. Here I must offer a modest critique of Engaged Buddhism. It seems to me that King and Queen present South- and SoutheastAsian forms of engaged Buddhism as paradigmatic of the whole movement. The essays in their book cover this geographical area well, including discussions of B. R. Ambedkar's Buddhist movement among the Untouchables in India, A. T. Ariyaratne's village reform program in Sri Lanka, Buddhadasa's reform philosophy and Sulak Sivaraksa's renewal activities in Thailand, the Tibetan movement in India, and Thich Nhat Hanh's activist form of Vietnamese Zen. However, there is only one essay on East Asia--on the Soka Gakkai and its impressive social and political activities in Japan.

If a more complete picture of engaged Buddhism had been painted by including other material on East Asia, an interesting comparison could have been made between the more grassroots Buddhist liberation movements in South and Southeast Asia and the more internationally engaged Buddhist reform movements in East Asia. In that comparison, the ecumenical and interfaith dimensions of engaged Buddhism working for a united and peaceful world could have been more clearly seen. Since I believe that it will be precisely these dimensions that will define Buddhism in the future, let me mention four examples of East-Asian engaged Buddhist movements that have developed these dimensions in their global work for world peace.

The Fo Kuang Shan Buddhist Order in Taiwan is a thriving East-Asian example of such a movement. While they are committed to reforming the nun's order and to social action in Taiwan, they are also stimulating world-wide Buddhist ecumenism--often hosting meetings for Buddhist leaders from around the world. They are also active in global interfaith activities. At their Los Angeles temple in 1988, they hosted the International Theological Encounter Group founded by Masao Abe and John B. Cobb, Jr. At their Taiwan Center in 1995, they were the host to the first Vatican sponsored international theological dialogue with world Buddhism.

The Won Buddhist movement in Korea rejects shamanistic practice and religious exclusivism in favor of compassionate moral practice in daily life and engagement in activities of interreligious cooperation contributing to a more united humankind based on shared human values. Like other forms of engaged Buddhism, it seeks to help create a world of happiness rather than to escape to a transcendent Nirvana. To aid in this project, Won Buddhists have established centers around the world and have been active in such organizations as the World Conference on Religion and Peace (WCRP).

The Japanese Rissho Kosei-kai movement was organized by Nikkyo Niwano, winner of the Templeton Prize for Progress in Religion. Devoted to lay Buddhist practice in Japan, it is also concerned with working for world peace. Members have founded the Niwano Peace Prize at the United Nations, and Niwano himself played a key role in creating the most effective interfaith organization today, the WCRP. His movement is involved in many forms of interfaith social engagement, such as working together with Christian relief organizations in East Africa.

Another example from Japan is the F.A.S. Society, founded by Shin'ichi Hisamatsu, who seems to embody the Dalai Lama's ideal of all religions fostering "the genuine realization of the oneness of humankind." In his F.A.S. acronym, "F" stands for "Formless Self" as the Ground of all existence; "A" for the breadth of "all humankind" in that Ground; and "S" for creating history "superhistorically," that is, history realizing in social form the original oneness of all humankind based on the Formless Self. This oneness overcomes the modern evils of social injustice, religious sectarianism, racism, sexism, etc. While the F.A.S. Society practices Zen meditation, it welcomes persons of other Buddhist sects and other religions. The Society has been mainly active in Japan, but in 1995 it established a branch in Europe, partly as a way to contribute to the reconciliation of Western and Eastern Europe.

With these additions to the picture of engaged Buddhism, we can see even more clearly how this phenomenon represents an important turning point in the history of Buddhism. To repeat, socially engaged Buddhism is not only about local social engagement--it represents something even more historically significant. This development in world Buddhism indicates a major shift in Buddhist self-definition that, on the one hand, recognizes the challenges of the modern world, and, on the other, grasps the promise of ecumenical and interreligious cooperation in addressing these challenges on a worldwide scale. This attempt to define Buddhism's new role in a global context of ecumenical and interfaith cooperation challenges other religions to redefine their roles as fellow co-participants in the shared task of humankind's realization of a more united, just, and peaceful pluralistic world community in the future.

01 November 2009

Tzu Chi

The Tzu Chi Foundation (慈济基金会;Cí Jì) is one of the three largest Buddhist organizations in Taiwan (the others being Fo Guang Shan and Dharma Drum Mountain). Tzu Chi was founded by Master Cheng Yen, a nun, on April 14, 1966 in Hualien, Taiwan, after she was inspired by her master and mentor, the late Venerable Master Yin Shun ((印順導師;Yin Shun Dao Shi) a significant proponent of Humanistic Buddhism) with the great expectation of: "work for Buddhism and for all sentient beings". The society started as a group of thirty housewives who saved a small amount of money each day, and has grown to have approximately 10 million members worldwide today.

Whereas many Buddhist societies focus on personal enlightenment and meditation, Tzu Chi focuses on community service and outreach (especially medical, educational, and disaster relief). Today, Tzu Chi is considered to be one of the most effective aid agencies in the region.

Tzu Chi maintains a small number of nuns, and conducts its mission via an international network of volunteers. The volunteers are easily recognized by their uniforms (navy blue shirt with a ship imposed on a lotus flower as a logo on the left breast; white pants, shoes and socks; and a black belt with the same lotus ship logo as a clasp). There are also differing variations of the uniform, each symbolizing a different aspect of the foundation. Its youngest members known as the Tzu Shao, wear pale blue instead of the above navy blue, while its teenaged and college students wear sky blue. The crest differs slightly between the groups, with the boat symbol in the center of the adult members, and a candle in the center for its younger members. Tzu Chi relief workers have been known therefore as "blue angels" for their distinctive uniform. Occasionally, sometimes Tzu Chi volunteers have been known to refer to their uniforms as 藍天白雲 (Lan Tian Bai Yun), or Blue Sky White Clouds.
Tzu Chi has many suborganizations, of which the Tzu Chi Collegiate Association (慈濟大專青年聯誼會) is one of the most prominent. With chapters at universities worldwide, Tzu Chi Youth allows the university student to be involved with Tzu Chi's work on both local and international levels.

Tzu Chi remains a non-profit organization and has built many hospitals and schools worldwide, including a comprehensive education system within Taiwan spanning from kindergarten through university and medical school.

Tzu Chi has many hospitals and universities Tzu Chi help people in need from vistations to nursing homes to brighten up their days, to the needs bone marrow sugery, to the simple things such as a washing machine for the struggling sungle mother. Tzu Chi has its very on television channel "Da Ai" along with its very own news and televisions shows Tzu Chi has chinese schools set up in locations such as Australia, teaching not only chinese, but also the ways on compassion, and sign language.

While the Tzu Chi Foundation has Buddhist origins and beliefs, the organization is also popularly known for its selfless contributions to society in numerous ways in the areas of Charity, Medicine, Education, and Culture. The official motto, or concept behind Tzu Chi Foundation is the (四大志業,八大腳印), which means, "Four endeavors, eight footprints". The eight footprints are charity causes, medical contributions, education development, humanities, international disaster assistance, bone-marrow donation, community volunteerism, and recycling.

Simultaneously bearing the lotus fruit and flower, the Tzu Chi logo symbolizes that we can make the world a better place by planting good seeds. Only with these seeds can the flowers bloom and bear fruit. A better society can be created with good actions and pure thoughts.The petals represent the Noble Eight Fold Path in Buddhism that Tzu Chi members use as their guide.
    The Noble Eight Fold Path:
  1. Right View

  2. Right Thought

  3. Right Speech

  4. Right Behavior

  5. Right Livelihood

  6. Right Effort

  7. Right Mindfulness

  8. Right Concentration
Due to their apolitical stance, Tzu Chi has been allowed by the Chinese government to expand their activities into China. Master Cheng yen has talked about building A Bridge of Love between China and Taiwan. When devastating floods hit southern and central China in 1991, Tzu Chi was involved in relief operations. The group has built schools, nursing homes, and entire villages including infrastructure in poor inland areas, for example, Guizhou province.

In 2008, Tzu Chi has also sent medical aid, volunteers, living utilities and food in response to the 2008 Sichuan earthquake.

Tzu Chi does not only come to the aid of close neighbours but also on an international level, from providing food to clothing to poverished nations, to helping to clean up ruins and collected donations from all Tzu Chi locations world wide for distasters such as the Asia's Tsunami in 2002 to Hurricane Katrina in America.

Some syncretic Buddhist and Christian observers have commented on the similarity between Guan Yin and Mary of Christianity, the mother of Jesus Christ. The Tzu-Chi Foundation, also noticing the similarity, commissioned a portrait of Guan Yin and a baby that resembles the typical Roman Catholic Madonna and Child painting.

31 October 2009

Sexuality and Buddhism

Many variations of Buddhism do not go much into details of right and wrong regarding sexuality and other activities of life. The historical Buddha advised his students to avoid sexual misconduct, but at the same time largely avoided to define how to have sex. The interpretation of sexual misconduct will thus vary between the different schools and traditions, the cultures and even between individual teachers within the respective traditions.

Another variation in the view of sexuality is dependent if the Buddhist practitioner is an ordained monk or nun, since monastic Buddhism has very strict regulation regarding celibacy. Lay Buddhists do not have these regulations, since sex is a very natural part of having a life in society with family and children. In Vajrayana, sexual intercourse can even be a part of the way to enlightenment, the goal of Buddhism.

Celibacy and monasticism

Those who choose to practice Buddhism as ordained monks and nuns, also chose to live in celibacy. Sex is the downfall that could end a monk or nun’s career, and seen as the most serious monastic transgression. There are four principal transgressions: sex, theft, murder, and boasting of superhuman perfections, where sex is listed first. Sexual misconduct for monks and nuns even include masturbation. In the case of monasticm, chastity is seen as a necessity in order to reach the goal.

Lay Buddhism

The most common formulation of Buddhist ethics are the Five Precepts and the Eightfold Path, which say that one should neither be attached to nor crave sensual pleasure. These precepts take the form of voluntary, personal undertakings, not divine mandate or instruction. The third of the Five Precepts is "To refrain from committing sexual misconduct. However, the "sexual misconduct" is such a broad term, and is subjected to interpretation relative to the social norms of the followers. In fact, Buddhism in its fundamental form, does not define what is right and what is wrong in absolute terms for lay followers. Therefore the interpretation of what kinds of sexual activity is acceptable for a layperson, is not a religious matter as far as Buddhism is concerned.


The second of the Four Noble Truths states that the ultimate cause of all suffering is attachment and unquenchable desire (tanha), and the third states that the way to eliminate suffering is to eliminate attachment and desire. Sexual practices (heterosexuality, homosexuality, bisexuality or others) are characterised as both attachment (kama-upadana) and desire (kama-tanha). Sensual desire (kama-cchanda) is also the first of the Five Hindrances, which must be eradicated if one is to progress spiritually. Of the three kinds of cchanda, kama-cchanda is the one that is ethically immoral.


Asian societies shaped by Buddhist traditions take a strong ethical stand in human affairs and sexual behavior in particular. However, unlike most other world religions, most variations of Buddhism do not go into details about what is right and what is wrong in what it considers mundane activities of life. Details of accepted or unaccepted human sexual conduct are not specifically mentioned in any of the religious scriptures in the Pali language. The most common formulations of Buddhist ethics are found the Five Precepts and the Eightfold Path, which state that one should neither be attached to nor crave sensual pleasure. These precepts take the form of voluntary, personal undertakings, not divine mandate or instruction. The third of the Five Precepts is "To refrain from committing sexual misconduct. However, "sexual misconduct" is a broad term, and is subject to interpretation relative to the social norms of the followers. In fact, Buddhism in its fundamental form does not define what is right and what is wrong in absolute terms for lay followers. Therefore the determination of whether or not homosexuality is acceptable for a layperson is not a religious matter as far as fundamental Buddhism is concerned.

Among Buddhists there is a wide diversity of opinion about homosexuality. Buddhism teaches that sensual enjoyment and desire in general, and sexual pleasure in particular, are hindrances to enlightenment. Buddhist monks and nuns of most traditions are expected to refrain from all sexual activity and take vows of celibacy. Some Buddhist orders may specifically prohibit transgender, homosexually active, or homosexually oriented people from ordination.


In Thailand, traditional accounts propose that "homosexuality arises as a karmic consequence of violating Buddhist proscriptions against heterosexual misconduct. These karmic accounts describe homosexuality as a congenital condition which cannot be altered, at least in a homosexual person's current lifetime, and have been linked with calls for compassion and understanding from the non-homosexual populace." Since 1989 gays are prohibited from being ordained.

Dalai Lama

The current Dalai Lama of Tibet interprets sexual misconduct to include lesbian and gay sex, and indeed any sex other than penis-vagina intercourse, including oral sex, anal sex, and masturbation. He also says "tantric sex" is only to be imagined in the mind.

Chinese Buddhism

In Chinese Buddhism, homosexuality is a third level sin punishable in one of the nine hells. Marie-Eve Blanc writes that "Mahayana Buddhism (as in China and Vietnam) is less tolerant than Theravada Buddhism (Thailand)."

Buddhism in the West

In contrast to Buddhism in Asia, modern Buddhism in the Western world is typically associated with liberal politics and a concern for social equality—partly as a result of its largely middle-class intellectual membership base, and its philosophical roots in freethought and secular humanism.
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