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His Holiness the Fourteenth Dalai Lama

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A wonderful post that summarizes many of the books written by His Holiness. The list is divided into general topics and more specific Buddhist topics, depending on your level of interest. Happy reading. Namaste.

Shambhala Blog

Dalai-LamaUpdated in April 2016 with His Holiness’s latest book, The Heart of Meditation.

For this latest installment of our Great Masters series, we turn to a contemporary master, His Holiness the Fourteenth Dalai Lama, often referred to by Tibetans as Gyalwa Rinpoche or Kundun. As with previous posts, this is not intended to be a complete biography but rather a look at His Holiness’s teachings through the lens of his books, mostly the two dozen published by us, though a few others are included here. For those looking for a biography, His Holiness’s autobiography, Freedom in Exile, is an excellent starting point.

While His Holiness is not formally the head of Tibetan Buddhism (there never was one) nor even of the Gelug tradition (that title belongs to the head of Ganden Monastery, the Ganden Tripa), he is the figurehead and ambassador of Tibetan Buddhism and culture to the…

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Happy 151st Birthday, Edith Wharton

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Today would have been the 151st birthday of my favorite author and the inspiration for the title of this blog, Edith Wharton. I found this list online of reasons why she is “a badass.” While I don’t disagree with them, I think there are other aspects of her life that were left off the list, and I wanted to make one of my own. I could go on and on about Ms. Wharton, but I will be brief. J

 She valued learning and education.

Yes, she grew up in a privileged household that provided her with more opportunities than most girls had. But, that aside, Wharton was an exceptional student and greatly valued learning and expanding her mind. Even as she got older, she was constantly reading and traveling, meeting new people and learning new things. She loved words and ideas and discussing them with others, as do I.

wharton the scholar

She was a strong, independent woman who challenged social standards.

Virtually all of Wharton’s writing addresses inequalities in social strata and the social expectations of men and women. Her stories challenge the status quo at the time she was writing, describing men who choose love over business, women who desire love and sex without marriage and children, and men and women who desire to befriend or bed those outside their social stratum. But Wharton didn’t just write about these dynamics, she lived them, too.

wharton in the snow

She achieved many firsts for women.

She was the first woman to win a Pulitzer prize for The Age of Innocence in 1921. Read it, you won’t regret it. Don’t watch the movie, you will regret it.

the age of innocence

She was also the first woman to be accepted into the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and was the first woman to receive an honorary Doctor of Letters degree from Yale.

She was a woman of many talents.

Not only did Wharton start publishing her work before the age of 18 and go on to have a successful, lifelong career as a writer, but she was also accomplished at:

–        Research and academia; she traveled Italy researching villas

–        Correspondence; she was an eloquent and avid letter-writer and kept in touch with all her friends

–        Design; she designed and decorated her home, The Mount, in Lenox, Massachusetts.

The Mount It includes a drool-worthy library for any bibliophile.

wharon's library

She was altruistic.

Even after they were divorced, she ensured the financial and medical stability of her former husband Teddy, who had basically gone batshit crazy. On a more serious note, she used her extensive finances during WWI to provide medical aid and housing for refugees and jobs for women.

She loved dogs.

The woman was crazy about dogs. She had several throughout the course of her life and loved to cuddle with them.


wharton dogs

Seriously, crazy…

crazy dog lady

“My little dog—a heartbeat at my feet.” ~Edith Wharton

wharton lapdog

It seems Wharton and I have much in common.

me and hobart

In conclusion, Edith Wharton was a visionary. She opened doors in the literary world and the world in general  for women and set many standards. Her passion for learning, writing, equality, friends, altruism, and dogs, among other things, makes her someone I hold in high esteem as a role model. Every time I read or re-read one of her works I am in awe at her talent and ability to write about issues that continue to be relevant today.

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We must be a source of hope to the poor, the sick, the marginalized, the victims of prejudice – not out of mere charity, but because peace in our time requires the constant advance of those principles that our common creed describes: tolerance and opportunity; human dignity and justice.

 

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Sky Club Robin Hood

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I don’t fly often, and when I do it’s via the cheapest way possible. Today I was traveling for work, and one of my colleagues had access to the Sky Club. *Disclaimer* my colleague is not included in the description of Sky Club members that follows. For those of you not in the know, Sky Club is for rich people who don’t want to sit in airport hell with the rest of us while waiting for their flight. While we try to locate a comfortable spot in the crowded terminal, one that doesn’t smell or isn’t too close to a man yelling on his cellphone or a screaming child, Sky Club members get to pass through the doors into magical, temperature controlled, lavender-scented paradise where there are plenty of outlets, free WiFi and comfy chairs. While most of us walk in circles trying to find “affordable” food until we finally give up and spend $9 on a PBJ, they have unlimited access to tasty and even marginally nutritious snacks, including but not limited to: hummus and veggies, Nutella and fruit, mixed nuts, pretzels, cheese, coffee, tea, soda, and booze. We shuffle in and out of crowded restrooms and try not to notice when the person in the stall next to us chooses to have a conversation on their phone. You still might encounter the awkward stall conversation in the Sky Club restroom, but the restroom is much cleaner, smells nicer, and has fancier soap. Sounds pretty great, yes? It is, I suppose. But the entire time I was up there I felt pretty out of place. I couldn’t help but gawk at all the “free” accommodations that were offered and think about how excessive the entire thing was. What was more troubling was how most of the people in Sky Club seemed to act like they were entitled to this special treatment. Sure they pay extra for it, but I think for most of them it’s an amount they wouldn’t really miss from their bank account. And really, what is the point? Convenience? Prestige? The longer I sat there the more I thought that Sky Club represented what’s wrong with American society. A small percentage of people have more wealth and resources but insist on keeping themselves separate from others instead of helping others. They’ve earned this money, right? They shouldn’t have to share it or sit with the rest of us in a loud, smelly airport terminal. Well, I disagree. In protest I snagged some extra packets of Nutella and tea to save for later. If I had brought a bigger bag, I would have cleaned them out and dispersed Nutella, apples, mixed nuts, cheese and cookies throughout the Atlanta airport to anyone who looked hungry like a regular Sky Club Robin Hood. Image

Why I’m Voting for Barack Obama

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Conservative friends, or anyone who is considering voting for Mitt Romney, please read this. Those of you who know me well know that I am not generally a judgmental or hateful person. I enjoy making people happy and helping others in need. Keep your knowledge of my personality in mind while you read this. I’m writing out of significant concern that has been resting on my heart and mind the past few weeks. I don’t want to knock anybody’s political opinions or belittle anyone’s religious views. My purpose is simply to express how I feel about our presidential candidates in a moral and ethical context.

“Young people, you are the people who belong to the twenty-first century. You should think how to bring this century into a more peaceful century, a more compassionate century.” ~ Dalai Lama

This statement above sums up conceptually why I am voting for Barack Obama to continue his role as President of the United States. Here is my reasoning:

Take a moment, if you will, to think of someone you admire who has given up their ENTIRE life, SELFLESSLY to promoting what he or she believes is morally right. I say ENTIRE and SELFLESSLY in all caps because I don’t mean a politician, your first grade teacher, or your parish priest. These people have chosen a way of life specifically to influence a group of people, and they are usually paid for their work. My two examples would be Mother Teresa and the Dalai Lama. They did not choose to be religious and spiritual leaders. They simply committed themselves to live a devout and selfless life, living the core values that they believe are vital with their actions, thoughts, and words. They did not choose to be influential. They are because we have experience their wisdom and chosen to follow them.

Public service, which includes the office of President, should be a very similar way of life. Our candidates are FAR from the status Mother Teresa or the Dalai Lama, but we should consider them within the same selfless and moral context. Which one will serve people more consistently without considering their own personal gain? Which one will view the people of the United States as individuals who all have the same rights and needs?

Friends, division of our country morally will continue to set us up for failure. If we try to separate the gay from the straight, the rich from the poor, the old from the young, the Christian from the atheist, the legal citizen from the illegal immigrant, the black from the white, no one will win.

Mitt Romney’s policies are divisive and lack compassion and tolerance. The decisions he would make for the United States and our country’s interaction with the rest of the world would attempt to move us toward a more homogenous society that resists the very nature of humanity, which is diversity.

I am no economic expert, so my examples are based on moral issues. I find these issues the most troubling because people voting for Mitt Romney based on what they feel matches their religious and ethical views should reconsider what values his policies really enforce.

Mitt Romney’s lifestyle does not suggest an attitude of selflessness. He has led a privileged life, which is not a fault, but he lives far outside the boundaries of what is necessary. What is the moral purpose of having multiple cars and houses? There is no purpose other than material wealth.

Consider Mitt Romney’s views on gay marriage and the rights of gay parents:

“Some gays are actually having children born to them. It’s not right on paper. It’s not right in fact. Every child has a right to a mother and father.’’

What is his motive in this statement? Is it the well-being of the child? Many children have grown up with grandparents, an aunt and uncle, a single parent, or in foster homes and turned out just fine. I think Mother Teresa and the Dalai Lama would argue that what is important is not the presence of one man and one woman in a child’s life, but the presence of love and compassion in that child’s life.

Consider this paired with Romney’s views on government funding for organizations such as Planned Parenthood. Planned Parenthood does much more for our country than provide abortions. It provides educational materials to help teach people about pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. It provides free and reduced-cost contraception to help people avoid babies they are not ready for. Many women and men cannot afford doctor appointments, or prescriptions to treat STDs or to acquire birth control. Cheaper methods of birth control are more accessible to these populations but not as effective. Mitt Romney’s policy focuses on stopping abortions from occurring, but it does not focus on how to support those who might turn to an abortion when they feel there isn’t another option, or give them resources they need to prevent pregnancy in the first place. Shouldn’t his policy be concerned with the health and well-being of all citizens, rather than the moral views of some?

Mitt Romney focuses on the market and competition to provide people with health care options. Health is not a competition; it is a necessity for life. Our country should not be survival of the fittest, it should be a country where those with more help those with less so that everyone has what they need to live with a high quality of life. Not a life of excess, a life of necessities: affordable healthcare and medication, control over his or her body, access to resources that will help them when times are hard, the ability to legally bind themselves to someone they love and raise children with that person.

Obama’s policies on marriage, abortion, and health care offer SUPPORT and PROTECTION for those who need it, regardless of what his personal beliefs might be. He offers men and women the choice to marry whomever they choose, because love is stronger than hate. He offers women the resources they need to stay healthy and control their bodies, because the views of many should not control the needs of all. He offers everyone the chance of affordable health care to ensure quality of life. These are the actions of a selfless, compassionate leader. These are the beliefs of a man who values the well-being, freedom, and individuality of everyone in America.

What would your moral role model say about Mitt Romney’s policies? Would they agree that satisfying the religious and moral beliefs of some Americans is more important than allowing everyone the right to choose what is right for them in their life path with their family? Would they turn away those who make it to this country seeking help and a better life? Would they value profit and competition over health and quality of life?

The answers of my role models are crystal clear. I will vote for Barack Obama because I choose compassion, I choose to aid my neighbor, I choose to honor the experience of love no matter who experiences it with whom, I choose the soul over the material, and I choose unity and peace over division and war.

 

A Moral Recession

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Like any self-respecting individual of my generation, I listen to a lot of podcasts at work. I’ve developed a knack for selective listening, allowing myself to tune out most of the boring blabbery while I work, knowing that my ears will perk up when I hear something of interest. There is one podcast, however, that nearly always keeps me listening: On Being. This show interviews scholars, musicians, religious leaders, scientists, people from all walks of life, to discuss matters of humanity and, well, being. What I like most about this show is how it always gets me thinking about my own perspectives on the issues they discuss.

Recently, the show has been broadcasting segments from the Civil Conversations Project. I think everyone should be required to listen to them. Period. The premise of these conversations is having an open, respectful dialogue with two sides of a morally tricky issue: i.e., abortion. Rather than debating/arguing which side is right, the participants discuss what ideas they agree with from the other side of the issue, and bridge the “grey” areas of these issues, trying to get at what makes them so divisive and attempting to vocalize ways we can move toward a common understanding and ultimately a solution.

I have nothing but respect for people who voice their opinions loudly and act on these opinions to further causes they believe in. What I have no tolerance for, however, is people who are so blinded by their own opinions that they become incapable of considering other perspectives. There is a quote on this subject from Thich Nhat Hanh that I particularly enjoy:

No single tradition monopolizes the truth. We must glean the best values of all traditions and work together to remove the tensions between traditions in order to give peace a chance.

What troubles me the most about the upcoming election is the apparent lack of humanity. Too often we forget that we really are all in this together. United we stand, divided we fall. It’s cliché, but it’s very, very true. Fighting about which polarized side of politics or religion will make the best decisions for our country is pointless, because most people do not fall into one of those extreme categories. Even if they did, this is not what our moral and religious traditions teach us to act upon. Every major religion, at its pure core, teaches compassion, acceptance, and benevolence.

If we could just be open to the idea of having civil conversations with those we view as “opponents” that would be the first step toward a unified, successful, country. If your values lie solely in the material world, then perhaps this doesn’t matter to you. But for those whose values exist beyond their liquidated assets, this is a matter of moral concern. No matter whom we elect, as long as we are content to remain divided and hateful toward one another, we will stay in a moral recession, regardless of what happens to our economy.