Tuesday, July 29, 2014

What is Buddhist meditation?

Amber Larson, Crystal Quintero (eds.), Wisdom Quarterly; Ven. Dhammika (BuddhaNet.net)
"It doesn't matter who you used to be. What matters is who you become."
Question:What is meditation?
Answer:Meditation is a conscious effort to change how the mind works. The Pali word for "meditation" is bhavana, which means "to make grow" or "to develop." [Literally, it means "to bring into being, to make become."]

Question:Is meditation important?
Answer:Yes, it is. No matter how much we may wish to be good, if we cannot change the desires that make us act the way we do, change will be difficult. For example, a person may realize that s/he is impatient with a spouse and may promise, "From now on I am not going to be so impatient." But an hour later one may be shouting again simply because, not being aware of oneself, impatience has arisen without one knowing it. Meditation helps to develop the awareness and the energy needed to transform ingrained mental habit patterns.
Question:I have heard that meditation can be dangerous. Is this true?
Answer:To live, we need salt. But if we were to eat a kilogram of salt it would kill us. To live in the modern world we may need a car, but if we do not follow the traffic rules or if we drive while we are a little intoxicated, a car becomes a dangerous maiming machine. Meditation is like this, it is essential for our mental health and well-being, but if we practice in a foolish way, it amy cause problems. Some people have problems like depression, irrational fears (phobias), or schizophrenia, and they think meditation is an instant cure for all problems. So they start meditating, yet sometimes their problems get worse. If we have such problems, we may want to seek professional help or therapy and after we are better then take up meditation. Other people over reach; they take up meditation and instead of going gradually, step by step -- making the gradual progress the Buddha advised -- they meditate with too much energy, effort, and exertion for too long, and by going out of balance they are soon exhausted and discouraged.
  • [Siddhartha the severe ascetic failed until he relaxed effort to a point of balance utilizing the blissful meditative absorptions as the basis for temporary purification and the basis for cultivating insight or vipassana; trying to practice insight without a solid foundation of concentration is almost certain to fail and leave us disappointed and discouraged. Siddhartha succeeded, he later explained, with the paradoxical statement that he neither pushed forward nor stood still, that is, neither overexerted himself into a fruitless frenzy nor sank from lack of effort. The answer is balanced-effort, persistence, strong-soft (sthirasukha) cultivation.]
As Siddhartha eventually realized, Too much exertion is as bad as not enough exertion.
But perhaps most problems in meditation are caused by ''kangaroo meditation." [Most are actually caused by Monkey Mind, but the venerable is making another good point.] Some people go to one teacher and do that meditation technique for a while, then they read something in a book and decide to try this technique, then a week later a famous meditation teacher visits town so they decide to incorporate some of those ideas into their practice, and before long they are hopelessly confused.[Hopping around like a marsupial when it gets tough is no way to "meditate." Pick a technique, learn it well, practice it for long enough to see if it works.]

Jumping like a kangaroo from one teacher to another or from one meditation technique to another is a mistake. But if we do not have any severe mental problem and we take up meditation and practice sensibly, it is one of the best things we can do for ourselves.
Eventually the heart/mind purifies and one peacefully sees things as they really are -- including sensing many kinds of unseen beings who live alongside us and often impact humans mostly to our detriment.
Question:How many types of meditation are there?
Answer:The Buddha taught many different types of meditation, each designed to overcome a particular problem [he detected in the person he was instructing] or to develop a particular psychological state [hidden strength in the person]. But the two most common and useful types of meditation are "Mindfulness of Breathing" (anapana sati) and "Loving-Kindness Meditation" (metta). [The two broad classes of meditation are the cultivation of concentration and calm and the development of insight and wisdom, known as samatha and vipassana.]
Question:If I wanted to practice Mindfulness of Breathing, how would I do it?
Answer:Follows these easy steps known as the Four P's: place, posture, practice, and problems. 
  1. First, find a suitable place, perhaps a room that is not too noisy and where you are not likely to be disturbed.
  2. Second, sit in a comfortable posture. A good posture is to sit with your legs folded, a pillow under your buttocks, your back straight, the hands nestled in the lap and the eyes closed. Alternatively, you can sit in a chair as long as you keep your back straight. 
  3. Next comes the actual practice itself. As you sit quietly with your eyes closed you focus your attention on the in and out movement of the breath [just under the nostrils]. This can be done by counting the breaths or [alternatively being mindful of the grosser] rise and fall of the abdomen. 
  4. When this is done certain problems and difficulties will arise. You might experience irritating itches on the body or discomfort in the knees. If this happens, keep the body relaxed without moving. Keep focusing on the breath. You will probably have many intruding thoughts coming to mind and distracting your attention from the breath. The only way to deal with this normal occurrence is to patiently keep returning your attention to the breath. If you keep doing this, eventually thoughts will weaken, your concentration will become stronger, and you will have moments of deep mental calm and inner peace. [Remembering the breath, and bringing it back to mind, is said by some to be the definition of "mindfulness," known in Pali as sati and in Sanskrit as smirti.]
Question:How long should I meditate for?
Answer:It is good to do meditation for 15 minutes every day for a week and then extend the time by 5 minutes each week until you are meditating for 45 minutes. After a few weeks of regular daily meditation, you will start to notice that your concentration gets better, there are fewer distracting thoughts, and you have moments of real peace and stillness.
Question:What about Loving Kindness Meditation? How is that practiced?
Answer:Once you are familiar with Mindfulness of Breathing and are practicing it regularly, you can start practicing Loving Kindness Meditation. It should be done two or three times each week after you have done Mindfulness of Breathing.
  1. First, turn your attention to yourself and say to yourself words like, "May I be well and happy. May I be peaceful and calm. May I be protected. May my mind/heart be free of hatred. May my heart be filled with loving friendliness. May I be well and happy." 
  2. Then one by one you think of a loved and respected living person of the same sex (like a teacher), a neutral person, that is, someone you do not know and neither like nor dislike, and finally a disliked person, wishing each of them well as you do so.
Question:What is the benefit of doing this type of meditation?
Answer:If you do Loving Kindness Meditation regularly and with the right attitude, you will find very positive changes taking place within yourself. You will find that you are able to be more accepting and forgiving towards yourself. You will find that the feelings you have towards your loved ones will increase. You will find yourself making friends with people you used to be indifferent and uncaring towards, and you will find the ill-will or resentment you have towards some people will lessen and eventually be dissolved. Sometimes if you know of someone who is sick, unhappy, or encountering difficulties you can include them in your meditation, and very often you will find their situation improving. [These and the benefits the Buddha mentioned are more likely to result from practicing metta meditation to the point of absorption or jhana, a deep calm and concentration that brings about the benefits. It is not positive or wishful thinking, but an awakening of the heart/mind's latent powers to make our reality.]
Question:How is that possible?
Answer:The mind, when properly developed, is a very powerful instrument. If we can learn to focus our mental energy and project it towards others, it can have an effect upon them. You may have had an experience like this. Perhaps you are in a crowded room and you get this feeling that someone is watching you. You turn around and, sure enough, someone is staring. What has happened is that you have picked up that other person's mental energy. Loving Kindness Meditation is like this. We project positive mental energy towards others and it gradually transforms them.

Question:Do I need a teacher to teach me meditation?
Answer:A teacher is not absolutely necessary, but personal guidance from someone who is familiar with meditation is certainly helpful. Unfortunately, some monastics and laypeople set themselves up as meditation teachers and gurus when they simply do not know what they are doing. Search and pick a teacher who has a good reputation, a balanced personality, and who adheres closely to the Buddha's teachings. More

Israel's atrocities continue and worsen (video)

Eds., Wisdom Quarterly; Amy Goodman, Juan Gonzalez, Sharif Abdel Kouddous and Mohammed Omer (live from Gaza), Aaron Mate, Nermeen Shaikh (DemocracyNow.org, 7-29-14), KPFA
The "State of Israel" has two goals, exterminate Palestinians and win PR war in the U.S.
Amy Goodman with Denis Moynihan 
Host Amy Goodman
One of the greatest challenges in understanding the real situation in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories is getting reliable information. This latest assault on Gaza reaffirms the key role played by the U.S. media in maintaining the information blockade. [Our U.S. F-14 fighter planes are used by Israel in its/our bombing of Palestinian civilians manned by Israeli pilots trained by the U.S. military-industrial complex]. It also highlights the increasing importance of pressure applied by social networks.

25 x 6 mile prison, 1.8 million prisoners
With a reporter in Gaza right now (Sharif Abdel Kouddous, who took this picture of a Palestinian baby harmed by Israel now in the hospital)... Despite [another phony] U.N. Security Council call for a ceasefire, Israel has intensified its attack on Gaza and warned the world of a "protracted campaign," more war crimes against civilians justified by saying it is only trying to kill Hamas members.

Palestinian officials say they have killed more than 110 people in the past 24 hours, with some saying Monday was the most intensive night of bombing the civilian city of Gaza so far. During this time, Israel attacked more than 150 sites including Gaza’s only power station and a media center that houses the broadcasting headquarters of Hamas and a number of other Arab satellite news channels. News of what is really going on under Israeli military oppression will not be allowed to get out unless Israel controls the broadcast, the access, the PR, the message, and the spin.
Gaza A-J America (Mohammed Salem/Reuters)

Earlier on Monday, ten people were killed, eight of which were children, and 40 others wounded by a bomb in a park near the beach in the Shati refugee camp in Gaza City. The child victims were said to be playing on a playground swing when they were hit by Israel.

Israel, to add confusion to the chaos, denies carrying out the attack -- even though eyewitnesses said the explosion was caused by an Israeli airstrike.

Another Israeli bombing reportedly hit an outpatient building of Gaza’s main hospital, al-Shifa. Meanwhile, ten Israeli soldiers were said to have been killed on Monday. Fifty-three Israeli soldiers, two Israeli civilians, and a Thai Buddhist migrant farmworker have died since Israel's assault began.

Democracy Now! goes to Gaza City to speak with correspondent Sharif Abdel Kouddous. "[Israel has] shelled hospitals, U.N. schools; they’ve bombed people in their homes," Kouddous reports. "There’s literally nowhere for these people to run to." [All borders are blocked to Palestinians by Israel, who wants 1.8 million civilians hemmed in and killed by airstrikes, gunboats, ground invaders, and spies.] "Nowhere to Go": Gaza suffers one of deadliest...
We (U.S.) support war crimes. Israeli media control makes sure of it. See A-J U.S.

Palestinian journalist Mohammed Omer: Lifting Israel's blockade isn’t a Hamas demand — it’s a human right:

Today is Eid, the feast and culmination of Ramadan, the holiest month on the Islamic calendar. But there is no opportunity to observe or celebrate it. The number of Palestinians murdered by Israel has topped 1,100 after one of the deadliest 24-hour periods since Israel began an assault on a section of Palestine/Israel called "Gaza" 22 days ago.

Most of the murdered have been civilians. More than 1 out of 10 (180,000) Palestinians have been displaced over the past three weeks. This is roughly 10 percent of the population of the Gaza Strip, an open air prison that is one of the most crowded, densely populated pieces of land in the world.

Democracy Now! is joined from Gaza City by award-winning Palestinian journalist Mohammed Omer. "I believe Israel wants to make people turn against the resistance," Omer reports. "There is no way for people to turn against the resistance -- in fact it is the other way around. People in the street say we do support resistance because that is the only way to end the occupation

"...I’m afraid we are going to have more radical generations in the Gaza Strip, and I fear for the future of Gaza and the future of the West Bank [the two remaining parts of Israel where all indigenous Palestinians have been corralled into areas like concentration camps, refugee camps, and metropolitan prisons where Israel controls everything that goes in and comes out in addition to raining down death on civilians any time it wishes] -- and I fear the future of the region if the international community is not acting now to end the blockade and the operation in Gaza." Palestinian journalist Mohammed Omer: lifting Israel's blockade...
Full "Democracy Now!" show for July 29, 2014 (democracynow.org)

Decrying "brutal operation taking place in our name," Israeli military reservists refuse to serve As Israel pledges to continue the assault on Gaza for "as long as is required," we are joined by two Israelis who have refused to serve in their country’s military reserves. On Tuesday... (July 24, 2014) 

Pressuring Israel, Presbyterian Church divests from firms tied to Israel's occupation of Palestinian land In what is being hailed as a major milestone for the global campaign to boycott and divest from Israel over its treatment of Palestinians, the Presbyterian Church (USA) voted to divest from three... (June 23, 2014) 

A war on campus? Northeastern University suspends Students for Justice in Palestine chapter The Northeastern University chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine has become the latest student group to face reprimand for organizing around the Palestinian cause. Northeastern has suspended... (March 13, 2014) 

Investigative journalist Glenn Greenwald: Edward Snowden "satisfied" by worldwide outrage over secret U.S. spying operations In this Web-only interview, Guardian columnist Glenn Greenwald reveals that he talked to NSA leaker Edward Snowden on Saturday. "He is doing very well in terms of his mindset, his demeanor," Greenwald... (July 08, 2013 blog post) 

Lawmakers threaten funding of Brooklyn College for hosting event on BDS campaign against Israel New York politicians are threatening to cut funding to Brooklyn College if the school hosts a forum Thursday night about the Palestinian-led BDS campaign to boycott, divest from, and sanction Israel. (February 06, 2013)

Where is the OCCUPY movement today?

Pat Macpherson, Pfc. Sandoval, Ashley Wells, Seth Auberon, Wisdom Quarterly
Climate Change/Chaos is real, and British doctors are divesting to save Gaia (occupy.com)
Let's make our democracy real (occupy.com)
What ever happened to the Occupy Movement? It's alive and well (occupy.com) trying to organize for the common good.

Some say the new .com appearance of the movement is tapped by the NSA to better know whom to keep an eye on.
So it's better to be anonymous rather than trying to be a Facebook-activist being tagged and followed by one's iPhone and other electronic eavesdropping equipment.

Can we all at least agree on backing Israel? (AP)
Little to nothing is said about Israel, but as for the many other arms of the military-industrial complex -- excluding the massive weapons sales of the U.S., Israel, and other UN Security Council members and the wars they arm, fund, salvage, and indebt through the IMF and World Bank and the Fed (a collection of 18 major banking institutions and many hundreds of other banks -- there are many actions.

With stores near military bases across the country, the retailer USA Discounters offers easy credit to service members. But when those loans go bad, the company uses the local courts near its Virginia headquarters to file suits by the thousands.
Despite the 828-page Dodd-Frank Act, the derivatives pyramid has continued to explode to a value now estimated to be as high as $2 quadrillion.
HSBC, Deutsche Bank and the Bank of Nova Scotia have been accused of attempting to rig the daily global price of silver in the latest price fixing scandal to rock the banking industry.
- See more at: http://www.occupy.com/article/british-doctors-vote-divest-fossil-fuels#sthash.5Rw8yViE.dpuf
Chris Hedges and Lawrence Lessig on getting money out of politics: 3 parts (occupy.com)
"The IMF was here" - leaving debt and slums in their wake by design (occupy.com).
Despite the 828-page Dodd-Frank Act, the derivatives pyramid has continued to explode to a value now estimated to be as high as $2 quadrillion. More
HSBC, Deutsche Bank and the Bank of Nova Scotia have been accused of attempting to rig the daily global price of silver in the latest price fixing scandal to rock the banking industry. More

With stores near military bases across the country, the retailer USA Discounters offers easy credit to service members. But when those loans go bad, the company uses the local courts near its Virginia headquarters to file suits by the thousands. More
Welcome to the global Occupy community (commons.occupy.com)

How does Israel PR control media? (video)

Ashley Wells, Sheldon S., Dhr. Seven, CC Liu, Wisdom Quarterly; documentary directors and (mediaed.org, IMDB.com)
Why is the U.S. public unaware of the war crimes our government (military-industrial complex) and Israel are committing even though it's in the news all day long? Careful public relations, also known as well crafted propaganda. Jahlly and Ratzkoff explain in Peace, Propaganda & the Promised Land.

This video shows how the foreign policy interests of American political elites -- working in combination with Israeli public relations strategies -- influence U.S. news reporting about the Middle East conflict.

Combining American and British TV news clips with observations of analysts, journalists, and political activists, "Peace, Propaganda & the Promised Land" provides a brief historical overview, a striking media comparison, and an examination of factors that have distorted U.S. media coverage and, in turn, [controlled] American public opinion.
What will it take to get the U.S. public's attention about our and Israel's crimes? Topless FEMEN protesters conduct a "Slut Walk" in Tel Aviv, May 10, 2014 calling attention to religious sexism, patriarchy, militarism, and crimes against humanity.
Peace, Propaganda & the Promised Land:
U.S. Media on Israel-Palestine
Peace, Propaganda & the Promised Land provides a striking comparison of U.S. and international media coverage.
It focuses on the "crisis" [actually Israel's genocide, ethnic cleansing, and crimes against humanity] in the Middle East, zeroing in on distortions in U.S. coverage reinforce false perceptions of the Israeli-Palestinian problem.
I did what you said. - You'll get over it.
This pivotal documentary exposes how the foreign policy interests of American political elites -- big oil, a need to have an American military base in the region, and others -- work in combination with Israeli public relations (PR) strategies to exercise a powerful influence over how news from Israel is reported.

Through the voices of scholars, media critics, peace activists, religious figures, and Middle East experts, Peace, Propaganda & the Promised Land carefully analyzes and explains how -- through the use of language, framing and context -- the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza remains hidden in the news media, and Israeli colonization of the occupied territories appears to be a defensive move rather than an offensive one.

Jewish-Israeli occupiers demand Muslim-Arab blood: All the U.S. gets in its mainstream media are slanted, spun, pro-Israeli images, explanations, and crafted talking points (newser.com)
The documentary also explores the ways that U.S. journalists, for reasons ranging from intimidation to a lack of thorough investigation, have become complicit in carrying out Israel's PR campaign. At its core, the documentary raises questions about the ethics and role of journalism, and the relationship between media and politics.

Interviewees include Seth Ackerman, Mjr. Stav Adivi, Rabbi Arik Ascherman, Hanan Ashrawi, Noam Chomsky, Robert Fisk, Neve Gordon, Toufic Haddad, Sam Husseini, Hussein Ibish, Robert Jensen, Rabbi Michael Lerner, Karen Pfeifer, Alisa Solomon, and Gila Svirsky. More

Arresting and imprisoning children 10 and older: Why is this Palestinian kid dressed in "concentration camp" garb being manhandled by a heavily armed adult Israeli militant?

World media offers glimpses of Israel's crimes

Sheldon S., Ashley Wells, CC Liu, Wisdom Quarterly; Al Jazeera America (July 29, 2014)
"Only stones remain": civilian Gaza Strip in ruins after Israeli attack
Thumbnail image for In Gaza, a funeral for the two-state solution?
Analysis: Israel’s Prime Minister [and chief CIA-sponsored war criminal] Benjamin Netanyahu has claimed its war is proof Israel can’t accept an independent Palestinian state.
This year there was no EID in Gaza (Palestine, which Israel has invaded and claimed for its state and has now set out to kill 1.8 million inhabitants trapped by Israeli and Israeli-controlled Egyptian borders), but there was aparthEID.
PLO says factions offer 24-hour Gaza truce
Civilian murders in the "Gaza Strip" section of Israel may amount to war crimes, U.N. human rights chief says
At least 100 Palestinians were murdered overnight by Israeli bombardment that targeted and shut down territory’s only power plant.

A senior Palestinian Liberation Organization official said Tuesday [July 29] that all Palestinian factions have offered a 24-hour cease-fire in Gaza, but minutes later Hamas appeared to reject the plan. The possible development came after a night of heavy Israeli shelling that shut down the [world's largest open air, concentration camp]’s only power plant.
Yasser Abed Rabbo, a PLO executive committee member, said that all Palestinian factions had agreed on the offer and that a unified delegation had been sent to Cairo to talk about the next steps.
"The factions, including Hamas and [Islamic] Jihad, are prepared for a 24-hour truce, and Israel will be held the responsible if it doesn't accept the truce as well," he said. "There is a proposal from the U.N. to extend the truce to 72 hours. And we look favorably upon that."

Obama’s insensitive iftar comments irk American Muslims
But Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri denied that the group agreed to the truce, with the Palestinian news agency Maan quoting him as saying that "Yasser Abed Rabbu's statement that Hamas agreed to a cease-fire for 24 hours is not true and has nothing to do with the resistance's stand."

"We will consider a cease-fire when Israel commits to it with international guarantees," Abu Zuhri added. Hamas has said its conditions for a truce include Israel's ending its siege of Gaza and the release of long-serving political prisoners that was agreed to in a 2012 cease-fire but not carried out completely.
Israel has said it will not comment until Hamas officially presents the offer.

Word of the possible cease-fire came after Israel's military continued to pound the Gaza Strip overnight, killing at least 100 people in assaults launched from air, land and sea after midnight, according to Palestinian officials.
Five families were almost entirely wiped out in Khan Younis and Rafah, according to reports by Israeli news website Haaretz. For many Gaza residents, it was the heaviest night of bombing since the military offensive against the territory began three weeks ago.
Gaza's only power plant was shut down overnight because of a large fire caused by Israeli shelling, Palestinian officials said. More

Thumbnail image for Family urges US to lobby Israel over plight of beaten American teen
I'm an American teenager beaten by Israeli police caught on video in Palestine.