26 April 2008

The crimson revolution’s true colours

The recent crisis in Tibet focused attention on whether there would be yet another ‘colour revolution’ - this time on the roof of the world, leading to a substantial portion of China breaking away.

China has reasons to be concerned. The actors involved in Tibet are essentially the same as those who were involved in toppling legitimate governments elsewhere in the Eurasian heartland.
After doing a comparison, William Engdahl, author of A Century Of War: Anglo-American Oil Politics And The New World Order, has concluded that the Tibetan uprising is but another colour revolution - this time ‘crimson’.

‘As in the other Colour Revolutions, the United States government is fanning the flames of destabilisation against China by funding opposition protest organisations inside and outside Tibet through its arm, the National Endowment for Democracy (NED),’ Engdahl said.
He also cited Freedom House, a non-governmental organisation (NGO), and Trace Foundation, which is funded by financier George Soros through his daughter Andrea Soros Colombel.

The NED was set up by the Reagan administration in the early 1980s on the recommendation of, among others, then-CIA director Bill Casey. It was designed as an independent NGO, one step removed from the US government. Yet its first acting president Allen Weinstein admitted to the Washington Post that ‘a lot of what we do today was done covertly 25 years ago by the CIA’.

The NED has been instrumental in the staging of every ‘colour revolution’ - from Serbia to Georgia, from the Ukraine to Myanmar, says Engdahl.

In the case of Tibet, the NED has supported five major Tibetan exile groups: the Gu-Chu-Sum (ex-political prisoners’ association) Movement of Tibet; the International Campaign for Tibet; the Tibetan Women’s Association; the Longsho Youth Movement of Tibet; and the Voice of Tibet.

These groups tried to organise a protest march by Tibetans in India back to their homeland, and had a hand in organising the recent riots in Tibet.

The NED’s funding comes almost entirely from the US government. A 2007 report by the Congressional Research Service says US foreign operations appropriations for the People’s Republic of China grew from US$10 million (S$13.5 million) in 2002 to US$23 million in 2006. Most of this money went to democracy-related programmes and for the support of Tibetan communities.

About 40 per cent of US government funding for human rights and democracy-related programmes in China was allocated through the NED. Funds for Tibetan exiled communities also came from the State Department’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labour, the US Agency for International Development and the New York-based Tibet Fund.

Advice and training for the exiled Tibetans were provided, among others, by the Albert Einstein Institution (AEI), which is funded by Soros foundations and the US government.

AEI founder Gene Sharp once said his institute specialised in ‘non-violence as a form of warfare’. AEI’s former president Robert Helvey, a retired US Army colonel and former Defence Intelligence Agency official, is on record as stating that he got involved in ‘strategic non-violence’ after observing the failure of military approaches to toppling dictators. He found this other approach - non-violence - more appealing.

According to a source with access to the Tibetan movement, prior to the March 10 demonstrations in Lhasa, 40 grassroots activists representing 25 Tibetan communities in India were given advanced training on grassroots activism and capacity-building by the five leading Tibetan NGOs, with training manuals provided by the AEI. Held from Feb 15 to 17, the course familiarised participants with the concept of non-violence as warfare.

The AEI has translated its two main ‘colour revolution’ manuals into Tibetan, one with a foreword by the Dalai Lama. Activists from Serbia and Ukraine have said that AEI’s training and manuals were instrumental in the formation of their strategies.

American NGOs were not alone in stoking the fire. German ones, funded by the Berlin government, have played an increasingly significant role recently.

The Friedrich Naumann Foundation (FNF), a think tank linked to the German Free Democratic Party, has been actively involved in the Tibetan independence movement. According to German-Foreign-Policy.com, a website founded by a group of German journalists and social scientists, the FNF ‘gave the impetus to the current anti-Chinese Tibet campaign that violently forced the interruption of the Olympic torch relay in Paris’.

Last May, the FNF helped organise the Fifth International Tibet Support Groups Conference in Brussels. According to a Tibetan Government in Exile statement, the event led to a ‘road map’ for the Tibet movement for the coming years. It was decided then to make the 2008 Olympics the focus of their activities.

The road map called for global protests, a march of exiles from India to Tibet and rallies within Tibet. The Olympics were seen as a chance for Tibetans to come out and protest ‘like one mighty force’ - or else Tibet would ‘slip out of the world map’.

Mr Rolf Berndt, from the FNF’s executive council, has said the Games were ‘an excellent opportunity to publicly promote the cause of the Tibet Movement’.

Early this January, the five exile organisations issued a statement saying ‘the 2008 Olympics will mark the culmination of almost 50 years of Tibetan resistance in exile. We will use this historic moment to reinvigorate the Tibetan freedom movement and bring our exile struggle for freedom back to Tibet. We will bring about another uprising that will shake China’s control in Tibet and mark the beginning of the end of China’s occupation’.

Clearly, the immediate cause of the recent bloodshed in Tibet should be attributed to this road map, not the suppression of peaceful demonstrations by the Chinese government, as claimed by most of the Western media.

22 April 2008

Guan Yu: Revered by Taoists, Buddhists and Confucianists

Guan Yu has been deified as early as the Sui Dynasty and is still popularly worshipped today among the Chinese people variedly as an indigenous Chinese deity, a bodhisattva in Buddhism and a guardian deity in Taoism. He is also held in high esteem in Confucianism. These are not necessarily contradictory or even distinguished in these Chinese religious systems, which merge multiple ancient philosophies and religions.

In the Western world, Guan Yu is sometimes called the Taoist God of War, probably because he is one of the most well-known military generals in Chinese history. This is misconceived as, unlike Mars or Tyr, Guan Yu as a god does not necessarily bless those who go to battle but rather people who observe the code of brotherhood and righteousness.

Guan Yu is revered as Saintly Emperor Guan (simplified Chinese: 关圣帝君; traditional Chinese: 關聖帝君; pinyin: Gūanshèngdìjūn) and a leading subduer of demons in Taoism. Taoist worship of Guan Yu began during the Song Dynasty. Legend has it that during the second decade of the 12th century, the saltwater lake in the present day Xiezhou County (解州鎮) gradually ceased to yield salt. Emperor Huizong then summoned Celestial Master Zhang Jixian (張繼先), thirtieth descendant of Celestial Master Zhang Daoling, to investigate the cause. The emperor was told that the disruption was the work of Chi You, a deity of war. The Master then recruited the help of Guan Yu, who did battle with Chi You over the lake and triumphed, whereupon the lake resumed salt production. Emperor Huizong then bestowed upon Guan Yu the title of Immortal of Chongning (崇寧真君), formally introducing the latter as a deity into Taoism.

In early Ming Dynasty, the forty-second Celestial Master Zhang Zhengchang (張正常) recorded the incident in his book Lineage of the Han Celestial Masters (漢天師世家), the first Taoist classic to affirm the legend. Today Taoism practices are predominant in Guan Yu worship. Many temples dedicated to Guan Yu, including the Emperor Guan Temple in Xiezhou County, show heavy Taoist influence. Every year, on the twenty fourth day of the sixth month on the lunar calendar (legendary birthday of Guan Yu, Emperor Guan was actually born on the twenty second day of the sixth month of the year 160), a street parade in the honor of Emperor Guan would also be held.

In Chinese Buddhism, Guan Yu is revered by most practicing Buddhists as Sangharama Bodhisattva (simplified Chinese: 伽蓝菩萨; traditional Chinese: 伽藍菩薩,; pinyin: Qíelán Púsà) a protector of the Buddhist dharma. Sangharama in Sanskrit means 'community garden' (sangha, community + arama, garden) and thus 'monastery'. The sangharama refer to a group of devas and spirits who guard Buddhist monasteries, the dharma, and the faith itself. Over time, Guan Yu was seen as a representative sangharama guardian of the temple and the garden in which it stands. His statue is usually located on the far left of the main shrine, opposite his counterpart, Skanda.

According to Buddhist legends, in 592, Guan Yu manifested himself one night before Ch'an Master Zhiyi, the founder of the Tientai school of Buddhism, along with a retinue of spiritual beings. Zhiyi was then in deep meditation on Yuquan Hill (玉泉山) when he was distracted by Guan Yu's presence. Guan Yu then requested the master to teach him about the dharma. After receiving Buddhist teachings from the master, Guan Yu took refuge in the triple gems and also requested the Five Precepts. Henceforth, it is said that Guan Yu made a vow to become a guardian of temples and the Dharma. Legends also claim that Guan Yu assisted Zhiyi in the construction of the Yuquan Temple (玉泉寺), which still stands today.

In the historical novel Romance of the Three Kingdoms, Luo Guanzhong wrote that Guan Yu manifested himself to a monk named Pujing (普淨) on Yuquan Hill on the night of his death, with his spirit shouting "Return my head!" From Pujing, Guan Yu sought the Buddhist teachings and entered the faith after being told by Pujing "Where will Yan Liang, Wen Chou, and the guardians of the five passes whom you have slain should seek their heads?" While this being a modification of the true account, Pujing did exist in history. The location at which Pujing built a grass hut for himself was where the Yuquan Temple was later built on.

18 April 2008

Chan Temole: Home of the Praying Dog

It’s been said that all dogs go to heaven. Man’s best friend gives unconditional love and asks nothing in return; accepting the occasional pat on the head, an infrequently tossed treat, and timely access to the back yard at potty time as his reward.

Even the mean ones aren’t evil, they’re merely responding to being mistreated so they make it to heaven too.

In Japan a Buddhist priest, Joei Yoshikuni has a pet black and white, one and a half year-old Chihuahua named Conan. Conan follows his master around and sits with him while he’s praying at the altar of Shuri Kannondo temple in Naha, the capitol city of the southern Okinawa prefecture.

With no urging, Conan has learned how to imitate his master saying his prayers; sitting on his haunches with his paws together in front of his face as if he’s praying too. Who knows for sure whether Conan is actually saying doggie prayers or just trying to please his master?

It’s been said that politicians are as crooked as a dog’s hind leg which is why Joei Yoshikuni can’t teach him to meditate. Conan would never be able to cross his legs in the Lotus Position.

Of course Conan doesn’t need to be able to meditate to get to heaven, he already has a free pass; but it’s nice to see he’s hedging his bet with a little prayer time.

The world would be in better shape if more humans were to lead a dog’s life and imitate Conan.

16 April 2008

Nanyue Temple on Chidi Peak

Nanyue Temple is situated on the northern tip of Nanyue Township and at the southern foot of Chidi Peak. In a layout of nine rows, It is the largest and best-preserved ancient palatial architectural complex of south China. Magnificent and splendid with resplendent upturned eaves. Inside the east in parallel to eight Buddhist palaces on the west, It is indeed a wonder in the history of religion that Taoism, Buddhism and Confucian culture can co-exist within a single temple.

The exact time of the construction of Nanyue Temple is unknown. It existed as early as in the Qin and Han Dynasties. Originally Located on the summit of Zhurong Peak, The temple was later moved to the mountain foot to facilitate the religious activities. The beginning of the Tang Dynasty witnessed the formal construction of the Heavenly Lord Huo's Temple the "Heavenly Master Temple". So as to enshrine and worship the Gods of the five sacred mountains, During the Song Dynasty the immortal of the Hengshan Mountain was revered as the "Heavenly Master Zhaosheng",as a result the temple was gradually expanded and enlarged. Since the Tang Dynasty Nanyue Temple had beed subject to six fires and 16 reconstructions all through the Song. Yuan, Ming and Qing Dynasties. In the 8th year of Emperor Guangxu"s reign in the Qing Dynasty (1882 A.D), the Imperial Court ordered the rebuilding of Nanyue Temple. Which had been ruined by lightning, The project was imitative. Copying the styles of the Imperial Palace. And even to the present day it is still well preserved.

Fenced with red-brick walls. Nanyue Temple occupies an area of some 70.000 square metres. From north to south lies in sequence nine rows and four courtyards-Lingxing Gate. Kuixing Tower. Chuan Gate. Pavilion of Imperial Study, Main Hall, Dwelling Palace and the Northern Rear Exit. The whole architecture complex stretches across on axis extending from south to north with its halls linked up together. The winding corridors and wing-rooms on both sides merge with each other. Accentuating the magnificence of the stature of the principal part. On the east side of the main temple there are eight Taoist palaces. Coordinating with eight Buddhist palaces on the west side.

The first row is Lingxing Gate. Two gilded Chinese characters "Mountain Temple" are shining on the white marble at the top of the gate. The marble gate stands as high as 20 metres with a width of 1.1 metres and is meant to imply that during the past dynasties all the religious activities were officiated by real knowledgeable people. The second row is Kuixing Tower. The most perfectly preserved ancient stage in Human Province.with a breadth of 35metres and a length of 12. Its façade facing the main palace, the stage is the place where people hold religious activities and perform local operas during pilgrimage. Before the tower stands a pair of 2-metre tall stone Kylin (Chinese unicorn). With their furious eyes widely open. They are like two solemn looking sentinels guarding the tower. The pebble path under the Kuixing Tower leads to the third row-Main Chuan Gate. East and West Gates. The gateway is made of gray bricks with an awesome depth and height of 15 metres. The courtyard within is filled with dense cypress trees and carpeted with green grass. The fourth row is the Pavilion of Imperial Study. Distinguished by its gilded tiles. Octagonal double-eaved roofs and exquisitely-crafted arches. Inside the pavilion there is a Bixi in the shape of a legendary animal like tortoise. Legend has it that Bixi is the ninth son of the dragon. The Bixi carries an imperial stele on which the full text of On Rebuilding Nanyue Temple was carved in the 47th year of Kangxi's reignm(1780 A.D.) in the Qing dynasty.

The fifth row is Jiaying Gate. Named after the line from The Annals of Han-Books of Rites and Joys: "This row is the place where local magistrates and monks welcomed ritual officials dispatched from the capital. After the Jiaying Gate the sixth row comes into view-Tower of Imperial Study. Which is the storehouse of the collection of imperial calligraphies .messages and inscribed boards concerning the past emperors" ritual presentations to the mountain. Sweeet osmanthus ahead of the tower submerges the building with its refreshing scent when it blossoms every autumn.

The seventh row is the Main Palace. Surrounded by towering old trees. Camphor trees planted in the Song Dynasty and cypress in the Ming Dynasty compete with each other in setting off the beauty of the upturned double-roofs and the splendour of the palace. Adding tremendous awe to the Main Palac. As it stands 29.11 metres, its grandeur rivals that of the Palace of supreme Harmony in the Forbidden City in Beijing. Inside the palace there are 72 stone pillars, standing for the 72 peaks on the Hengshan Mountain. The two huge pillars upholding the main roofs were cut out of a whole granite. Each weighing 14 tons.

Encircled by the balustrades are 144 relief sculptures carved out of white marbles. Based on Shanhai Jing . Pillars on the forefront overlap. Carved on them are 56 historical and legendary tiles . On the square door were carved the Images. On the square door were carved the Images of the 24 filial Sons and the Images of the 18 Scholars. Here tourists can get a rough idea of the age-old Chinese Confucian and Taoist cultures. Clay statues-Heavenly King Zhaosheng and General Jin and Wu line up in the palace with their impressively dignified look, calling forth in tourists a feeling of profound respect.

The eighth row is the dwelling Palacewith double roofs and in perfect harmony with the whole mountain. This structure keeps up the architectural style of the Song Dynasty and is decorated with coloured drawings and patterns which are popular among palaces in the North. giving a sense of gorgeousness to this palace. The ninth row is the Northern Rear Exit. The end of the axial architecture, with Zhusheng Palace to the right and Chief God Palace to the left, At the back of the exit. A path leads farther into the mountain.

Nanyue Temple occupies a prominent position in the history of ancient Chinese architecture. It carries the grandeur characterized by palaces in the North. And at the same time it smacks of the loveliness featured by gardens in the South. The architectural arrangement of the temple is clearly demarcated and gently modulated. Strongly indicating the ingenuity and originality of the craftsmen. Its ground and upper layouts are like an eternal musical movement with its own overture, main body and coda. Demonstrating the excellence of ancient Chinese architecture.

Nanyue Temple carries a profound cultural connotation. It boasts a large number of clay statues. Wood engravings and stone carvings, which are all closely linked up with Chinese tradition and culture. Over 800 dragons of various sizes, which are the symbol of the Chinese nation, can be found everywhere in the temple. The carvings on the roof wood and white marble balustrades are an encyclopedia of ancient history and mythology. There are fairy tales- "Pan Gu Creating the Universe." "Hou Yi Shooting the Suns", "Jing Wei Filling up the Ocean"?-; real stories about some historical figures- "Su Wu Shepherding Sheep." "sleeping on sticks and Tasting the Gallbladder." "Da Mo Crossing the Sea"?- ; legends extolling filial piety- "Melting the Ice with Body Warmth to Catch Carps." "Weeping on the Bamboo until it Turns into shoots"?- Most of the carvings are the legends about the earliest ancestors of Taoist immortals. As early as in the Qing and Ming Dynasties, clay status, wood engraving and stone carving were reputed as "the Three Wonders to the South of the Yangtze River."

All through the dynasties Nanyue Temple has been a thriving place to hold religious activities both for the feudal imperial courts and the ordinary people. Every year the temple greets nearly 1,000,000 pilgrims. The offerings, presentation, titles and other customs are almost the same as they were thousands years ago. There are "bowing pilgrimage" in which the pilgrims bow with each step or with every three steps , and "hunger pilgrimage" in which the pilgrims bow with each step or with every three steps. "And hunger pilgrimage" in which the pilgrims refrain from food during their trip. More often. Pilgrims would set off in throngs. They wear gray clothes with a red cloth attached to their chest reading "Hengshan Mountain Pilgrimage." Holding buring incenses in hand. Those pious pilgrims chant pilgriming theme" to pray for the peace of the nation and the wealth of people, making it a really spectacular scene on the mountain.

14 April 2008

The Holy Mountain, Doi Suthep

The classic Chiang Mai experience is a morning hike on this 5,498-foot peak that overlooks the city. Many residents consider Doi Suthep a holy mountain, and hike it as often as they can. Head to the base of Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep, a Buddhist temple that, according to legend, dates from the 14th century, and is topped by a glittering gold chedi. On a clear day, the temple’s terraces afford views across northern Thailand. You’ll see Thailand old and new: monks in sandals begging for rice and young couples smooching in the corner (a taboo among older, more conservative Thais). If you’re up to it, climb the 300-step Naga staircase to the top, but rebuilt cable cars are a less strenuous option.

13 April 2008

Eminent monks, masters condemn violence, pray for Olympics

Dignitary monks and young Buddhist masters from the Chinese mainland, Hong Kong and Taiwan on Saturday condemned the March 14 Lhasa riot, stressing disruptive activities fundamentally went against the "mercifulness" essence of Buddhism.

Master Xue Cheng, the Buddhist Association of China vice secretary-general, said at a forum here that Buddhist commandments advocated "kind" and "merciful" and the returning favor offered by the country, society and people.

"The March 14 riot incurred great losses to people and property and seriously damaged the image of Buddhism. The act, aiming to create disturbance and instability and realize the 'Tibet independence', runs counter to the Buddhist commandments and will be reprimanded by Buddhist followers," Xue said.

Master Hai Tao from Taiwan said a real Buddhist follower should love the country, the society and the world; they must dedicate themselves to the protection of the society.

"Damage to peace should not be incurred by Buddhists for whatever reason, especially the act of using violence to spoil peace in order to achieve a special political plot," he said.

"The development of the Chinese mainland was rapid and prosperous. We strongly denounce the disruption of social stability using the Olympics as a pretense."

Master Hong Yuan, also from Taiwan, believed the power of Buddha was a bridge linking Taiwan and the mainland and all flesh. On the Lhasa riot, he said the riot mastermind by the Dalai Lama "breached communication and killed the innocent." He called for all Buddhists to be merciful.

"In order to promote an orthodoxy Buddhism, we must not allow a few monks to engage in such activities as assault, vandalism, looting and arson," added Master Xian Xin from Hong Kong. "We should remind them to return to the teaching of Buddhism and assume due responsibility for the stability and the people in Tibet."

The accomplished monks and masters sent their hearty blessings for the August Beijing Olympic Games, saying they were confident of its success.

12 April 2008

Violence Doesn't Belong to Buddhism

"They are slaughterous in using violence. Are they Buddhists?" asked Master Hai Tao from Taiwan when speaking of the Lhasa riot on March 14.

Hai Tao has been to the areas inhabited by Tibetan populations in regions such as northwestern Qinghai.

"Residents there are kind, honest and simple. But some of them are tainted. The power of Buddha insists we should be humble, merciful, peaceful and tolerant, which, however, is not deeply into their heart," he said.

Hai Tao was currently in Beijing attending the 2008 Buddhist Sermon Forum with dozens of young Buddhist masters from the mainland, Hong Kong and Taiwan.

Master Qing Yuan, the Buddhist Association of China director, has been to Tibet twice and clearly bore in mind the peaceful and quiet place.

"Tibet has changed greatly with the whole nation. That violence occurred in such a place was surprising and shocking," he said.

Master Yin Tsz of Hong Kong said it was suspicious that someone involved in the assaults and vandalism could truly understand the meaning of Buddhism which called for harmony.

"Someone used Buddhism to serve their own purpose after only learning some sermons superficially," she said.

"When I saw on television some monks were involved in assault and arson and the masses were bloody and fleeing, I feel very sad", said Master Hong Yuan from Taiwan.

"What we should do is to earnestly cultivate ourselves according to Buddhist doctrine. If a monk is in pursuit of fame and gain, then he is running counter to the power of Buddha and will never learn the essence."

Masters attending the forum told Xinhua they were excited about the upcoming Olympics, which should be an opportunity to "put up the sword and make peace".

"Many Olympic sports events are originated from human violence over history -- shooting coming from hunting, wrestling from fighting -- but in the Olympic Games, such violence is replaced by the pursuit of 'swifter, higher and stronger'," one master said.

"Disrupting the Games is going against the trend of the times."

11 April 2008

Buddhism and Politics

Paul Harrison, a professor of Buddhist studies at Stanford University, discusses Buddhist teachings and the acceptable role of monks in politics. “Direct involvement in political activity, strictly speaking, is not sanctioned,” he says. Although non-violence is a primary tenet of Buddhism, Harrison says there has been an emergence of militancy among the religion’s followers since the beginning of the twentieth century.

While some believe it is the proper duty of the members of the order to engage in social activity in order to improve the lot of the people, he says, others hold on to the traditional idea of strict abstinence from such activities. One of the major challenges faced by religion going forward, he says, will be the status of the Buddhist order in society. Previously, he says, the religion had great prestige as well as a lot of resources, but that is “no longer to be assumed.”

09 April 2008

Dalai Lama's 1951 telegram to Mao published

China's State Archives Administration on Monday published a telegraph sent by the 14th Dalai Lama to Chairman Mao Zedong in October 1951, in which he expressed his support for the agreement on measures of the peaceful liberation of Tibet.

The telegraph was one of 15 files declassified and published via a video on the administration's website.

Following is the full text of the telegram:
"Chairman Mao of the Central People's Government:

This year the local government of Tibet sent five delegates with full authority headed by Kaloon Ngapoi to Beijing in late April 1951 to conduct peace talks with delegates with full authority appointed by the Central People's Government.

On the basis of friendship, delegates on both sides concluded the Agreement on Measures for the Peaceful Liberation of Tibet on May 23,1951.

The local government of Tibet as well as the Tibetan monks and laymen unanimously support this agreement, and under the leadership of Chairman Mao and the Central People's Government, will actively assist the People's Liberation Army in Tibet to consolidate national defence, drive imperialist influences out of Tibet and safeguard the unification of the territory and the sovereignty of the motherland. I hereby send this cable to inform you of this."

08 April 2008

Buddha Day: on the birth of Buddha: 563 BC

Today is the day that most Buddhists celebrate the birth of the Buddha.

May we rededicate ourselves to following the Dharma and continue to take refuge in the three jewels set forth by Gautama Buddha.

May each breath and step we take be on the 8 fold path so that we might achieve liberation and help others do the same.

Let's ake a moment today to pause and think about how wonderful the Dharma is in our lives and what a precious gift it is to have been born a human and to have found the Dharma. May we not waste a day in maintaining our practice.

07 April 2008

Hashem - Names for "The One"

The first question everyone asks is, "How do you reconcile a religion whose basic tenet is Monotheism with Buddhism which holds that there is no God?" The answer lies in the same shift in understanding of the nature of the Divine that most religions have been wrestling with for the past 75 or more years.

The Dualistic mental picture of an Old Man in the Sky who looks down and intervenes in dramatic ways, is increasingly being supplanted with a broader, richer understanding of That Which is In and Through All Things or a non-Dualistic Creator.

Our understanding of the Unknowable is, by definition, limited. Words are symbols of symbols that fail to capture the True Nature of the Divine.

Eli Jaxon-Bear relates a story that explains the concept of non-Dualism. Near the beach, the waves run back and forth, rolling and crashing, coming together, pulling back, regrouping and rushing towards the beach endlessly. Each wave is aware of its uniqueness: its height, strength and speed.

One day, a small seeker wave sees a large, old wave coming towards shore from far away. The small wave rushes out to greet the old wave and asks, "You have traveled far and seen much. Maybe you can tell me, is there such a thing as an ocean?"

The old wave smiled and replied, "I have heard of the ocean, but I myself have never actually seen it."

Non-Duality is the ocean of Oneness, within which each one of us is known by our "Uniqueness" or "Specialness," like the waves.

In this Haggadah, we have leaned heavily on the non-duality concepts of the Jewish mystics, believing that the Hebrew Atziluth (No Limits/Boundaries) or Ayn Sof (Infinite) is essentially the same as the Buddhist's Shunyata.

In a discussion with Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi, the Dalai Lama said, "Of course, you know Buddhism does not accept a creator, God as an almighty But at the same time, if God means truth or ultimate reality, then there is a point of similarity to shunyata." Shunyata is also called by the Tibetans "dependent arising," the interrelatedness and interdependence of all things and beings. Such interrelatedness implies enormous individual freedom and responsibility.

So, like the blind men trying to describe an elephant, the best we can do is use a variety of words for Hashem. If any make you uncomfortable, substitute another one.
  • Divine
  • Adonai
  • Indwelling Presence
  • Transformative Force
  • Light
  • God
  • That Which Allows Being to Be
  • Source
  • Shadai (Almighty)
  • Hashem (The Name)
  • Beingness
  • Yahweh
  • Eheyeh (I am that I am)
  • Oneness
  • God-Within
  • Divine Consciousness
  • Creative Force of the Universe
  • Shekhina (Creator/Feminine aspect of the Eternal One)
  • Ayn Sof (Without End - There is nothing but God, it all flows from God)

06 April 2008

Tibet Unrest, China Wins

The recent Tibet unrest has been huge in Western media as of late. Western coverage (CNN, Fox, BBC, …) hasn’t merely been biased against China, but downright against China. A lot of lies and misinformation was spread. For instance, the protests were labeled as “peaceful”, when many Tibetans, even monks, were caught on tape with weapons destroying property or beating Police.

When they found this wasn’t working well for them, they then spread the false news that the Chinese Army (PLA) had set the riots up, dressing as monks. A picture was even provided as evidence, but only hours after the report that picture was also found to be fake. The photo was taken during a 1994 movie shooting. Chinese movie companies often use students or the military for low skilled acting as they are much cheaper than professional actors. Also, the PLA uniform was changed long ago, the picture showed them with the old version.

I find it funny that Western media outlets, that often speak poorly of China’s state controlled media are responsible for such a catastrophic level of journalism. Clearly, they are at least as bad as their Chinese “propaganda-spreading” counterparts.

The central government also acted with extreme caution this time, as they knew that separatist camps as well as the Western media was watching closely for any form of aggression. Despite of this, several journalists have stilled called for a 2008 Olympics Boycott, one prominent journalist even compared the 2008 Olympics to the 1936 Nazi Olympics.

On German TV, people saw videos of how Nepalese Police beat monks at the same time as reporting as reporting the Tibet unrest in China. If I was an average German citizen, I sure as hell would hate China after watching the news too. All the false, bad press about China has caused major demonstrations outside the Chinese embassies throughout the entire Western world.

After all this media hype, I decided to do some digging on my own, on the (so-called) root of the problem; the Dälai Läma. He is sponsored by CIA... Information... (including the Dalai Lama and the so-called "Tibet-In-Exile Government" admitting this fact) can even be collected from commercial Western media, such as the New York Times.

Despite all this, China won.

This is the information age, and as Chinese citizens now are better educated and use English more proficiently, they also learn ways to bait the media. First, a Chinese student collected photos of how Western news reports wrongly told this story. Chinese news websites quickly picked the photos up, and not long after, even Chinese old media started reporting on this. When the Chinese mainstream got to know about this, they were furious at all the lies. Even students, who often disagreed with the actions of the central government embracing Western thinking, were now fully supportive of how the government handled the situation.

China unites, and fights back. All over the internet, one could see Chinese citizens posting on English message boards in their best English trying to explain their truth. Not long after, students set up a website, Anti CNN, to show the various “lies” that the Western media used to turn the story against China. If you are interested in learning more about Tibet, or how Chinese people feel about the situation, I strongly urge you to check the website.

Also, it’s funny to note that the Chinese government has noticed that the internet can not only work against them, but in favor of them too. After years of inaccessibility from the Middle Kingdom, the BBC, which was responsible for many of the so called lies, was suddenly unblocked in the midst of chaos so that everyone in China could see how they reported. I was shocked at fist, but now believe it was a very smart move.

Maybe it’s because the Chinese people are starting to tell their versions of what’s happened, that the overall tone online has changed. Ten, or even five years ago, if something like this happened, people all over the world would agree in unison that China was evil. Now, it’s different. More and more Westerners, especially those with higher education, (have woken up and) are not so sure about their position anymore. Some have even started to support China and condemn their own media on this matter.

The times have changed indeed.

03 April 2008

Tomb-Sweeping Day: a golden time for young lovers

The Qingming Festival (aka Tomb-Sweeping Day) is, for the first time, a national holiday this year.

Today's China Daily features a profile of the man who was instrumental in giving us all the day off on Friday. Chen Jing, a professor with Nanjing University,

Two years ago, on a trip to sweep the family tomb located in another city, Chen found himself in a train full of people carrying paper money and chrysanthemums, preparing to visit graves.

But he noticed that most of these were elderly, since young people were still at work that day. Chen immediately took a vote in the carriage and found that almost everyone supported making Qingming a national holiday.

He later found that the elderly thought it necessary to include young family members in the festival's activities, while working people also wanted the chance to honor their ancestors....

"Only when everyone cares about the preservation of our folk culture can our cultural heritage be restored," he said.

Other academics have suggested that the restoration of folk culture needs to reach even further back, to the true origins of the Qingming: a matchmaking festival.

On 30 March, the Shanghai Morning Post ran an article that quoted Zhu Xuqiang, a PhD in the history department at Shanghai Normal University, on the topic of a line from the Rites of Zhou (周礼): "In the second month of spring, men and women can meet, and they are not prohibited from eloping."

Zhu told the reporter that this was not a "breakdown in morals," but rather a widespread folk custom. The custom of encouraging young men and women to get together in the springtime still exists among some minority ethnic groups in the southwest who hold a "3-3 Song Festival" on the 3rd day of the third month, where men and women sing and dance. We all know of the famous "call and response songs" of some ethnic groups, and those are meant to help people find a mate.

...Zhu said that the tomb sweeping custom was added to the Qingming menu rather late, and it was more common in the south; veneration of ancestors took place at the winter solstice in the north. This means that Qingming tomb sweeping may have been a custom unique to a particular region, and only later gradually spread to other places. In the process, there were many changes to the festivals clustered around the 3rd day of the 3rd lunar month, so that now it's hard to believe that Qingming for the ancients was a wonderful day of bathing and private trysts.

That story got less play in the national media than one that appeared two days later in the Chongqing Times. Xiong Du, a professor of ancient verse in Chongqing who was consulted for the report, quoted the same passage as Zhu Xuqiang, although the newspaper cites the Classic of Rites (礼记) instead.

Xiong lauds the perspicacity of the ancients in their outlook on the cycle of birth and death; as they paid their respects to their departed ancestors, they found time to bring single people together so that decendants could one day carry on the family. He concludes: "We could draw from those customs and turn the Qingming Festival into a joyous holiday!"

Yu Lisheng, a freelancer in Jiangsu Province, wrote in to The Beijing News to argue that China doesn't need another Valentine's Day:

As times have changed, honoring ancestors has become equated with the Qingming Festival in the minds of many people. "This reading is too narrow. According to the Classic of Rites, the Qingming Festival should be a great time for encouraging men and women to be romantic!" Noted Chongqing scholar and professor of ancient verse Xiong Du wants to "restore the true face" of Qingming for the city's residents.

China really has a lot of "love festivals"! There's Valentine's Day, carried over from the west, which occurs every 14 Feburary. And on Qi Xi (7th day of the 7th lunar month), which is said to be the day that the cowherd meets the weaver girl, is a traditional Chinese "lover's day." This year, Xiamen University professor Chen Pei'ai said that the Lantern Festival is another Chinese "lover's day." And then we come to Qingming and professor Xiong Du's loud shouts of Love! Ah, Love! What a bother! But times have changed, and we're long past the time when men and women couldn't communicate directly. If love's what they want to talk about, why can't they do it any day of the year?

It's said that Sun Yat-sen once suggested making Qingming into Arbor Day, but that unfortunately never came to pass, for according to botanical principles, it is the time before Qingming that is best for planting trees in our country. Later, to commemorate Dr. Sun, 12 March (his birthday) was chosen as Arbor Day. Prof. Xiong's suggestion will fail, I'm afraid, not on any botanical basis, but because of causes in social psychology. Of course, if individuals decide on their own to make Qingming a day for romance, they are certainly free to do so. But I suggest that the best solution is to dress up as someone from the Warring States period, or at least carry a copy of the Book of Rites. And if you can find a spaceship and travel through time back to the Warring States to find a real ancient person, that would be simply marvelous. Good luck to you!

01 April 2008

Dr. Fate

Doctor Fate (also known by the diminutive, Fate) is the name of a succession of sorcerers.

Dr. Fate's origins begin not long after the formation of the universe. There were born two elemental forces — the Lords of Order and Lords of Chaos. After millennia, circa 3500 BC, one of the Lords of Order, descended to Earth and became Nabu the Wise, an advisor to the pharoahs of ancient Egypt.

Nabu became the keeper of several powerful talismans. In the 26th century BC, he created the Scarab of Kha-ef-re. This was an attempt to overthrow the pharoah called Khafre. (The Scarab was lost for 4,500 years before being rediscovered in the 20th century by archaeologist Dan Garrett.)

Nabu's most powerful talisman, the Amulet of Anubis was created a few centuries later (c. 2025 BC). In the Egyptian city of Bubastis, the mad priest Khalis slayed his followers in the name of the god Anubis, who then granted Khalis the Amulet of Anubis as a reward for his service. This Amulet then became home to the Lords of Order.

During the reign of pharaoh Ramses (c. 1260 BC), Nabu became a royal adviser and court magician. He was humbled in battle with the Spectre, who killed Ramses for his crimes against the Hebrews. Nabu also recovered a portion of anti-gravity metal called "Nth metal". Nabu and his ally, Teth-Adam used a portion of the Nth metal to forge a war gauntlet called the Claw of Horus, which they predicted would be instrumental in a battle thousands of years in the future.

Some time after these events, Nabu realized that his mortal form was weakening. He placed himself in suspended animation in a tomb in the Valley of Ur to await a new mortal host.

Kent Nelson, the young son of American archaeologist Sven Nelson, accompanied his father on an expedition to the Valley of Ur. When his father opened the tomb of the wizard Nabu, a poison gas was released which ultimately resulted in the death of Sven Nelson. Nabu took pity on the orphaned Kent, raised him, taught him the skills of a wizard, and then bestowed upon him a mystical helm and amulet.

By 1940, Nelson returned to the United States and resided in an invisible tower in Salem, Massachusetts. During the early part of this career he met, romanced, and eventually married a red-headed woman named Inza.

In 1942, partially due to Nabu's personality, which resided in the full helmet, taking full control of Nelson's body when he wore the helm, he replaced the Helm of Nabu with a half-helmet that left his lower face exposed. The change, while stripping him of most of his magical power, left Nelson in full control of his actions and still more than a normal human. During this time, Nelson acquired a medical license and became an intern at the Weatherby Free Clinic in Gotham. Shortly thereafter, when someone stole the Helm of Nabu, Nelson lost all access to the Helm as both it and the thief were cast into an alternate dimension. At some point before 1960, he was able to retrieve the Helm as he returned to wearing it and relying on Nabu's presence.

Doctor Fate's activities were less than public. Though he had become increasingly erratic and withdrew from humanity, he was still committed to protecting Earth against supernatural menaces. During this time Nelson also went through a period where, in order to become Doctor Fate, he had to fuse with his wife Inza.

Kent later became the sole wearer of the Helm and joined the re-constituted Justice League. His magics to keep him and his wife young soon failed. This resulted in the pair aging and passing away in a short span of time.

With the passing of Kent Nelson, Nabu began the search for a new host. This search took him to a young man named Eric Strauss (aged to an adult by Nabu's magic) and his stepmother Linda Strauss. Nabu bound them so that they had to merge to become Doctor Fate, but could live apart when Fate was not needed. He then animated the corpse of Kent Nelson to serve them as adviser and instructor. Since the tower Nelson used as a sanctum had apparently been destroyed, the pair operated out of Linda's apartment.

During a battle, Eric was killed, leaving Linda to take over the role of Doctor Fate. Soon, the Lords of Chaos succeeded in assaulting Linda and killing her. The souls of Eric and Linda were placed in the bodies of Wendy and Eugene DiBellia.

Inza and Kent Nelson's souls, which had been inhabiting Doctor Fate's amulet, were resurrected in new young bodies. However, they found that now only Inza was able to become Doctor Fate. She spent her time striving to improve the lot of humanity, but Kent chided her about her "reckless" use of magic.

She strove to use her new powers proactively, unlike Kent, who waited for trouble to manifest before using his powers. Her inexperience initially worked against her, but she grew more competent with experience. Her growing confidence led to increasing recklessness. Kent and Inza eventually separated over her use of the power.

The Nelsons learned that a Lord of Chaos had taken residence in the Helm of Nabu and had been providing Inza with magic derived from Chaos instead of Order. This Lord of Chaos was also the reason that they could no longer merge and become Doctor Fate. Kent eventually returned to his wife's side and helped her defeat this Lord of Chaos. Inza then learned that she derived her new powers from the people of Earth, rather than Chaos or Order.

After defeating the Lord of Chaos, the Nelsons began merging as the male Doctor Fate again. The Nelsons retained the ability to become independent Doctor Fates if the situation called for it. In these cases Kent's form would resemble that of the costume he wore when he used the half-helm.

In their last days as Doctor Fate, the Nelsons were greatly aged and depowered, so returned to Salem and went into retirement.

After the return of the Nelsons, Jared Stevens discovered the raiments of Doctor Fate and altered them into a knife, a set of throwing darts, and an armband. He called himself simply "Fate". His sole encounter with the Nelsons resulted in the death of the couple and the return of their souls to the amulet.

Jared was killed at the hands of Mordru as part of the latter's attempt to claim the mantle and artifacts of Doctor Fate for himself.

Nabu, aware of Mordru's ambitions, had planned ahead to insure that his Helm and the mantle of Doctor Fate would pass to a reincarnated Hector Hall.

Hector's new body was the son of Hank Hall and Dawn Granger, agents of both Chaos and Order. This therefore made Hector an agent of balance instead of an agent of one side or the other.

Later, the Spectre, attempting to expunge evil by extinguishing magic, confronted Hector. This resulted in Hector and his wife's banishment to a snowy mountain landscape, where he would be forced to spend eternity. The two later joined their son in the Dreaming, giving up the mortal world forever.

Unaware of the reasons behind Hector's disappearance, his friends traveled to the Tower of Fate, hoping to use his services. At the Tower they found the raiments of Fate, but not Hector. A mystery man, Sand, used the raiments to prepare a spell and speak to Nabu. However, Mordru returned before the spell was complete and caused it to malfunction.

During the last hours of the Ninth Age of Magic, Nabu called together Earth's remaining magicians to deal with the Spectre and the destruction of the Rock of Eternity. Nabu personally confronted and goaded the Spectre, whose anger grew so great that he fatally wounded Nabu.

This caused the Presence (also referred to as the Voice, the Higher Power or God) to take notice and send the Spectre to his new host. As a result of Nabu's impending death, the Ninth Age of Magic ended and the birth of the Tenth Age began.

Before his death, Nabu gave the Helmet to a fellow magician to pass on to the Doctor Fate of the new Age, telling him that the Helmet will still have certain abilities, even though Nabu would no longer be contained within it. After this magician found that the Helmet would not fit him, he asked the wizard Shazam to throw the helmet randomly into space, allowing the helmet to find its own new owner. After traveling an unknown yet vast distance, the rigors of space warped the helmet to resemble Kent Nelson's alternate, half-face helmet of the 1940s before plummeting back to earth.

The helmet resurfaced a year later, crossing paths with various heroes, and once again resembling the half-helm that Kent Nelson used during the 1940s.

It first returned again to the possession of the magician Nabu had given it to, who found he could now wear the altered helmet. After acting as Doctor Fate for a short time, he decided he did not have the temperament to wear the helmet and sent it on its way.

As it traveled from place to place, the helm was interrupted by the spirit of Sargon the Sorcerer, who diverted it in an effort to protect his grandson, David. David bestowed something of himself into the helmet before returning it to its journey.

Black Alice was the next recipient, who unsuccessfully tried to make the helm obey her. When the helmet started to indiscriminately punish everyone who wronged her, including her loved ones, she realised the helmet would fulfill her desires, but destroy her life in the process. Black Alice then relinquished it.

Next, the helm came into the possession of Ibis the Invincible, and attracted the attention of the dark god Set. Set defeated Ibis, forcing the hero to retreat into hibernation as a mummy to heal. Ibis' last act was to choose his replacement. The new Ibis confronts Set, retrieved the helmet and then sent it on.

The helmet crossed paths with the angel Zauriel, who also passed it along after removing it from a tyrant of another solar system.

Ultimately, the helmet fell to Doctor Kent V. Nelson, grandnephew of the original Kent Nelson, who became the new Doctor Fate.

Doctor Fate possesses a variety of mystical powers. In general, even without wearing the Helmet of Nabu, the host can fly, is highly resistant to injury, has minor telekinesis, and has greater-than-human strength.

In all of his incarnations, Doctor Fate is an accomplished sorcerer, and at his most potent able to match most other wizards in the universe.

In various incarnations, Fate can emit bolts of mystical energy, teleport across the universe, craft solid objects out of energy, and transform objects into other kinds of matter (transmutation). The full limits of his magical skills are unknown, and have varied greatly from one incarnation to the next.

The helmet that Doctor Fate wears is the focus of the Doctor Fate identity. It originally housed Nabu's spirit and allowed him to possess the current host, it later only allowed him to advise the host instead. The helmet is what provides the link to Nabu and by not wearing it, as Kent Nelson did at one time, Doctor Fate loses much of its power and knowledge.

Putting on the helmet usually results in its wearer being clad in the other raiments of Doctor Fate, unless the one with the actual claim to the helmet wants to prevent it. On several occasions, villains seeking the power of Doctor Fate have stolen the helmet, in which case the result has typically been that the thief goes insane when he or she puts the helmet on.

The circular device that adorns the livery collar worn around Doctor Fate's chest and shoulders is the Amulet of Anubis, which gives anyone who wears it vast magical abilities. The amulet has also been shown to house the souls of many who have worn the vestments of Fate. The amulet contained the image of a farmhouse with the souls of Kent and Inza Nelson, Eric and Linda Strauss, Jared Stevens and Kid Eternity inhabiting it. This dimension was used more than once as a refuge or access the advice of previous Doctor Fates. The villain Mordru was imprisoned in this dimension for some time as well.
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