Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Civilisation faces ‘perfect storm of ecological and social problems’

Celebrated scientists and development thinkers warn that civilisation is faced with a perfect storm of ecological and social problems driven by overpopulation, overconsumption and environmentally malign technologies.

In the face of an “absolutely unprecedented emergency”, say the 18 past winners of the Blue Planet prize – the unofficial Nobel for the environment – society has “no choice but to take dramatic action to avert a collapse of civilisation. Either we will change our ways and build an entirely new kind of global society, or they will be changed for us”.

The stark assessment of the current global outlook by the group, who include Sir Bob Watson, the government’s chief scientific adviser on environmental issues, US climate scientist James Hansen, Prof José Goldemberg, Brazil’s secretary of environment during the Rio Earth summit in 1992, and Stanford University Prof Paul Ehrlich, is published today on the 40th anniversary of the foundation of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP). The paper, which was commissioned by UNEP, will feed into the Rio +20 earth summit conference in June.

 “The current system is broken,” said Watson. “It is driving humanity to a future that is 3-5C warmer than our species has ever known, and is eliminating the ecology that we depend on for our health, wealth and senses of self.”

"Many of the earth´s habitats, animals, plants, insects and even micro-organisms that we know to be rare may not be known at all by future generations. We have the capability and the responsibility to act; we must do so before it is too late." The Dalai Lama

The paper urges governments to:

• Tackle overconsumption in the rich world, and address population pressure by empowering women, improving education and making contraception accessible to all.

• Conserve and value biodiversity and ecosystem services, and create markets for them that can form the basis of green economies.

• Replace GDP as a measure of wealth with metrics for natural, built, human and social capital – and how they intersect.

• Eliminate subsidies in sectors such as energy, transport and agriculture that create environmental and social costs, which currently go unpaid.

• Transform decision-making processes to empower marginalised groups, and integrate economic, social and environmental policies instead of having them compete.

• Invest in knowledge through research and training.

Sunday, 26 February 2012

More on the Anti-Buddhist Vandalism in the Maldives

Further to our recent post "Maldives President Resigns - Buddhist Image Vandalised" this from TheBhutanese.......

Last December, the Maldivian government ordered the city counsel of Addu to dismantle the monument presented as a gift from Bhutan by the prime minister, Lyonchen Jigmi Y Thinley. The monument, unveiled by the prime minister there last November, was a wooden carving on which the mythical four friends (Thuen Pa Puen Zhi) were carved. The four friends were especially chosen since it reflected the cooperative spirit of the regional organisation.

Asked about the removal of the monument, including destruction of monuments from Pakistan and Sri Lanka, the director general for the Department of SAARC and Regional Organisation (DSRO,) Sonam Tshong, said, the vandalisation of the monuments was not directed against any of the SAARC member states.

“But for some reasons (we) had become a victim of the current domestic political unrest in the Maldives, he said.

The monuments were dismantled following a series of protests by certain quarters of the Maldivian society, claiming it were ‘idolatrous’ and was against Islam. The monument gifted by Pakistan was removed while the Sri Lankan monument (statue of a lion) was decapitated and that gifted by Nepal was stolen.

However, the Bhutanese monument was not vandalised and the local city officials have removed the monument for safekeeping. But reportedly, the monuments would not be reinstated soon if ever. The Sri Lankan high commission to Maldives asked the Maldivian government to return their monument if the latter is unable to take care of it.

The monument depicts the Buddhist parable of the Four Friends which tells that four animals were trying to find out who could be considered as being the oldest. The elephant said that the tree was already fully grown when he was young, the monkey that the tree was small when he was young, the hare that he saw the tree as a sapling when he was young and the bird claimed that he had carried the seed from which the tree grew. So the bird was recognised by the other animals as the oldest, and the four animals lived together in harmony, helping each other to enjoy the fruits of the tree.

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

NEW MOON - Tuesday 21st February 2012

All chains of confinement fall away
from those who see clearly
and know well the states
of concentration and insight.

Dhammapada v. 384

A visitor to the monastery asked the meditation master, Venerable Ajahn Chah, how we can practice concentration meditation (samadhi) when in reality there is no self. The teacher explained that when we are developing concentration we work with a self. When we are developing insight (vipassana) we work with non-self. Then when we truly know what’s what, we are beyond both self and non-self.

With Metta, Bhikkhu Munindo

To study the Way is to study the self. To study the self is to forget the self. To forget the self is to be enlightened by all things of the universe. To be enlightened by all things of the universe is to cast off the body and mind of the self as well as those of others. Even the traces of enlightenment are wiped out, and life with traceless enlightenment goes on forever and ever.

Eihei Dōgen

Saturday, 18 February 2012

Olympic Truce Walk

The Olympic Truce is an ancient tradition of nations observing ceasefires for the duration of the Games so that competitors can travel safely to and from the event.

After lobbying government, one member of the House of Lords is trying to raise the profile of the truce which has been signed by all 193 member states of the U.N.

To show his support for this Olympic ideal, Lord Michael Bates of Langbaurgh, is walking from Olympia in Greece to London – a journey of over 3,000 miles. Through his Walk for Truce initiative, Lord Bates hopes to encourage others to do something to show their commitment to the London 2012 Olympic Truce resolution. Watch the following video to find out more...........

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Animation Against Factory Farming

A stop-motion short slamming factory farming practices aired at the Grammys on Saturday.

The short film follows the story of one farmer as he industrialises his land to help support his growing family. As time goes on, he realizes the ugliness and unsustainability of factory farming, and converts his farm back to focusing on free-range livestock. It also features a cover version by Willie Nelson of Coldplay’s “The Scientist”.

Compassion in World Farming was founded over 40 years ago in 1967 by a British farmer who became horrified by the development of modern, intensive factory farming.

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Secularism under attack

The High Court ruled on Friday the saying of prayers as a formal part of a council meeting was unlawful, following a case brought by the National Secular Society and an atheist town councillor from Bideford, Devon.

On Friday, Mr Justice Ouseley said: "The saying of prayers as part of the formal meeting of a council is not lawful under section 111 of the Local Government Act 1972 and there is no statutory power permitting the practice to continue."

The ruling went on to state prayers could be said in a council chamber before a formal meeting as long as councillors were not required to attend.

But church leaders said it amounted to a victory for an “aggressive secularist agenda” intent on banishing religion from public life.

Eric Pickles, the Communities Secretary, has lawyers preparing to issue emergency legal guidance to councils, effectively urging them to ignore the ruling.

MPs and peers will not be prevented from praying at the start of parliamentary proceedings, Downing Street has confirmed. A source at Number 10 said the prime minister "thinks that the prayer sessions are very important and that we should keep them".

Cllr Imran Khan a Tory member of Reigate and Banstead Borough Council in Surrey, said: “Religion has no place in politics. This High Court judgment is a victory for everyone who believes that democracy and religious freedom is the cornerstone of western free society.”

In a speech to be given during a visit to the Vatican, Baroness Warsi, chairman of the Conservative Party, will once again criticise 'militant secularisation' as 'intolerant' and 'illiberal' and call for Christianity and 'Christian values' to be reaffirmed in Europe (she's a Muslim although she has been pelted with eggs for not being Islamic enough).

Here on the Island prayers are traditionally said before every full council meeting. Prayers appear on Isle of Wight Council full meeting agendas but before the numbered items of business.

Council leader Cllr David Pugh said: "It remains our view that our prayers precede full council meetings and are not part of the formal agenda.

"We will, however, be reviewing our procedure with a view to ensuring prayers can continue to take place before the formal meeting commences."


Saturday, 11 February 2012

Prominent Burmese Monk Arrested

This from the New York Times.......

A prominent Burmese monk who was freed last month as part of a mass release of political prisoners was briefly detained again on Friday in Yangon, Myanmar’s main city, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, a group that tracks the plight of dissidents and democracy advocates in the country.

The monk, Ashin Gambira, was one of the organizers of the 2007 uprising against the military government that ruled Myanmar at the time. His arrest on Friday, after four weeks of freedom, appeared to demonstrate the limits of tolerance under Myanmar’s new civilian government.

The government of President Thein Sein, which took office less than a year ago, has rescinded a number of the authoritarian practices that for decades had made Myanmar one of the most repressive countries in Asia. It has been rewarded with increasing international reconciliation. Last month, a few hours after the prisoner release, the United States moved to restore full diplomatic relations.

Before Mr. Gambira was released on Friday, the State Department called on the government “to provide clarification on the purpose of his detention.”

“Given the Burmese government’s stated commitment to reform and democratization, we call on Burmese authorities to protect the fundamental freedoms of all its citizens, including all of those recently released from detention,” said Victoria Nuland, a State Department spokeswoman, referring to Myanmar, per American policy, by its former name.

Many observers have been predicting some sort of backlash against the reforms by hard-liners in the government or factions of the military.

Mr. Gambira in recent weeks has remained critical of the government, telling an interviewer that Myanmar still had the “characteristics of a dictatorship.” He also sought to reopen a Yangon monastery that served as a center of opposition during the 2007 uprising.

Details of Mr. Gambira’s detention were slow to emerge Friday. The American Embassy in Myanmar said he was arrested early Friday at the monastery. The timing was reminiscent of the tactics used against dissidents by the former junta.

The Associated Press quoted a Home Ministry official in Myanmar as saying that Mr. Gambira had been taken in for “questioning in relation to an incident” and was released that evening.

Mr. Thein Sein, a former general, has quickly carried out reforms in recent months that have won the praise of, among others, the United States and the European Union, which were among Myanmar’s main critics during its long years of military rule. But amid the hurried efforts to write new laws, end some censorship of the media, release hundreds of political prisoners and woo foreign investors, there have been signs of fissures in the reform process.

Bo Kyi, one of the founders of the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, which is based along the Thai-Myanmar border, counts at least 415 political prisoners still in detention.

Friday, 10 February 2012

Maldives - Latest Attack on Buddhist Culture

Maldives police say a mob stormed the Maldives national museum and smashed Buddhist statues, an act of vandalism which former president Mohamed Nasheed blamed on Islamic radicals.

“A mob entered the museum yesterday (Tuesday). They smashed many statues. This included some statues of Buddha,” police spokesman Ahmed Shiyam told AFP.

In an interview with AFP on Wednesday, Nasheed said a mob including Islamist hardliners had attacked the museum because they believed some of the statues inside were “idolatrous.”

Islam is the official religion of the Maldives and open practice of any other religion is forbidden and liable to prosecution.

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Maldives President Resigns - Buddhist Image Vandalised

The news just in is that Maldives President Mohamed Nasheed has resigned after weeks of demonstrations and a mutiny by some police officers. This follows on from the story from the end of last year that the Maldives government had ordered hundreds of luxury resorts to close their spas after a protest led by opposition parties demanding a halt to "anti-Islamic" activities.

An angry protest last month followed a call by UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay for the Maldives to end floggings of women being punished for adultery.

Sunni Islam is the official religion in the Maldives and practising any other faith is forbidden.

Debates on religious issues have emerged since a group vandalised a monument with Buddhist imagery which had been gifted to mark a summit of The South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC). Buddhism was part of the present Islamic republic's history.

Bhutan took a Buddhist story to the scenic island of Feydhoojetty, Adhoo, in the Maldives.

The story of four animal friends was an account Lord Buddha told his disciples. The four animals – an elephant, a monkey, a rabbit and a bird – once had a dispute over the ownership to a tree.

The biggest of them all, the elephant claimed it was his as he saw it first. The monkey claimed he had always been feeding on the fruits of the tree. The rabbit claimed he had been feeding on the leaves of the tree since it was a sapling. The bird then claimed that it had once eaten a fruit and spat out the seed which grew into the tree. The dispute was settled. The other three accepted the bird as their oldest brother and the four decided to share the tree in peaceful harmony.

This story of selfless friendship is depicted with the bird on top of the rabbit riding the monkey as it sits on the back of the elephant. This portrait is called the Thuenpa Puen Zhi or the “four harmonious brothers.”

FULL MOON - Tuesday 7th February 2012

Anyone who lives freed
from habits of clinging,
to past, present or future,
attaching to nothing,
is a great being.

‘Attaching to nothing’ isn’t about not having anything. It is about
the way we have things. If we drive a car with the steering wheel held
too tightly we become tired and don't drive so safely. If the wheel is
held too loosely we likewise run the risk of an accident. This verse
is telling us the past, the present and the future can be held in a
way that doesn’t lead to suffering. And it is with this clear
understanding that we practice letting go - not simply from an ideal
that we shouldn't cling.

Dhammapada v. 421

With Metta,

Bhikkhu Munindo

Sunday, 5 February 2012

An Introduction to Mindfulness

An Introduction to Mindfulness

A One Day Course On Buddhist Meditation
And Other Mindful Practices

Saturday 18th February
10am till 4 pm

The Unitarian Hall,
The High Street, Newport
£15 - including light lunch

Call Angie on (01983) 404740 or email
for more information and to book your place.

Friday, 3 February 2012

Note - Buddhist Meditation by Martine Batchelor

I've just put a video of Martine Batchelor teaching meditation practice onto our Video - Meditation section. There are three clips to be viewed consecutively (typical YouTube!), the nice bit is that the breaks coincide with Martine having a short tea break!

If you don't use the link above, the talks can be found immediately below the series on the The Divine Abodes by Tara Brach.