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Zen Koan #1: Parable of A Cup of Tea – Buddhist Teaching on Spiritual Bankruptcy

Zen Koan #1: Parable of A Cup of Tea - Buddhist Teaching on Spiritual Bankruptcy Together with Vedanta Hinduism, Zen is an early and continuing example of the globalization of religion from the East on several levels. The reward body also appears for the sake of sentient beings; for this reason, it is limited in location. The poem encourages us to practice without attachment. It merely reflects whatever you put in front of it, as it is, without hindrance.

Once you narrow yourself down to the mental environment, there are two things you are involved with—the method, and stray thoughts. What is the difference between Buddhahood and enlightenment? Buddhahood is attaining the ultimate, whereas enlightenment is seeing Buddha nature without encompassing it fully. In Japan, it was pellucid that in the lay Zen tradition you donated to the temple, you had your memorial accommodations, you had your family plot, and you fortified the priest.

Meditation decreases experienced stress load and leads to a faster decrease in heart rate after exposure to stressful film clips, but it is not clear whether improved access to unconscious processes is mediating processes. There are sundry levels of coalesced mind—the unity of self and macrocosm, the unity of body and mind, and beyond this, just one mind remaining.

Zen Koan: “A Cup of Tea” Parable

Nan-in, a Japanese master during the Meiji era (1868–1912), received a university professor who came to inquire about Zen.

Nan-in served tea. He poured his visitor’s cup full, and then kept on pouring.

The professor watched the overflow until he no longer could restrain himself. “It is overfull. No more will go in!”

“Like this cup,” Nan-in said, “you are full of your own opinions and speculations. How can I show you Zen unless you first empty your cup?”

Buddhist Insight on Spiritual Bankruptcy

When water is agitated by waves, reflections that may arise are not grasped. A lot of our busyness is because we’re looking for something to fulfill us. This is the root cause of spiritual bankruptcy, according to Zen Buddhism. The charters are different but the practical path towards human liberation touches both. Can you learn the basic precept of transforming your unwanted sufferings into the path of practice? The British Zen Buddhist author and psychotherapist David Brazier writes in The Feeling Buddha,

We all carry hurt within us. It is not possible to have gone through life without getting buffeted. The hurt we carry is fuel. It is one of the essential conditions for a fire. When a person, or a whole community, is spiritually impoverished, this fuel is stored up. It then becomes tinder dry.The potential for fire to get out of control is then great. This is when wars start. I asked an acquaintance from Sarajevo why he thought the civil war there broke out. He said: ‘Boredom.’ He meant that people’s lives had ceased to be purposeful and war gave them a sense of direction. People sometimes fear that religion causes wars but, although religion, patriotism, self-interest, history and many other things may be invoked by war mongers, the real root of war is spiritual bankruptcy.

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Posted in Faith and Religion

A Mandala is a Cosmic Diagram that is Symbolic of the Universe

Mandala is a ritual diagram symbolic of the universe---object of meditation in Tantra and Vajrayana Buddhism.

A mandala is a ritual diagram that serves as an object of meditation in Tantra and Vajrayana Buddhism. It is symbolic of the universe.

Around the eleventh century, mandala meditation was initiated in Tibet from India and even today, lamas pass on their knowledge to initiates in the same way.

Mandalas are fabricated at the beginning of a puja, out of grains of colored sand watchfully placed on a specially prepared platform. They are momentary structures and in a instruction of impermanence, are deliberately destroyed at the end of the ritual, their sand swept up and dispensed into a nearby stream or river.

Mandala Denotes the Mind and the Body of the Buddha

The word Mandala is derived from the root manda, essence; and la, container. Thus, a mandala is a container of essence. As an image, it may denote both the mind and the body of the Buddha. The origin of the mandala is the center, the bindu, a dot—a symbol free of dimensions. Bindu also means seed, sperm or drop—the salient starting point. It is the congregation center into which outside energies are drawn, and in the act of drawing in the forces, the devotee’s own energies unfold. In the process, the mandala is sanctified to a deity.

Monks carefully construing a mandala, mystical diagram, with colored sand

Monks carefully construing a mandala, mystical diagram, with colored sand. As is apparent, the making of a mandala is a mind-numbing process, requiring great concentration and attention to every intricate detail of color, line and form. Once the ritualistic purpose is over, the sand is swept away—one more teaching in the impermanence of things. For desire meditate on impurity, for hatred kindness, and for ignorance interdependent arising.

In its creation, a line materializes out of a dot. Other lines are drawn until they intersect, creating triangular geometrical patterns. The circle drawn around stands for the dynamic consciousness of the initiated. The outlying square symbolizes the physical world bound in four directions, and characterized by the four gates; and the central area is the deity. Appearance does not bind, attachment binds. The center being visualized as the essence, and the circumference, as clasping, a mandala thus connotes a grasping of the essence.

Mandala— The Essence of One’s Own Buddha Nature

A Buddha figure in a Tibetan temple, with a mandala on the roof overhead. The figure of the Buddha can be seen in the center of the mandala, which might be supposed to exemplify the being of the Buddha and his nirvana. Examination of such a mandala would be intended to help the practitioner grasp the essence of his own Buddha nature by following the diagram of spiritual experience laid out in the mandala.

Monks in Tibetan Buddhist monasteries are required to learn how to construct mandalas

All monks in Tibetan Buddhist monasteries are required to learn how to construct mandalas. They have to memories texts that specify names, lengths and positions of the primary lines outlining the basic structure of mandalas, as well as the techniques of drawing and pouring sand. By this unfavorable conditions are pacified. These texts, though, do not describe every detail of each mandala, but rather serve as mnemonic guides to the complete forms that must be learned from the repeated practice of construction under the guidance of proficient monks. However, most of us seldom recognize the karmic or ritualistic nature of our actions. Knowing only verbally, such people never accomplish anything very beneficial.

Carl Jung’s Mandala and Its Relationship to Art Psychotherapy

Carl Jung's Mandala And Its Relationship To Art Psychotherapy The Swiss psychiatrist and psychoanalyst Carl Gustav Jung asserted that the mandala, or, more generally, a circular art form, had a comforting and centering effect upon its maker or observer. He wrote in 1973,

The pictures differ widely, according to the stage of the therapeutic process; but certain important stages correspond to definite motifs. Without going into therapeutic details, I would only like to say that a rearranging of the personality is involved. A kind of new centering. That is why mandalas most appear in connection with chaotic, psychic states of disorientation or panic. Then they have the purpose of reducing the confusion to order, though this is never the conscious intention of the patients. At all events, they express order, balance, and wholeness. Patients themselves often emphasize the beneticial or soothing effect of such pictures.

Jung applied the mandala in his own personal therapy too and thought it to be a visible statement of his psychic state at the moment it was created. As Jung considered the course of producing a mandala to be healing, he would also often construe symbolism appearing within the mandala. He used such descriptions as a bridge from the unconscious to the conscious. He stimulated his patients at the appropriate time in their therapy to learn to decode their own symbols, and thus used the mandala as a channel from dependency on himself, the therapist, to greater autonomy for the patient. Art psychotherapists these days often make use of the mandala as an essential instrument for self-awareness, conflict resolution, and as a foundation for various other art psychotherapeutic techniques in a variety of situations.

Art therapist Joan Kellogg describes the mandala as a still picture taken out of context from a moving picture of the life process of the person. She expounded the process of making a mandala:

Because of the intense focusing when working with the mandala, an altered state of consciousness, an almost hypnotic state may ensue. The mandala then works itself differently than one’s conscious desires. In a sort of biofeedback manner, one gives reign to that part of one’s self that is able to express the contents of consciousness. Then, on reflecting on the finished product, one participates critically.

Cognitively-oriented psychoanalysts occasionally shrink back from Jungian theory asserting that it is too complicated and difficult to understand and accordingly better left to the artistic and religious. Jung every so often has not gained the admiration he warrants among the more scientific schools of thought. The predicament of art psychotherapy has been to some extent similar to that of Jungian theory by reason of the limited amount of scientific research currently existing in such a moderately new field.

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Posted in Faith and Religion Music, Arts, and Culture

Buddha’s Doctrine Means Redemption by Insight

Buddha's Doctrine Means Redemption by Insight

The answer to the basic questions of existence is to be drawn from these deeper sources, which first lend meaning and justification to the conclusions of reason. Thus what Buddha wishes to reveal is lost in the words that can be said quickly and the abstract propositions that can be thought quickly which make up his teaching. “Deep is the doctrine, hard to behold, hard to understand, full of peace, magnificent, inaccessible to mere reflection, subtle; only the wise man can learn it.”

'How to Practice: The Way to a Meaningful Life' by Dalai Lama (ISBN 0743453360) To this way of thinking, the truth both of the philosophical thought that takes place in normal consciousness and of experience in meditation goes hand in hand with a purification of one’s whole life by ethical action. Falsehood cannot be overcome by acts of thought alone or by the technique of the transformation of consciousness; these methods will succeed only where the soul has been purified.

What Buddha teaches is not a system of knowledge but a path of salvation, “the Noble Eightfold Path”: right views, right aspiriation, right speech, right conduct, right means of livelihood, right endeavor, right mindfulness, right meditation. This coherent picture of the path of salvation is itself a form of pedagogic system. Buddha’s truth is not based solely on meditation but also takes normal consciousness into account. The understanding is transcended, but not rejected. It is called back into use the moment the experience of transcendence has to be communicated. And it would be equally incorrect to say that Buddha’s truth is based entirely on specubtive thought, though its forms of expression are drawn from this source. Nor is it subsumed in the ethos of monastic life. Meditation, understanding, philosophical speculation, monastic ethos. all are part of the truth.

Buddha Teaches a Path of Salvation

Buddha teaches a path of salvation There is no definite relation between the stages of meditation and the ideas accessible to the normal understanding, or between the experience gained by operating with ideas and that gained by operations affecting the state of consciousness. But we find certain parallelisms. In each stage of meditation, for example, a new suprasensory world is experienced. To disregard a reality in order to transcend it is a formal operation that can be performed even without such experience.

Logical ideas create space by freeing us from our bonds with the finite. But it is only by meditation that truths are reinforced and established, that full certainty is attained. It cannot be said that the one is primary, the other a mere consequence. One is, rather, the confirmation and guarantee of the other. Each in its own way prepares us for the truth.

'Buddhism and Science' by Donald S. Lopez Jr. (ISBN 0226493199) In speculation, meditation, and ethos alike, it is the human will that sets the goal and attains it. Each man has his own power of action and conduct, meditation and thought. He works, he struggles, he is like a mountain climber. That is why Buddha is forever calling for an effort of the will. All a man’s powers must be engaged. Not all who try achieve the goal. To be sure, there are exceptional cases of spontaneous Enlightenment without effort of the will, especially under the personal guidance of Buddha. Then the goal is attained all at once, and for the remainder of the adept’s life it is merely clarified by repetition.

Meditation is not a technique that can succeed by itself. It is dangerous to gain a systematic control over one’s states of comciousness. to conjure up one and dispel another. Such methods are ruinous for those who attempt them without the proper foundation. And the found ~ition is the purity or one’s whole life. In the conduct of life the main requirement is “wakefulness,” which is carried over into meditation, where it attains its fullest scope.

Then awareness permeates the body, illumines the unconscious down to the last nook and cranny. To carry light into the depths is the principle of the ethos, of meditation, and of speculation as well. The stages of meditation should not consist of intoxication, ecstasy, or the enjoyment of strange states such as those induced by hashish and opium, but of insight exceeding all normal insight in brightness, an insight in which the thing is present and one is not merely thinking about it. The universal imperative is thus: let nothing lie dormant in the unconscious, wreaking its havoc; let perfect wakefulness accompany all your action and experience.

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Posted in Faith and Religion

How to Create a Personal Leadership Brand

How to Create a Personal Leadership Brand The pressures of work are constant. In a world of discombobulated messaging, you can communicate with more impact and integrity by engendering a personal leadership brand. Personal branding can increment mindshare among audiences as much as branding for products can increment market share.

What rate of return do your speeches, interviews, and visits with customers and partners generate? What impact do these efforts have on your bottom line? A high Return on Communication means that with every interaction, you meet one or more strategic objectives, deliver clear messages that people understand and remember, and enhance your brand and the company’s brand. Executive branding ensures that the time and money you spend on communication translate into desired business outcomes.

Senior executives often communicate without making much of an impression. Either they don’t say anything memorable, or they are remembered for all the wrong reasons-a bad media quote, poor slides, annoying body language. Worst case: their communication is mistrusted and misinterpreted, achieving exactly the opposite of what they intend. High turnover rates and a paucity of effective leaders suggest either that there’s no correlation between studying leadership and leading or that the scientific approach could benefit from a bit more art.

Personal Branding Building a brand is about creating value for other people. The business reasons for executive branding are pellucid: the CEO’s reputation accounts for about a moiety of the reputation of the company; the CEO’s personal brand impacts employee allegiance and resilience; and a brand is the premium that shareholders are disposed to pay for the stock or the product. No bellwether can leave to chance the way that he or she is perceived.

While many leaders know how to brand companies and products, few know how to brand themselves. Why go to the trouble? Let’s look at what personal branding can do for you:

  • Differentiation: A personal brand differentiates you from others, enabling you to stand out and be memorable.
  • Consistency: A personal brand ensures that you are consistent-reliably the same in situations, which creates trust. People know what to expect of you, and you communicate from the same platform, whether announcing good news or bad news.
  • Clarity: When you have a brand, you stand for something. Your brand leverages the power of clear non-verbal messages, and helps determine the verbal messages you want to convey.
  • Authenticity: Personal branding allows you to speak with authenticity. Your brand communicates who you are. When leaders speak with sincerity, they are much more persuasive than when they speak the party line.

There’s been an increased interest in leadership presence over the last few years, perhaps because simply being present has become one of the chief executive obstacles in our highly distracting 24/7 culture. The spread of highly injuctively authorizing, even invasive, technologies is no doubt partly to inculpate. But many organizational cultures have in effect become toxic, which is a designator of pristinely human failure. If we can’t muster up the presence of mind to recognize this state of affairs, we have little chance of learning better leadership.

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Posted in Education and Career Philosophy and Wisdom

Determinism

Determinism is the view that all events occur as a result of prior events and the laws governing reality.

Although determinism does not entail naturalism (the view that there are no extra- or supernatural causes), it is usually defined in terms of natural laws and events.

Determinism should be distinguished from fatalism, which is the view that some future events will occur regardless of what happens between the present and that future time. Determinism is fatalistic, in the sense that the current state of events and the laws of nature entail that certain events will occur rather than others. But it is not identical to fatalism, which holds that these events will occur regardless of other occurrences.

The earliest version of determinism is probably best associated with the views of the atomists, Leucippus (early fifth century BCE) and Democritus (c. 460-c. 370 BCE), although Leucippus seems to allow that, in rare cases, atoms may “swerve” unaccountably. Determinism was popular with Roman stoics and found support in the physics of Sir Isaac Newton. Philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer once said, “A man can do what he wants, but not want what he wants.”

Determinism is significant in the history of thought primarily in its relationship to the “free will problem,” that is, the question of what sort of freedom is required for morally responsible agency. If responsibility demands that agents be free to choose among a variety of options at the moment of decision making, then determinism is incompatible with moral responsibility. And even the sort of indeterministic luck highlighted by Leucippus’s swerving atoms may be incompatible with moral responsibility. However, if responsibility is a matter of internal dispositions toward actions, or “reactive attitudes,” determinism may be compatible with moral responsibility.

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Posted in Philosophy and Wisdom

Ayn Rand’s Philosophy of Objectivism and Humanism

The Religion and Philosophy of Ayn Rand

Ayn Rand’s magnum opus, Atlas Shrugged (1957), encompassed her ideas of rationalism, individualism, and capitalism within a dystopian United States.

Ayn Rand fled Bolshevik-controlled Russia in 1926 to live where her ideas could breathe and thrive: in America. Her philosophy slowly took shape in the form of novels: We the Living (1936), Anthem (1938), and The Fountainhead (1943.)

Frustrated with her intellectual climate, novelist and lay philosopher Ayn Rand (1905–82) collected ideas from a variety of philosophers and cobbled them into a unique view that she named Objectivism. By the mid-forties, she had given her philosophy a name: objectivism. Objectivism so impassioned Rand that she ultimately gave her talent over to it. With the completion of Atlas Shrugged in 1957, she had metamorphosed from writer to philosopher. Her subsequent work focused upon creating the “new intellectuals” through objectivism.

'Atlas Shrugged' by Ayn Rand (ISBN 451191145) Rand expounded on this personal worldview in her novel Atlas Shrugged, published in 1957. Rand defends Aristotle’s ideas that reality exists objectively and authoritatively, that the laws of logic guide our understanding, and that consciousness is the seat of humans’ ability to know. She defends the rationalist ideas that morality is objective and that conscious rationality bestows special moral significance. And she also defends the classical liberal idea that each person is obligated to respect every person’s right to pursue her interests, so long as those pursuits do not interfere with another person’s right to do so. Rand then argues that the only sociopolitical system consistent with these ideas is laissez-faire capitalism, that is, a free market economy.

One controversial implication is what Rand calls “the virtue of selfishness.” Since each person is intrinsically valuable, one’s primary moral obligation is to pursue one’s own interests. This pursuit is limited only by the recognition that others are also valuable, and thus no one has the right to deceive or coerce others. Selfish interests cannot conflict because it cannot be in our interests to have something to which we have no right. Although some goods may result from collective action, such goods never justify the use of force.

Many would deny that Ayn Rand was a humanist, for many have seen only the political side of her philosophy or heard only the most sensational remarks she has made. But Rand’s objectivism begs a higher level of understanding, a more holistic interpretation, which focuses not on the eccentricities of its founder but on its basic tenets. Objectivism, with humans its center and reason its instrument, in fact, rings of humanism.

Humanism is a broad term which has been applied to several disciplines—science, ethics, psychology—and no two people are likely to agree on any one interpretation. I will refer to a small number of unifying characteristics for the sake of this argument.

  • First of all, humanism is primarily concerned with humans—their self-actualization, fulfillment, and happiness on this Earth, in this life. Distinct from all other species on Earth, humans strive constantly to improve their lot herehence the term self-actualization—not simply to reproduce and exist. Humanism acknowledges humankind’s intelligence and creativity, placing the power of humans’ “destiny” in their own hands. And while humanism does not aggrandize human beings—they are but tiny specks in a small galaxy within a vast universe—they are seen as their own means and ends.
  • Humanism holds human intelligence sacrosanct; the ability to reason sets humans apart from all other life on Earth. Humanism is committed to this ability and to its nurturance and evolution. Curiosity has driven humankind to wonder about its surroundings, to ask “why” of all it experiences; humanism rewards this. Khoren Arisian, an ethics leader, recognized this distinction of humanism in his essay, “Ethics and Humanist Imagination,” when he wrote: “If Existentialism yields a timeless mood and mysticism yields a timeless psychology, then Humanism yields a timeless imagination, a universal sensibility.” It is their timeless imagination that will keep humans in search of the truth.
  • Finally, humanism abhors supernatural beliefs. Humanism sees dogma as a danger in that it tempts people to passively accept tenets without critical examination. Religion—in any form, a primitive and unscientific venture—is to be avoided. Furthermore, humanism teaches that human beings are accountable only to themselves, not to any supposed higher being. Humanity’s savior, if there could be such a thing, would be humans themselves.

'The Fountainhead' by Ayn Rand (ISBN 451191153) On all these points, Rand’s objectivism agrees with humanism: her view of humans and their position in the cosmos, her upholding of reason as the course humankind must take, and her opinion of religion as the course humans must obviate.

Rand was an outspoken proponent of humankind; in her philosophy and in her fiction, she portrayed humans as survivors, idealists, and heroes. The Randian hero is cooperative and aids others not simply because he or she learned to through socialization but because these characteristics are incorporated into a personal value system, a matter of personal integrity. Rand explains in The Virtue of Selfishness: For instance, if one’s friend is starving, it is not a sacrifice, but an act of integrity to give him money for food rather than buy some insignificant gadget for oneself, because his welfare is important in the scale of one’s personal values. If the gadget means more than the friend’s suffering, one had no business pretending to be his friend. Rand continues by arguing that survival, as well, is a matter of personal values: “If one values human life, one cannot value its destroyers.” Humanism, in the Randian society, would not only be taught but would be integrated into the very value system of the individual.

Rand considered herself a student of Aristotle—the only philosopher she credited for her formulation of objectivism- owing the very name of her philosophy to his quest for objective reality. Humans are gifted with reason, which enables them to understand their external world and, at the same time, their own consciousnesses. Rand saw reason as humankind’s only true knowledge and, therefore, as something which must be cultivated. According to Rand in The Virtue of Selfishness: For man, the basic means of survival is reason …. A process of thought is not automatic nor instinctive nor involuntary-nor infallible. Man has to initiate it, to sustain it and to bear responsibility for its results.

Religion, and the belief in some higher being to whom humans are obligated, is the antithesis of objectivism; it is in direct opposition to humankind’s ability to reason through critical analysis. Religion teaches people to place the direction of their lives in the hands of an unseen other, to follow ancient dogma without question, and to belittle themselves in the process. “Death is the ultimate goal and standard of value,” Rand writes of religion.

“Resignation, self-denial, and every other form of suffering, including self-destruction, are the virtues it advocates.” Religious people, forsaking themselves, live for the day when they will be reunited with their God in death; the Randian person lives the life he or she has. Humanism and objectivism seem bound by the same thread: humankind and its survival, progress, and fulfillment on this Earth. Ayn Rand may not have been a humanist per se, but the scope of her philosophy is undeniably humanistic.

Ayn Rand said in Atlas Shrugged, “My philosophy, in essence, is the concept of man as a heroic being, with his own happiness as the moral purpose of his life, with productive achievement as his noblest activity, and reason as his only absolute.”

Rand’s philosophy continues to spark controversy, especially among those who argue that some “social goods” cannot be achieved by individuals and that unacceptable economic inequalities result from unregulated trade. Though not all capitalists would call themselves Objectivists, many cite Rand as a formative influence, including economist Walter Williams (b. 1936) and politician Ron Paul (b. 1935).

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St. Louis Points of Interest: “There’s More than Meets the Arch”

St. Louis Points of Interest:

Here are just some of the hundreds of ways you can explore St. Louis, home of a thousand one-of-a-kind restaurants, an unrivaled music scene and cultural attractions known the world over:

  1. Ride 630 feet high to the top of the Gateway Arch. The Gateway Arch sits along the west bank of the Mississippi River. It is one of the most iconic monuments in the United States and takes its name from the city’s role as the “Gateway to the West” in the westward enlargement of the United States in the 19th century.
  2. The Gateway Arch of Saint Louis Follow the footsteps of explorers Lewis & Clark for the 200th anniversary of the Louisiana Purchase. The Louisiana Purchase is an 1803 agreement by which the United States bought from France that part of France’s North American empire roughly defined by the Missouri and Mississippi River watersheds. The deal doubled the size of the nation, creating what Thomas Jefferson termed an “empire for liberty.” Between 1804 and 1806, Captain Meriwether Lewis and Lieutenant William Clark explored the Louisiana Purchase and the Pacific Northwest. The expedition was a key chapter in the history of American exploration.
  3. Explore Forest Park—refurbished for the 100th anniversary of the 1904 World’s Fair. From May through December of 1904, St. Louis, Missouri presented the biggest World’s Fair ever conceived, with thousands of buildings and concessions stretched throughout a meticulously designed and methodically organized park landscape.
  4. Drive Old Route 66. The Mother Road makes some of its most fascinating stops in St. Louis.
  5. See some of St. Louis’ world-class free attractions, including the Art Museum, Zoo, Science Center and History Museum.
  6. Marvel at one of the world’s top gardens—the Missouri Botanical Garden. Also called Shaw’s Garden, this botanical garden is most notable for its Climatron, a geodesic-dome greenhouse in which 1,200 species of plants are grown under computer-controlled conditions simulating a rainforest.
  7. Free your inner child at the Magic House, City Museum and other kid-friendly attractions.
  8. Visit an ancient Indian civilization at Cahokia Mounds. Cahokia Mounds is an archaeological site occupying some 5 square miles (13 square km) on the Mississippi River floodplain opposite St. Louis, Missouri, near Cahokia and Collinsville, southwestern Illinois.
  9. Cheer for the St. Louis Cardinals, one of the most successful teams in baseball history or take a seat for exciting Rams football and Blues hockey games.
  10. Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis Count the mosaics at the beautiful Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis. The Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis, a majestic, beloved landmark, will awe visitors who think they’ve seen all the great cathedrals. Its domed ceilings display the largest single assembly of mosaics in the world.
  11. The Blues were born here. Take a seat in one of the live music dubs to find out how good feelin bad can be.
  12. Hit the road at Gateway International Raceway, the Museum of Transportation and other automotive attractions.
  13. Visit the heart of St. Louis—our friendly and historic neighborhoods.
  14. Take a Gateway Art Tour by exploring the Saint Louis Art Museum, Laumeier Sculpture Park, the Contemporary Art Museum and the Pulitzer Foundation for the Arts.
  15. Discover the past at the historic Old Courthouse, the Black World History Museum and Faust Historic Village.
  16. Saint Louis Riverboat Casinos lirt with Lady Luck on one of the region’s five glittering riverboat casinos.
  17. Tour the home of the world’s largest brewer at the Anheuser-Busch Brewery. The brewary is a great place to hang out while waiting for a tour of the historic brewery to start or a place to spend a lazy summer afternoon. Throughout the year, guests will also find a full menu ranging from soups and salads, to burgers and sandwiches, to desserts and seasonal specials.
  18. Dine in some of St. Louis’ thousand one-of-a-kind restaurants.
  19. Fill an extra suitcase during a shopping trip through St. Louis’ major malls and antique and collectibles stores.
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Posted in Travels and Journeys

Dharma: Does the Universe Have an Inherent Order?

Indian sculpture of the footprints of Buddha with soles of the feet are two Dharmachakras

Dharma is a central Hindu socioreligious precept that may be defined as order, the moral order, or duty, as well as both religious and customary law. Dharma literally means “what holds together” and thus is the basic Hindu concept for all order, whether individual, social, or cosmic, as established by the Veda. The Hindu concept derived from the Vedas of social obligation or duty and that is the basis of all Hindu social laws and ethics.

The concept of dharma dates back to the Vedas, the oldest scriptures of Hinduism, produced in India between c. 1500 and c. 500 BCE. It is expounded later Hindu texts, such as the epic work Ramayana (500-100 BCE) and the 700-verse Bhagavad Gita (c. 100CE), and is present in other Asian traditions such as Buddhism, Jainism, and Sikhism.

Dharma comes from the Sanskrit word for “uphold” or “support.” In Hinduism, dharma refers to the inherent order of things, both in terms of natural laws and social/ethical norms. Karma is a causal force that connects all things in the universe. As a result of this force, everything that a person does affects not only his own future, but also the futures of others.

As stated the word dharma is rendered in the new inscription by eusebeia. Scholars of Hellenistic Greece assure us that this Greek word in Hellenistic contexts refers not only to the veneration of gods, but also to a “generally reverential attitude toward the orders of life,” and that it is used “also for conduct toward relatives, between husband and wife, and even for the conduct of slaves toward their master.”

All human beings have a responsibility to maintain the natural order, which is manifested in the caste system of Hindu society. A person’s actions lead to karma, which determines their gunas (traits) and varna (caste), which in turn dictate the moral obligations that individual has to other people (dharma). For example, in the Bhagavad Gita, Arjuna’s dharma as a kshatriya (warrior) obligates him to fight in a war even though he does not want to.

In Buddhism, dharma refers to not only the natural or moral order, but also to the teachings of the Buddha. Dharma determines a person’s duties at various stages of life (ashrama):

  • in youth, a student’s obligation is to learn;
  • in middle age, a householder is expected to promote the good of society;
  • in advanced age, the forest dweller and renunciant are expected to focus on spiritual cultivation.

The domain of what is moral was never as clearly emphasized in Hinduism as it was in Buddhism. On the one hand, the realm of dharma stretches out well beyond what is moral; on the other hand, dharma, in most of its contents, is not common to all humankind.

Dharma is one of the central metaphysical justifications for the caste system in India. The symbolic representation of dharma, the Dharmachakra or “dharma wheel,” appears in the center of the flag of India, representing the idea that truth and virtue should be the guiding principles of the nation.

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Karma: What Goes Around Comes Around Meaning and Every Action Has Consequences

Karma: Every action has consequences

The idea of karma illustrates that every action has consequences that go beyond a mere human lifetime.

Karma is a law of causality that first appeared in the Upanishads, the sacred texts that expound the Vedas, the oldest scriptures of Hinduism, produced in India between c. 1500 and c. 500 BCE. Karma is also a key concept in Buddhism and Jainism.

Mahatma Gandhi once said, “It is God’s inviolable law that karma never fails to produce its effect.”

The term karma means “action” in Sanskrit, and refers to the idea that every action has a specific set of causes and effects. Ethically, karma is a metaphysical record of a person’s moral worth. When someone commits an evil act, they acquire karma; when someone does good, they acquire merit, which cancels out karma. Karma is linked to samsara (the cycle of reincarnation) because when people die, their karma determines the type of rebirth they will have in the next life.

In Hinduism, this is closely tied to the varna (caste) system: a virtuous life eradicates karma and guarantees rebirth in a higher caste that is more capable of attaining moksha, a state of unity between a person’s atman (true self) and Brahman (ultimate reality).

The Meaning of Karma

'The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying' by Sogyal Rinpoche (ISBN 0062508342) Max Weber wrote in The Religion of India (1916) that “Karma doctrine transformed the world into a strictly rational, ethically-determined cosmos; it represents the most consistent theodicy ever produced by history.” Schools of established Indian philosophy have established more or less sophisticated paradigms of the psychological processes that typify the relations between karma, rebirth, and spiritual fulfillment. Tibetan Dzogchen Lama Sogyal Rinpoche wrote in ‘The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying’,

In simple terms, what does karma mean? It means that whatever we do, with our body, speech, or mind, will have a corresponding result. Each action, even the smallest, is pregnant with its consequences. It is said by masters that even a little poison can cause death, and even a tiny seed can become a huge tree. And as Buddha said: “Do not overlook negative actions merely because they are small; however small a spark may be, it can burn down a haystack as big as a mountain.” Similarly he said: “Do not overlook tiny good actions, thinking they are of no benefit; even tiny drops of water in the end will fill a huge vessel.” Karma does not decay like external things, or ever become inoperative. It cannot be destroyed “by time, fire, or water.” Its power will never disappear, until it is ripened.

In Buddhism, life is characterized by suffering; the goal of spiritual cultivation is to eradicate karma and attain nirvana, a state in which all karma is nullified and a person can exit the cycle of rebirth. In Jainism, expunging all karma leads to moksha, a blissful state of liberation from samsara. In Hinduism and Buddhism, people receive karma only for intentional acts, whereas in Jainism, even unintentional acts can generate karma.

Karma in Hindu and Buddhist philosophy

Understanding Karma

Karma is a principal doctrine to Indian theology and has a similar meaning in both Hindu and Buddhist philosophy. It represents the proposal of universal justice, the conviction that in the end, good will be rewarded and wrong doing penalized. Karma is an objective force functioning to meet out outcomes of actions. The concept of karma is in contradiction of the understandings of the Western Abrahamic beliefs (Judaism, Christianity and Islam) where a personal God adjudicates individual souls at the end of time and dispenses rewards or castigations in proportion to one’s actions in life. Karma is involuntary and not a judgment of one’s conduct but merely a outcome occurring by way of action. 'What the Buddha Taught' by Walpola Rahula (ISBN 0802130313) The Sri Lankan Buddhist monk Walpola Rahula wrote in ‘What the Buddha Taught’

The theory of karma should not be confused with so-called “moral justice” or “reward and punishment.” The idea of moral justice, or reward and punishment, arises out of the conception of a supreme being, a God, who sits in judgment, who is a law giver and who decides what is right and wrong. The term “justice” is ambiguous and dangerous, and in its name more harm then good is done to humanity. The theory of karma is the theory of cause and effect, of action and reaction; it is a natural law, which has nothing to do with the idea of justice or reward and punishment.

Every volitional action produces its effects and results. If a good action produces good effects and a bad action bad effects, it is not justice, or reward, or punishment meted out by anybody or any power sitting in judgment on your action, but this is in virtue of its own nature, its own law. This is not difficult to understand. But what is difficult is that, according to the karma theory, the effects of a volitional action may continue to manifest themselves even in a life after death.’

Karma is Complex

'Karma: What It Is, What It Isn't, Why It Matters' by Traleg Kyabgon (ISBN 1590308883) Karma is frequently spoken of as the law of return, that whatsoever you spread toward others in behavior will return in due course. Contrasting the Western monotheism which postulates only one life for each person, in Eastern beliefs the individual has an entire series of lifespans in which to progress their spiritual and ethical development. The wheel of existence in both Hindu and Buddhist thought is a series of births, lives, and deaths over infinite eons. The individual soul or karmic core gets passed along through consecutive incarnations until spiritual development leads to final union with the divine ground of Being. In Hinduism this is viewed as Brahman, and in Buddhism, this is simply termed enlightenment, or the fully awakened state.

Karma has become a popular term in New Age spirituality; all actions can be good or bad karma, contingent on their ethical characteristics. The Lama Traleg Kyabgon Rinpoche wrote in ‘Karma: What It Is, What It Isn’t, Why It Matters’,

The Buddha, radically interpreted the individual as a compound of many different elements, physical and mental – a psychophysical complex. Therefore our feelings, thoughts, emotions, memories, dispositions; our perceptual capability, our cognitive capacities, and our physical conditions – all are constantly interacting and impacting each other.

And agents themselves are also continually interacting with other agents. Logically, then, we need not compelled to identify ourselves with a single thing, a core element to our psyche, as it is really a matter of being in a state of flux. In this sense, karma could be said to operate as streams of networking karmic processes, where all kinds of living, breathing individuals are involved. The really important principle to grasp about this approach is to look closely at things, for things in their nature are complex. Acknowledging this will bring us great reward in fact. Doing the opposite, looking at things in a very simple way, keeps us trapped in ignorance.

Due to the prevalence of Hinduism and Buddhism throughout Asia, karma has become a central moral paradigm. The doctrine of karma has influenced the spiritual beliefs of numerous traditions, including Sikhism, Falun Gong, and Theosophy.

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John Stuart Mill on Limitations to Individual Freedom

John Stuart Mill, English political philosopher and economist

The English political philosopher and economist John Stuart Mill stated that individual freedoms should only be limited to prevent harm to others. Mill wrote, “Over one’s mind and over one’s body the individual is sovereign.”

Philosopher and statesman John Stuart Mill (1806-73) published On Liberty in 1859 as part of his theory of utilitarianism. While Mill’s later Utilitarianism (1861-63) states that the right thing to do is what promotes the greatest good for the greatest number of people, On Liberty delineates the appropriate limitations of a government in enforcing this principle. Mill argues that politics is necessarily a struggle between liberty (maximizing personal freedom) and authority (maximizing safety). Too much emphasis upon the former produces anarchy, while too much of the latter results in tyranny. The balance between these two extremes is struck by following the harm principle: liberty to pursue one’s own happiness is a fundamental good for all human beings and can only be infringed upon if the exercise of one’s liberty harms other persons.

'On Liberty' by John Stuart Mill (ISBN 0486421309) A state is not justified in making paternalistic laws that restrict citizens’ freedoms for their own good. For example, while the state can ban drink driving because it harms others, it should not outlaw alcohol simply because the drug might harm its user. If the state is to err, it should do so on the side of liberty rather than authority. Mill argues that three types of liberty should always be protected by a just state:

  1. freedom of consciousness, including beliefs and speech
  2. freedom of tastes and pursuits
  3. the freedom to unite for any noninjurious purpose.

On Liberty is one of the most important treatises in the history of political philosophy. The harm principle is a cornerstone of liberal democracy and continues to be used by both lawmakers and political theorists.

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