Vegetarian Ideal

Nothing will benefit human health and increase the chances for survival of life on Earth as much as the evolution to a vegetarian diet.
- Albert Einstein

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Introduction to Vipassana (SN Goenka) Part 1 + 2 - YouTube

Introduction to Vipassana by SN Goenka. For more information on Vipassana meditation, visit

For more videos, visit



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Introduction to Vipassana (SN Goenka) Part 1 of 2 - YouTube

Friday, October 26, 2012

Best pictures from the East

Residents cover their faces as a Chennai Corporation worker fumigates a residential area in the southern Indian city of Chennai. Chennai Corporation conducted fumigation of the residential areas to prevent the spread of dengue, a mosquito-transmitted virus that causes a fever which can be deadly, the corporation's officials said.

 Sri Lankan ethnic Tamil dancers perform during an annual festival at the Venkatvar Sri Vishnu Hindu temple in Colombo, Sri Lanka. AP(Eranga Jayawardena /AP)

  • Muslim pilgrims climb a rocky hill called the Mountain of Mercy on the Plain of Arafat near the holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia. Saudi authorities say around 3.4 million pilgrims, some 1.7 million of them from abroad, have arrived in the holy cities of Mecca and Medina for this year's pilgrimage. (Hassan Ammar /AP)
    Muslim pilgrims climb a rocky hill called the Mountain of Mercy on the Plain of Arafat near the holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia. Saudi authorities say around 3.4 million pilgrims, some 1.7 million of them from abroad, have arrived in the holy cities of Mecca and Medina for this year's pilgrimage.
    (Hassan Ammar /AP)

An Indian family carries wood from the scavenged remains of large idols of the Hindu goddess Durga that were immersed by devotees in the Yamuna river the previous day as part of the Durga Puja festival in New Delhi, India. Thousands of the idols are left by worshippers in the holy river as part of the festival which commemorates the slaying of a demon king by lion-riding, ten armed goddess Durga, marking the triumph of good over evil.
(Kevin Frayer /AP)


Best pictures from the past 24 hours - The Globe and Mail

Thursday, October 25, 2012

How to be Happy in 12 Simple Steps


STEP 1 - Show gratitude 

(* There's a lot more to gratitude than saying "thank you." Emerging research shows that people who are consistently grateful are happier, more energetic and hopeful, more forgiving and less materialistic. Gratitude needs to be practised daily because it doesn't necessarily come naturally.)

STEP 2 - Cultivate Optimism

STEP 3 - Avoid overthinking and social comparison

(* Many of us believe that when we feel down we should try to focus inwardly to attain self-insight and find solutions to our problems. But numerous studies have shown that overthinking sustains or worsens sadness.)

STEP 4 - Practice kindnessChewbaaka and Koya

STEP 5 - Nurture social relationships

STEP 6 - Develop coping skills

STEP 7 - Learn to forgive 

(* Forgiveness is not the same thing as reconciliation, pardoning or condoning. Nor is it a denial of your own hurt. Forgiveness is a shift in thinking and something that you do for yourself and not for the person who has harmed you. Research confirms that clinging to bitterness or hate harms you more than the object of your hatred. Forgiving people are less likely to be hostile, depressed, anxious or neurotic.

* Forgive yourself for past wrongs. Recognising that you too can be a transgressor will make you more empathetic to others. )

STEP 8 - Find more flow

(* "Flow" was a phrase coined by psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi in the 1960s. It means you are totally immersed in what you are doing and unaware of yourself. Happy people have the capacity to enjoy their lives even when their material conditions are lacking and even when many of their goals have not been reached.)

STEP 9 - Savour the day

STEP 10 - Commit to your goals 

(* People who strive for something personally significant, whether it's learning a new craft or changing careers, are far happier than those who don't have strong dreams or aspirations. Working towards a goal is more important to wellbeing than its attainment.)

STEP 11 - Take care of your soul

 (* A growing body of psychological research suggests that religious people are happier, healthier and recover better after traumas than nonreligious people. ...

* Find the sacred in ordinary life ...)

STEP 12 - Take care of your body

"The How of Happiness" Sonja Lyubomirsky - TalkRational

Sonja Lyubomirsky



Positive Emotions: Barbara Fredrickson


You have -- within you -- the fuel to thrive and to flourish,

and to leave this world in better shape than you found it.
Sometimes you tap into this fuel – other times you don’t.
But the sad fact is that most people have no idea
how to tap into this fuel or even recognize it when they do.
Where is this fuel within you?

You tap into it whenever you feel energized and excited by new ideas.

You tap into it whenever you feel at one with your surroundings, at peace.
You tap into it whenever you feel playful, creative, or silly.
You tap into it whenever you feel your soul stirred by the sheer beauty of existence.
You tap into it whenever you feel connected to others and loved.
In short, you tap into it whenever positive emotions resonate within you.


Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Jataka Tales


Jataka Tales Index


Jataka tales - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

 File:Bhutanese painted thanka of the Jataka Tales, 18th-19th Century, Phajoding Gonpa, Thimphu, Bhutan.jpg 
 Bhutanese painted thangka of the Jatakas, 18th-19th Century, Phajoding Gonpa, Thimphu, Bhutan





The Jatakas were originally amongst the earliest Buddhist literature, with metrical analysis methods dating their average contents to around the 4th century BCE.[2] The Mahāsāṃghika Caitika sects from the Āndhra region took the Jatakas as canonical literature, and are known to have rejected some of the Theravada Jatakas which dated past the time of King Ashoka.[3] The Caitikas claimed that their own Jatakas represented the original collection before the Buddhist tradition split into various lineages.[4]
According to A.K. Warder, the Jatakas are the precursors to the various legendary biographies of the Buddha, which were composed at later dates.[5] Although many Jatakas were written from an early period, which describe previous lives of the Buddha, very little biographical material about Gautama's own life has been recorded.[6]

This list includes stories based on the Jatakas:

See also


  1. ^ "Jataka" (in english). Encyclopaedia Britannica. Retrieved 2011-12-04.
  2. ^ Warder, A.K. Indian Buddhism. 2000. pp. 286-287
  3. ^ Sujato, Bhikkhu. Sects & Sectarianism: The Origins of Buddhist Schools. 2006. p. 51
  4. ^ Warder, A.K. Indian Buddhism. 2000. pp. 286-287
  5. ^ Warder, A.K. Indian Buddhism. 2000. pp. 332-333
  6. ^ Warder, A.K. Indian Buddhism. 2000. pp. 332-333
  7. ^ Handbook of Pali Literature, Walter de Gruyter, Berlin, 1996
  8. ^ Source: (accessed: Saturday January 23, 2010)
  9. ^ Jacobs 1888, Introduction, page lviii "What, the reader will exclaim, "the first literary link [1570] between India and England, between Buddhism and Christendom, written in racy Elizabethan with vivacious dialogue, and something distinctly resembling a plot. . . ."
  10. ^ "Indian Stories",The History of World Literature, Grant L. Voth, Chantilly, VA, 2007
  11. ^ The tale of Prince Samuttakote: a Buddhist epic from Thailand
  12. ^ Nang Sip Song Prarath Meri
  13. ^ Dance Troupe Prepares for Smithsonian Perfomance
  14. ^ สุธนชาดก (Suthan Jataka - Dance form)
  15. ^ Rev. Sengpan Pannyawamsa, Recital of the Tham Vessantara Jātaka: a social-cultural phenomenon in Kengtung, Eastern Shan State, Myanmar, Institute of Pali and Buddhist Studies, (University of Kelaniya), Sri Lanka
  16. ^ Pali Text Society Home Page

Further reading

  • Concordance of Buddhist Birth Stories, Pali Text Society, Lancaster, tabulates correspondences between various jataka collections.
  • The Jatakas — Birth Stories of the Bodhisatta,, Sandra Shaw, Penguin Classics, Penguin Books India, New Delhi, 2006
  • Twenty Jataka Tales,, Noor Inayat Khan, Inner Traditions, 1985
  • Apocryphal Birth-stories (Paññāsa-Jātaka), Isaline Blew Horner, Padmanabh S. Jaini, Pali Text Society, ISBN 9780860132332

External links

Jataka tales - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Chennakesava Temple -

File:Belur shilabalika.jpg

File:Bhumija towers on minor shrines in Chennakeshava Temple at Belur.jpg


 File:Kama Rati.jpg

Chennakesava Temple

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Coordinates: 13°9′46.3″N 75°51′38.0″E

Chennakesava Temple, Belur

Rear view of temple

Temple complex
The Chennakesava Temple (Kannada: ಶ್ರೀ ಚೆನ್ನಕೇಶವ ದೇವಸ್ಥಾನ) originally called Vijayanarayana Temple (Kannada: ವಿಜಯನಾರಾಯಣ ದೇವಸ್ಥಾನ) was built on the banks of the Yagachi River in Belur, an early capital of the Hoysala Empire. Belur is 40 km from Hassan city and 220 km from Bangalore, in Hassan district of Karnataka state, India. Chennakesava literally means "handsome Kesava" and is a form of Hindu God Vishnu. Belur is well known for its marvelous temples, built during the rule of the Hoysala dynasty, making it and nearby Halebidu favored tourist destinations in Karnataka. Now these temple complexes have been proposed to be listed under UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

Chennakesava Temple - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Saturday, October 20, 2012

The Dalai Lama: Six Decades of Spiritual Leadership

 Tibet China Dalai Lama Buddhism Culture Social struggle James Nachtwey

Dalai Lama
                                                              Philippe Levy-Stab / Corbis

U.S. President George W. Bush and the Dalai Lama, on a poster in the New York streets in 2007.

Tibet China Dalai Lama Buddhism Culture Social struggle James Nachtwey
     Work Space

Though his government-in-exile serves as a rebuke to the Chinese presence in Tibet, the Dalai Lama encourages every possibility for dialogue with China.

The Dalai Lama at Home

Tibet China Dalai Lama Buddhism Culture Social struggle James Nachtwey
      The Flame Keeper

His Holiness is a strong advocate for all people's rights to basic freedoms of speech and thought, but holds that violence cannot solve any problem deep down.

      Daily Reading

Though he is a spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama also holds a doctorate in philosophy. He rejects anything that has been disproved by scientific inquiry and dismisses Buddhist teachings not verified by science.

Tibet China Dalai Lama Buddhism Culture Social struggle James Nachtwey
Daily Reading

Though he is a spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama also holds a doctorate in philosophy. He rejects anything that has been disproved by scientific inquiry and dismisses Buddhist teachings not verified by science.

 Tibet China Dalai Lama Buddhism Culture Social struggle James Nachtwey
Among fellow Buddhists, the Dalai Lama delivers complex, analytical talks and wrestles with complicated doctrinal issues. When he finds himself in the wider world, he prefers to offer simply everyday principles that anyone, regardless of religion, might find helpful

Read more:,29307,1855878,00.html#ixzz29tuoAv00

The Dalai Lama has called for a century of compassion and peace

The Dalai Lama 
Jessica Rinaldi / Reuters
The Dalai Lama during a lecture in Boston on Oct. 14, 2012

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — The Dalai Lama has called for a century of compassion and peace in which the gap between the rich and poor narrows and environmental stewardship is a priority.
The exiled Tibetan leader told a crowd of about 5,600 at the Rhode Island Convention Center on Wednesday that peace stems from happiness and that happiness stems from looking beyond yourself.
‘‘We are part of humanity,’’ he said, adding of fellow global citizens: ‘‘Their problem is my problem. Their happiness is my happiness. We have to look to the interests of others.’’
The 77-year-old noted in his remarks he has long lived in a violent world — from the time of World War II and the dropping of the atomic bombs by the U.S. on Hiroshima and Nagasaki to the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and the Iraq war.
He called for more global dialogue and for young people to open their minds to new ways of thinking. He said that people must look beyond their families, their community, their city and even their nation.

He said that people can lead good, moral lives without religion, but stressed that secularism should also mean respecting others’ religious beliefs. He referred to closing the gap between the rich and poor as a moral issue, and said that taking care of the planet is important. If he ever joined a political party, he joked, it would be the Green Party.

 Picture from:

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Benefits of giving

Charities often benefit significantly from the generosity of donors and volunteers. But the person providing the philanthropy also takes away something from the experience, and there actually may be measurable emotional advantages to being charitable.

  Helping others not only makes a person feel good, but it may also increase physical and emotional well-being. Several studies have indicated that being generous has profound effects on how a person thinks and feels. One such study from researchers at Cornell University uncovered that volunteering increases one's energy, sense of mastery over life and self-esteem. It also promotes feelings of positivity, which may strengthen and enhance the immune system.
 In 2008, Dr. Ellen Langer, a professor of psychology at Harvard University, advocated for giving gifts and being generous -- even in tough financial times.

   "When you give a gift it makes you feel generous, it makes you feel in control, it's good for your self-esteem, and it's good for the relationship," says Langer.
According to psychologist Robert Ornstein and physician David Sobel, authors of "Healthy Pleasures," they talk about a "helper's high." This is a sense of euphoria that volunteers experience when helping others. It can be described as a sense of vitality and a warm glow. It has been compared to a runner's high and may be attributed to a release of endorphins.

 Various studies have found that donors and volunteers gain the most from a charitable encounter.

  Here are a few more health benefits that may result from being altruistic:

* an activation of emotions that are key to good health,
* lower stress levels,
* longer periods of calm after the generous act,
* improved mood, and
* a potentially longer life span.
There are many ways to give back and experience these physical and psychological benefits, including:

* sharing experiences at a school,
* volunteering at a hospital,
* volunteering at a national or local park,
* donating unused items, like clothes or cars,
* reading to children at a library,
* helping to care for animals at shelters,
* volunteering at a hospice and comforting those at the end of their lives,
* donating supplies to a new teacher and
* becoming a companion to a senior citizen.

Psychological benefits of giving | Life | Shoreline Beacon


Pablo Picasso- Cubismo Supremo con Siddharta. - YouTube

An awe inspiring collection of paintings by Pablo Picasso flowing to the ethnic eclectic electronic tunes of Siddharta- The Spirit of Buddha Bar.



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Pablo Picasso- Cubismo Supremo con Siddharta. - YouTube

Deepak Chopra- The 7 Spiritual Laws of Success - YouTube

Uploaded by on Dec 27, 2011
Also visit .The Seven Spiritual Laws are powerful principles you can use to fulfill your deepest desires with effortless joy. If you put them into practice, you'll realize that you can manifest whatever you've been dreaming about.



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Deepak Chopra- The 7 Spiritual Laws of Success - YouTube

Monday, October 15, 2012

Buddhist Hermits

Buddhist Hermit living in China's Zhongnan mountain range.


Buddhism in the News

Lessons in immortality

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

The Way of the Hermit.

   "Hermit monks"  can still be found in remote areas of the world.  Monasteries are the traditional venue for Buddhist monks looking to further dedicate their lives to studying and living the Dharma so what of the role of hermit monks?

"Amongst White Clouds." explains:

Traditionalists might argue that these monks are going "rogue" from the historic path for monks and are thus misguided. However, consider the quote from one of these hermit monks:

 "There are many hearts in this world--the Buddha has a teaching for the heart of every being." 

This Buddhist Master said to be on the final leg of his liberation who resides in the Zhongnan mountains of China in near solitude.

One of the hermit monks on the mountain states,
 "Most of the monks here already understand the practice methods, they don't make mistakes. But you must understand the practice. If you don't, you make mistakes and that's nothing but torture."

The men (and one woman--a nun) in this documentary have come to the place where solitude is required to enable their level of near constant meditation and mindful living. Isolation is a very strict, strong and effective teacher in that it forces one to confront that in the end you can't rely upon anyone else for your liberation. Even your fellow monks and practitioners.

In practicing the Dharma in isolation one is forced to be with one's thoughts with nothing much to distract oneself from them day and night. The neurotic mind has little to manipulate out of the hermit monks life as silence and raw, naked, confrontation of nature exposes it's futility. Everyday actions take on new meaning when one has no one or no thing to rely upon to distract one from not just practicing Buddhism in general but total, complete, consuming submersion in mindfulness.

Some say they they wander off because they are near enlightenment and therefore where ever they go they are where they need to be. The lessons of mindfulness, of total immersion into mindfulness have carried them outside the monastery walls to reside in the monasteries of old--the forests and mountains. These locations are Earth's first sacred sites and some of the most pure, inspiring and liberating places. It was under a tree, in solo retreat after all where Buddha finally realized liberation.

For these practitioners the spirit of the monastery/sangha travels with them where ever they go. The monastery is everywhere to them including deep in nature where birds, monkeys and other animals are their teachers and fellow practitioners. As well as the trees, caves, waterfalls and rivers. And from time to time many of these hermit monks meet up with one or more other hermit monks in the area to discuss their practice with each other and stay on track. In this documentary the monks in these Chinese mountains are roughly an hour and a half to one day's hike away from each other.

 The hermit nun up on the mountain who quoted the Lengyan Scripture, which says in part, "Though there are words to speak, none of these are real. Talk and talk, like flowers falling from heaven--It's all worthless. So there is really nothing to say." 

The nun said, "All of the great masters, if they hadn't endured some hardship they wouldn't have opened their wisdom gate." 

Finally, consider these thoughts from the man [Red Pine], who wrote the book on these hermit monks, that inspired this documentary, "Amongst White Clouds":

"I’ve never heard of any great master who has not spent some time as a hermit. The hermit tradition separates the men from the boys. If you’ve never spent time in solitude, you’ve really never mastered your practice. If you’ve never been alone with you practice, you’ve never swallowed it and made it yours. If you don’t spend time in solitude, you don’t have either profundity or understanding — you’ve just carried on somebody else’s tradition.



Books by Red Pine, pen name of Bill Porter
go to bottom for links to interviews and articles

Bill's a dear friend whose work I greatly admire. His translations reflect a lifetime of in-depth study and work including conferring with Chinese scholars in China. - DC

Bill uses Red Pine for translations and Bill Porter for his own work which so far includes two titles: 
The Road to Heaven and one not on this list because it's coming out in September of '08 - Zen Baggage, Counterpoint or maybe Shoemaker and Hoard depending on what the publisher Jack Shoemaker calls it. 

The Platform Sutra: the Zen Teaching of Hui-neng, Shoemaker & Hoard, Berkeley, CA, 2006

The Heart Sutra: the Womb of Buddhas, Shoemaker & Hoard, Washington D.C., 2004

Poems of the Masters: China’s Classic Anthology of T’ang and Sung Dynasty Verse, Copper Canyon Press, Port Townsend, WA, 2003

The Diamond Sutra: the Perfection of Wisdom, Counterpoint Press, Washington D.C., 2002

The Collected Songs of Cold Mountain: Revised and Expanded, Copper Canyon Press, Port Townsend, WA, 2000

The Zen Works of Stonehouse: the Poems and Talks of a 14th Century Chinese Hermit, Mercury House, San Francisco, CA, 1999

The Clouds Should Know Me By Now: Buddhist Poet Monks of China (w/ Mike O’Connor), Wisdom Publications, Boston, MA, 1998

Lao-tzu’s Taoteching: Selected Commentaries of the Past 2,000 Years, Mercury House, San Francisco, CA, 1996

Guide to Capturing a Plum Blossom, Mercury House, San Francisco,  CA, 1995

Road to Heaven: Encounters with Chinese Hermits, Mercury House, San Francisco, CA, 1993

The Zen Teaching of Bodhidharma, North Point Press, Berkeley, CA, 1993

 P’u Ming’s Oxherding Pictures and Verses, Empty Bowl, Port Townsend, WA, 1983

The Collected Songs of Cold Mountain, Copper Canyon Press, Port Townsend, WA 1983

Red Pine on Tricycle without need to subscribe:
You can use the links on this page to help people find Red Pine's books in libraries near them:
[Thanks to Jordan Rothstein of BayVajra dot info (Bay Area Tibetan Buddhsim) 
for sending the Tricycle and library links and a couple of new links - dc - 12-17-11]
A page on Bill in Mountain Songs web site - with good photo. This appears to be a site dedicated to Chinese poetry.
A page on the site of Copper Canyon Press with links to reviews and more
Journalist presents relationship of environment to Chinese society - article

Tree In Winter Here's a guy who's down on Bill. It all started with Bill believing something his father had told him or misunderstanding something his father had said. Bill told me to put this in to make the record complete. - DC

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Derek Beres: The Mythology of Burning Man


by Derek Beres 

The annual ritual known as Burning Man probably had 60,900 meanings for everyone in attendance this year.

But my second sojourn to the festival in the desert verified what I recalled from my first:

This is the most widespread example that America has at consciously creating a modern mythology. Myths have always had conscious and unconscious elements -- the ritual is consciously constructed, but what happens within the container of the construction is anyone's guess. This is the empty space where magic happens. 

To dive further into this idea, I'd like to use
Joseph Campbell's four functions of a mythology  
to show how Burning Man is a mythology in the making, creating a social order relevant to our time, right now, 2012 America.

1. The Mystical Function

Campbell's first requirement was that mythology must inspire awe in the universe. 

All mythologies were created by humans therefore, what really matters is imagination. 

Burning Man is a safe space to fully explore and share your creative edge.  

2. The Cosmological Function

Campbell's second function was that a mythology had to explain the shape of the universe. 

The shape of Burning Man is impermanence, a principle deeply entwined with Buddhism. 

Theology teaches us the importance of the afterlife, which often serves as a way of not taking responsibility for the life we are living now.

When the man burns on Saturday evening, we are reminded not only of very old fire mythologies....

Celebrating the process for what it is defines our cosmological outlook. 

3. The Sociological Function

Once we understand that nothing in nature lasts, we are free to design our own social order in accordance with that process. 

This year I camped at Fractal Nation, where the mayor, Charles Shaw, believes that Burning Man is "post-apocalyptic training." He went on to state that it's not some biblical apocalypse he's invoking, but rather the process of watching what's going on around us: a crumbling economy, a split government and a cultural anxiety unseen in American history, save maybe when we began stealing this land from its former inhabitants.

4. The Pedagogical Function

The fourth is most interesting in terms of Burning Man:

 how to live under any circumstances. 

This function carries humans through all stages of life, from birth and childhood to adulthood and beyond. Most importantly, it deals with teaching us how live with integrity. The function is designed to teach people how to realize themselves.

Burning Man is a valuable container for such exploration. 

While there's nothing wrong with criticism, being able to define how consciousness is evolving, which will inherently be how your consciousness is evolving, in purely positive terms allows you to imagine a reality you want to create, that you are excited about taking part in....

One teacher of mine always remarks, how we do anything is how we do everything.

Having a community support our progress and creativity on such a scale is unlike anything America is experiencing. Ritual is a human function; it will appear whether or not we consciously create it.
The only idea that matters is the one we create and live with our fullest and most uninhibited expression. This is how the mythologies we invent define us, and how we live our mythology without fear.



Derek Beres: The Mythology of Burning Man

KJ Interview: Amongst White Clouds - Ted Burger

Alone With Your Self: The Hermit Experience

An Interview with Edward (Ted) A. Burger,
director of Amongst White Clouds
by Lauren Deutsch

                                                       Photo by Dr. Ishwar Harris

Edward A. Burger has been living in the People’s Republic of China for over eight years, working as a translator, filmmaker, cultural-exchange project coordinator and musician.

Originally drawn to China as a student of Buddhism, he found his teacher, Master Guangkuan, in the Zhongnan Mountains in the winter of 1999. He completed his first documentary, Amongst White Clouds, about Zhongnan Mountain hermits in 2005...

What surprised you about these folks?

The first time I walked into the Zhongnan Mountains I was 23 years old and I had only read Bill Porter's book [Road to Heaven] and some thousand-year-old poems. I’d stared at the little woodcutters and zither-toting scholars in the landscape paintings at the Cleveland Art Museum. I had all these ideas about hermits. The thing that surprised me when I met Zhongnan hermits for the first time, was that most of them had very little to say about, and had very few thoughts about themselves as “hermits”. I mean, they don’t care that they are “hermits” and don’t do lots of things we think hermits do. They don’t ALL “moon gaze” or write poems about moss. Some do. Some fit that archetype and have tear-soaked sleeves and stuff like that. But not all. Most of them don’t care about being a “hermit” in that literary sense. They are just looking for a quiet place.

So I guess I was surprised that they weren’t exactly what I expected. Which is nothing new, right? But this was a big lesson. There’s a difference between romanticisation and inspiration. Over the years I’ve realized, and I think this is something that influences my filmmaking, that romanticizing masters or hermits or Buddhas is this subtle way we have of shirking spiritual responsibility. It puts them and what they are, “out there” somewhere. The Dharma’s central message is that we are all Buddhas already, ready and ripe for liberation, peace, Buddhahood. In a way we don’t believe it or our little hang-ups tells us not to believe it. It’s like the little demon on your shoulder whispering in your ear. These hermits are just practitioners, practitioners at a very advanced level, typically, but in any case, they are doing what we should all be doing- recognizing our potential as Buddhas and going for it. To romanticize them is to, in some ways, ignore our own potential and load it all on some “other” beings. At the same time they are extremely inspiring to us. That’s why Bill wrote his book. And that’s why I’m making these films.

How many hermits are out there?

I ran this question by Bill because I only know the Zhongnan hermits, and he said that at any given time there are “between 3,000 to 5,000, maybe even more” hermits across China. It’s interesting to remember though, that the actual individuals within this group we call “the hermits” are in flux. Hermits go into the mountains and hermits come out of the mountains every day, staying anywhere from a few months to a lifetime. Typically 3 to 5 years. These hermit masters that stay in the mountains for 20 years or more are the exception, at least within the Buddhist communities I am familiar with.

What are their practices? (secret? ancient? textbook?)

I have met hermits that sit Zen all day and scorn study. Others that recite sutras all day. Some recite the name of Amita Buddha and others engage in Tantric meditation and rituals. Often they combine any of these practices. Whatever gets you there.

What did you do daily?

Life in a hermitage is different than life in a monastery. In the mountains you do your own thing. That’s harder than it sounds. To keep to your practice without the bells and clappers used to call out the schedule in the organized communities. In a larger place like my master’s, group activities are not organized but happen when needed. We eat together and sometimes work together. Usually chores are a welcome distraction, a break from the meditation cushion or to rest your eyes from reading. Other than meditation, reading and work, I sit in my Master’s room and hit him up for answers. We eat oranges and drink tea. I talk to him about things going on in my life and he helps me apply the Buddha’s teachings to this everyday life, my “red dust” life. Sometimes we talk about what’s going on in the world. We write poems together. Bad ones, mostly. I wander around the ridges looking for birds, gather wild vegetables for supper. There’s lots to do.

What inspired these hermits to take to the hills?
Though the stories I sometimes hear from monks and nuns about their reasons for ordaining are fascinating and varied, most of the hermits have the same motivations for living in solitude- the monastery isn’t quiet enough, there are too many distractions, with other practitioners around, even a bit of chatting is too much for someone getting down to the most subtle levels of practice. You’re sitting in deep Samadhi and “bing” the bell rings and you have to get up with everyone else. That’s no good. So they need the quiet and focus of solitude. And there is nothing to take you away from the practice when you’re alone, face to face with yourself. Utterly alone with yourself. Only thing around you is nature, which is like a sutra itself, reminding you of birth and death and interdependence. All the teachings acted out like a play around you.

What happens if someone wants to leave the hermitage?

Hermits are monks, nuns or lay practitioners who need that space and environment at that time or phase in their development. They come and go according to the needs of their practice. Wang Wei says “The mountain is empty, but I hear people talking…”

Do they maintain any contact with family?

Master, like a lot of monks his age, was married, even had kids. I’ve heard of monks ordaining with their spouse and kids, together, after Deng Xiaoping’s reforms. Lots of folks who were quiet Buddhists throughout those years ordained, almost all at once, after the ban on religion was lifted. They go their separate ways, never to meet again. Young monks visit their mother and father sometimes. It depends on the person. Whether that would be good or bad for their practice.

What surprises these folks?

Recently a young monk told me that during a winter retreat once he walked out of the meditation hall and blacked out at the sight of a blade of grass. It was just too shocking, that blade of grass. But he is a novice. Most hermits that have been in the mountains for a few years, which means they were ready and well prepared to be a hermit and their practice is mature, are difficult to surprise. Instead they have this kind of calm amusement toward new things. Finding out that the new bullet train will get you to Shanghai in eight hours will amuse an old hermit. They might get a kick out of that. But in the end these things are utterly insignificant.

I went to Taiwan for a year, back in 2000, to make some money for school in Beijing. When I returned to the hermitage I walked into the kitchen expecting Master to greet me with warm surprise. He was cooking. He glanced up from the ladle of soup at his mouth, sipped noisily and said, “There’s noodles. You hungry?”

I read an interview once where Leonard Cohen said, "Nine o’clock, and we’ve had several lifetimes already." (Pico Iyer, Shambala Sun, September,1998) I always remember that because it reminds me to have this kind of perspective. Like Master and the kind of time/space world he lives within. His mind functions on “infinity” time. He thinks in Buddha lands and epochs. Vast, and boundless. To an enlightened being, birth and death is like going out to pick up a loaf of bread at the corner store, for you or I. How do you surprise someone like that?

How did it change your life (if it did...)

The thing that impressed me first about Master was his surety, his lack of doubt. He has no doubt that what he does every day is the most important thing he could be doing, it makes the most sense. He has taught me that my life is up to me, not in a greeting card kind of way, but in a very subtle and profound way. “They only thing that is wrong with you” he said on one of the first days I met him, “is that you don’t know there’s no difference between joy and suffering, this life and that life down below.” That was very profound to me. It keeps the practice here, with you all the time. As awareness of your True Nature strengthens this begins to make more and more sense.

What exactly happened to you after you studied with your teacher?

I am still my master’s student. I stayed with him for six weeks in the winter of 1999. Then I went back to Beijing to study more Chinese. Since then I make the trip out there to see him three or four times every year. For a week or a few weeks or more. Lately though, I’m trying to spend time in monasteries. We decided I need that. I need community. Discipline. So now I visit Master like I visit family, to catch up. But my practice happens elsewhere. Which is nice for me right now. My new film is about this. It’s about Zen practice in community, as opposed to seclusion.

What if someone who sees the film wants to follow in your footsteps?

The universe is a swirling and complex banging together of causes and conditions. We are no exception as people. As “individuals”. If you need to meet a hermit, I am sure you will. But what that means, to meet a hermit… that is a slippery notion. When I contacted Bill in 1998, he let me know that “the Buddhists will take care of [me].” That’s all he said. It was enough for me to get on a plane. It was a little crazy actually. The rest was an incredible lesson in interdependence and what we call “yuan”. But Zen is all about stepping off of cliffs in the dark. So in retrospect how all of this worked out makes sense.

                                                                          Photo by Lin Lin

Ted's second film, A Life in Shadows is based on the Shaanxi Shadow Theater tradition
– see "On the Art of Shaanxi Shadow Play" in KJ #69.

See for full bio, more photos, links to Ted's film websites and more.

Amongst White Clouds Official Website:



KJ Interview: Amongst White Clouds

COMMONFOLK Buddhist films - Amongst White Clouds

This film is fascinating and it is something to be watched over and over again...

A Life In Shadows

In a small hilltop hamlet in Shaanxi Province, a group of storytellers, musicians and puppet masters perform shadow puppet theater to celebrate special occasions, appease ghosts and send thanks to wish-granting spirits. 

Farmers by day, these skilled artists wash their hands each night to take their place upon the stage of China’s history and heritage. But modernity lays it’s heavy hand upon this ancient art. Director Edward Burger takes us into the world of shadows with a storybook narrative and a documentary portrait of this art-form's modern-day struggle to survive. Produced by Cosmos Pictures, Canada.

Amongst White Clouds

Amongst White Clouds is a look at the lives of zealot students, gaunt ascetics and wise masters living in isolated hermitages dotting the peaks and valleys of China's Zhongnan Mountain range. One of only a few foreigners to have lived and studied with these hidden sages, Burger reveals to us their tradition, their wisdom, and the hardship and joy of their everyday lives. With both humor and compassion, these inspiring and warm-hearted characters challenge us to join them in an exploration of our own suffering and enlightenment in this modern world. Produced by Cosmos Pictures, Canada.


ALMS has been selected for the Society for Visual Anthropology Film Festival in San Francisco this November 14-17

ALMS will screen at the American Academy of Religion annual meeting in Chicago 

Festival hosted by NETPAC Network for the Promotion of Asian Cinema and Deyki Foundation

A Life in Shadows

Visit the new COMMONFOLKblog. It’s a new space for ideas and images from the making of my films

AMONGST WHITE CLOUDS screening at the BUDDHIST FILM FOUNDATION festival in Hong Kong March 16-25 at the new ASIA SOCIETY HONG KONG CENTER


"Burger has proven his ability to capture the heart of Chinese Buddhist practice and offer detailed and beautiful accounts of daily existence within this tradition."

Michael Walsh, Vassar University

Paul Zetter and I worked with UNICEF and partners in Quang Binh on an exciting participatory video project with youth from that area. I filmed Paul’s workshop where he taught team-building and basic documentary filmmaking to youths ages 14 - 17. See the video I helped them edit from their footage here:


© 2012 E.A. Burger



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How to Focus Your Mind and Achieve ANY goal (www.MindMaster.TV) - YouTube

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Environmental Philosophy

The Big Old Oak Tree

Derrick Jensen book called What We Leave Behind, is about what we leave behind.  It is a devastating critique of our culture's treatment of the natural world, on which all of life depends.  

What We Leave Behind focuses on our culture's waste products. Until fairly recently in the history of the planet, the waste of one living thing became the food of another living thing; a tree drops its leaves and the dead leaves are broken down by various processes and living creatures to become the nutrient-rich forest floor, a lion kills a gazelle and the scraps are eaten by hyenas ---  a human dies and the body is returned to the earth's natural processes, and all life is better off for it - "healthier, stronger, more resilient, more diverse."

However, we started producing waste products that no living thing can break down, which means they are essentially poisonous. Sea creatures starve to death with their bellies full of plastic.

Jensen writes, "This culture is killing the planet. This culture is killing the planet. This culture is killing the planet."

Jensen is not negative; the culture that he is criticizing is negative. Jensen is angry...

The Big Old Oak Tree quotes the Powhatan-Renape-Lenape man Jack Forbes:

The life of Native American peoples revolves around the concept of sacredness, beauty, power, and relatedness of all forms of existence. In short the "ethics" or moral values of Native people are part and parcel of their cosmology or total world view.
Most Native languages have no word for "religion" and it may be true that a word for religion is never needed until a people no longer have "religion."
As Ohiyesa (Charles Eastman) said,
"Every act of his [the Indian's] life is, in a very real sense, a religious act."... "Religion," is, in reality, "living." Our "religion" is not what we profess, or what we say, or what we proclaim; our "religion" is what we do, what we desire, what we seek, what we dream about, what we fantasize, what we think - all of these things - twenty-four hours a day."
One's religion, then, is one's life, not merely the ideal life but the life as it is actually lived.... Religion is not a prayer, it is not a church, it is not "theistic," it is not "atheistic," it has little to do with what white people call "religion"
It is our every act. If we tromp on a bug, that is our religion. If we experiment on living animal, that is our religion: if we cheat at cards, that is our religion; if we dream of being famous, that is our religion; if we gossip maliciously, that is our religion; if we are rude and aggressive, that is our religion. All that we do, and are, is our religion. (pg. 154)

What would it look like if I did my best to make everything I do an expression of the "sacredness, beauty, power, and relatedness of all forms of existence"?

Update, 3/9/11: Jensen shares authorship with Aric McBay, creator of In the Wake: A Collective Manual-in-progress for Outliving Civilization