Date: 01/06/05 22:47:22
To: CASonline
Subject: [CASonline] Sharing, offering ......
"... O venerable compassionate Teachers, we seek Your blessings,
That all karmic debts, obstacles and sufferings
Of mother beings may without exception ripen upon us right now,
And that we may give our happiness and virtue to others
And thereby invest all beings in bliss...... "
- the first Panchen Lama: The Guru-Puja
"Om Tare Tuttare Ture Soha;
Om Ah Hung Benza Guru Pema Siddhi Hung ...... !!"
bb and all in CAS
"May the naked find clothing,
The hungry find food;
May the thirsty find water
And delicious drinks."
- Shantideva: Guide to the Bodhisattva's Way of Life
Buddhists open temple to homeless Catholics
By Don Melvin

Kuda Payagala, Sri Lanka - It was Sunday morning and, in this deeply religious land, almost everyone was in church.

But Gerard Perera was on the beach preparing for his day as a fisherman.

"I saw the tide was coming inland," he said, "and I shouted. I ran to the church. My family was in the church, celebrating the Sunday Mass."

All along the road in this area, 35 miles south of Colombo, Sri Lanka's capital, lies evidence of the force of nature's wrath.

The earthquake-induced tsunamis that struck this south Asian island last Sunday turned houses to kindling and swept cars and trucks into the forest. Concrete walls were demolished, foundations swept clean of the homes they once supported. The road is littered with the shards of fishing boats.

But whatever the force of those waves, many people in Sri Lanka think faith is just as powerful. Perera believes God alerted him to the coming tsunamis and directed him to warn the others.

Those who were not already in the Santa Maria Catholic Church ran to it when they heard his cries. And as the people of this coastal area huddled inside it, their homes were flattened while the church was spared.

"I cannot swim," said Bhacy Fernando, a 49-year-old mother of three. "So I am 100 percent sure that if I had stayed in my home, I would have gone under."

The church withstood the force of the waves but the danger was not over. The water was rising. The parish priest told the congregation to seek higher ground.

Go, he said, to the temple.

The people ran from the church, across the road and up the hill to the Buddhist temple. There they were welcomed by the Rev. Malegoda Nanda, the priest who presides over the complex.

Nanda, who has an easy smile and a rueful giggle, has lived here for 50 of his 60 years. Never once has a homeless person sought refuge. But when crowds of Catholics ran up the road seeking help, he hesitated not a minute. He told them to stay as long as they needed.

"I am ready to give them what they need," he said.

Now, he presides with equanimity over 4,000 homeless people, almost all of them Catholic, who are living in the various buildings of the Pushparama Buddhist Temple complex.

The situation is not unique. Catholicism was introduced to Sri Lanka by Portuguese and Dutch colonizers who rarely penetrated the interior of the island. So, although the country is 70 percent Buddhist and only 8 percent Christian (the rest being mostly Hindu and Muslim), Catholics predominate along the coast in some areas.

And Buddhists around the country have opened their hearts and their shrines to homeless Catholics.

Faith is enormously important to Sri Lankans. In Sinhala, the language of Sri Lanka, the country's name means "Holy Land." But the particular variety is of less importance.

"They are really a very religious people," said the Rev. Wickrema Fonseka, a Catholic priest just down the road from the temple. When Sri Lankan Catholics arrive in a town, he said, they often look first for a church and, failing to find one, go to a temple.

The 4,000 or so Catholics now inhabiting the Pushparama Buddhist Temple, a complex of orange-roofed buildings among the tall palms, feel in no way out of place.

"First I went to the church," Perera said. "But I believe we came to a temple because here also lives a God." [COX NEWS SERVICE]


Canadian temple offers proceeds to Red Cross
By Rod Mickleburgh

'Jaw-dropping' decision by Buddhist master 'best lesson ever' for his congregation

Vancouver, Canada - Small in numbers but big in heart, a little-known Buddhist congregation in British Columbia is selling its major temple, worth an estimated $500,000, and will donate the proceeds to the Canadian Red Cross tsunami-relief fund.

If the former church on one hectare of land in the Fraser Valley community of Mission does not sell quickly, the temple itself will be donated to the Red Cross to be auctioned off, congregation spokesman Phien Nguyen said yesterday.

"We can have a temple of compassion, instead," said Mr. Nguyen, noting that the congregation of Vietnamese-Canadians had planned to use the sale to build a more suitable temple closer to Vancouver.

The extraordinary gesture was announced at Saturday prayers by the 40-member group's Buddhist master, Venerable Thich Nguyen Thao.

Yesterday, seated cross-legged on a pillow before a large white Buddha at the group's modest ceremonial hall in Burnaby, the brown-robed master said the idea bubbled up spontaneously from his heart as he contemplated the misery of so many in south Asia.

"I feel that we can share a little bit of suffering with them. And by doing this, we can help all faiths join together to make the world, which is so full of hatred, a better place to live," he said through an interpreter.

Mr. Nguyen, the spokesman, said many in the congregation were initially stunned and not exactly overjoyed by their master's decision, announced without consultation or warning.

"But we are all happy about it now. Our master has spent many years teaching compassion and this has been the best lesson ever for me."

He said he has known the Buddhist master for many years, since his arrival in Canada as a "boat person" in 1980, and something seemed to come over him as he prayed for the tsunami victims last weekend.

"After the prayers, he looked different," said Mr. Nguyen. "He stood up, facing us, and he just announced it [donating the temple]. It was jaw-dropping for all of us. We were very surprised."

Members had donated thousands of dollars each to buy the defunct church in Mission five years ago for about $300,000 and convert it to a Buddhist temple.

However, the hour-long drive to Mission for weekly prayers proved too daunting. Attendance dwindled, and last year, the congregation decided to sell the temple and use the funds to expand a residence it owns in Burnaby into a full temple.

Now, the money will go to the Red Cross instead.

"If it goes through, this will be a very unique donation, certainly one of the larger ones we've had," said Carmen MacKenzie of the Red Cross's Lower Mainland office.

"They are concerned about the disaster and they are showing their concern in a good way, a big way."

Ms. MacKenzie added that another Buddhist leader came to the Red Cross office recently to make an individual donation of $100,000. [GLOBE AND MAIL]


* Probably a good point to note on the celebration of the building of OR

offering of yet another buddhist centre..... !!


Meditation Gives Brain a Charge, Study Finds

By Marc Kaufman, Washington Post Staff Writer, January 3, 2005

Washington, USA -- Brain research is beginning to produce concrete evidence for something that Buddhist practitioners of meditation have maintained for centuries: Mental discipline and meditative practice can change the workings of the brain and allow people to achieve different levels of awareness.

Those transformed states have traditionally been understood in transcendent terms, as something outside the world of physical measurement and objective evaluation. But over the past few years, researchers at the University of Wisconsin working with Tibetan monks have been able to translate those mental experiences into the scientific language of high-frequency gamma waves and brain synchrony, or coordination. And they have pinpointed the left prefrontal cortex, an area just behind the left forehead, as the place where brain activity associated with meditation is especially intense.

"What we found is that the longtime practitioners showed brain activation on a scale we have never seen before," said Richard Davidson, a neuroscientist at the university's new $10 million W.M. Keck Laboratory for Functional Brain Imaging and Behavior. "Their mental practice is having an effect on the brain in the same way golf or tennis practice will enhance performance." It demonstrates, he said, that the brain is capable of being trained and physically modified in ways few people can imagine.

Scientists used to believe the opposite -- that connections among brain nerve cells were fixed early in life and did not change in adulthood. But that assumption was disproved over the past decade with the help of advances in brain imaging and other techniques, and in its place, scientists have embraced the concept of ongoing brain development and "neuroplasticity."

Davidson says his newest results from the meditation study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in November, take the concept of neuroplasticity a step further by showing that mental training through meditation (and presumably other disciplines) can itself change the inner workings and circuitry of the brain.

The new findings are the result of a long, if unlikely, collaboration between Davidson and Tibet's Dalai Lama, the world's best-known practitioner of Buddhism. The Dalai Lama first invited Davidson to his home in Dharamsala, India, in 1992 after learning about Davidson's innovative research into the neuroscience of emotions. The Tibetans have a centuries-old tradition of intensive meditation and, from the start, the Dalai Lama was interested in having Davidson scientifically explore the workings of his monks' meditating minds. Three years ago, the Dalai Lama spent two days visiting Davidson's lab.

The Dalai Lama ultimately dispatched eight of his most accomplished practitioners to Davidson's lab to have them hooked up for electroencephalograph (EEG) testing and brain scanning. The Buddhist practitioners in the experiment had undergone training in the Tibetan Nyingmapa and Kagyupa traditions of meditation for an estimated 10,000 to 50,000 hours, over time periods of 15 to 40 years. As a control, 10 student volunteers with no previous meditation experience were also tested after one week of training.

The monks and volunteers were fitted with a net of 256 electrical sensors and asked to meditate for short periods. Thinking and other mental activity are known to produce slight, but detectable, bursts of electrical activity as large groupings of neurons send messages to each other, and that's what the sensors picked up. Davidson was especially interested in measuring gamma waves, some of the highest-frequency and most important electrical brain impulses.

Both groups were asked to meditate, specifically on unconditional compassion. Buddhist teaching describes that state, which is at the heart of the Dalai Lama's teaching, as the "unrestricted readiness and availability to help living beings." The researchers chose that focus because it does not require concentrating on particular objects, memories or images, and cultivates instead a transformed state of being.

Davidson said that the results unambiguously showed that meditation activated the trained minds of the monks in significantly different ways from those of the volunteers. Most important, the electrodes picked up much greater activation of fast-moving and unusually powerful gamma waves in the monks, and found that the movement of the waves through the brain was far better organized and coordinated than in the students. The meditation novices showed only a slight increase in gamma wave activity while meditating, but some of the monks produced gamma wave activity more powerful than any previously reported in a healthy person, Davidson said.

The monks who had spent the most years meditating had the highest levels of gamma waves, he added. This "dose response" -- where higher levels of a drug or activity have greater effect than lower levels -- is what researchers look for to assess cause and effect.

In previous studies, mental activities such as focus, memory, learning and consciousness were associated with the kind of enhanced neural coordination found in the monks. The intense gamma waves found in the monks have also been associated with knitting together disparate brain circuits, and so are connected to higher mental activity and heightened awareness, as well.

Davidson's research is consistent with his earlier work that pinpointed the left prefrontal cortex as a brain region associated with happiness and positive thoughts and emotions. Using functional magnetic resonance imagining (fMRI) on the meditating monks, Davidson found that their brain activity -- as measured by the EEG -- was especially high in this area.

Davidson concludes from the research that meditation not only changes the workings of the brain in the short term, but also quite possibly produces permanent changes. That finding, he said, is based on the fact that the monks had considerably more gamma wave activity than the control group even before they started meditating. A researcher at the University of Massachusetts, Jon Kabat-Zinn, came to a similar conclusion several years ago.

Researchers at Harvard and Princeton universities are now testing some of the same monks on different aspects of their meditation practice: their ability to visualize images and control their thinking. Davidson is also planning further research.

"What we found is that the trained mind, or brain, is physically different from the untrained one," he said. In time, "we'll be able to better understand the potential importance of this kind of mental training and increase the likelihood that it will be taken seriously."

Fancier more attractive version:
Countless Tricked by Misleading Food Labels
Published shortened in The Sunday Times , Singapore (2 Jan 2005) as "The Corn Soup is Not Vegan"

Did you know?
McDonald's fries contain beef?
Mos Burger's corn soup contain chicken?

Suspecting Mos Burger's (fast food restaurant) corn soup to contain milk-based cream, I asked a counter staff at Toa Payoh's branch to confirm. To my utmost shock as a vegan (one who chooses not to use animal products), the reply was a quick shake of the head with a direct, "No, but got chicken stock." Shaken by disbelief, I asked another staff. The reply was the same.

For years, I, and I believe, countless fellow vegetarians and vegans, have been fooled into thinking the corn soup as a vegetarian item on Mos Burger's menu. This belief is naturally reinforced by the following facts. Firstly, the item is simply labelled "corn soup." Secondly, on its poster menus, the corn soup is tagged with a green vegetable icon, which the legend defines "vegetable."
While it might be argued that the label was not "vegetarian" per se, it ought to be noted that there is a chicken icon in the legend for other chicken-based foods on the menu. Should the chicken symbol not tag the corn soup item too, since a soup's stock is not exactly a minor ingredient? Though there is no official international symbol for vegetarian food items as yet, many restaurants around the world use various vegetable-like symbols in their menus to inform patrons of vegetarian choices. Thus, in the case of Mos Burger, whether accidental or intentional, the labelling is plain misleading and disrespectful to vegetarians, who are an increasing lot worldwide.
Another outrageous and somewhat "hidden secret" by another fast food chain is the case of MacDonald's ingredients for its french fries. If you visit MacDonald's website and search for their make-up,
( you will see "natural flavor (beef source)" listed. The beef is mixed with the potato itself. I vividly recall a series of letters to The Straits Times a few years ago over whether the fries are cooked in pure vegetable oil or oil with beef tallow (which it used to be). The concluding but misleading reply letter by the local MacDonald's stated that they are indeed cooked in vegetable oil only. However, this failed to address the true concern of whether the finished product is vegetarian or not. I am positively sure most vegetarians, religious (eg. Buddhists and Hindus and others) or not, do not realise they have been chomping beef mixed in potato.
With these two cases highlighted, I sincerely beseech the government, if not individual restaurants, to label their food more precisely. Just as there are labels for Halal food, perhaps the Health Promotion Board or a relevant local authority should come up with universal labels for vegetarian and vegan foods? Such symbols already exist in advanced countries like UK. This is especially timely in the event of Health Promotion Board's recent urging of fellow Singporeans to eat more servings of fruits and vegetables. Such a system will bring peace of mind to vegetarian consumers and tag restaurenteurs, and even hawkers, with the responsibility that is only appropriately ethical. Surely this is not too demanding?

Shen Shi'an