Speak your mind and help set the policies that will guide this campaign and change the country.
Pay Inequity Continues: For every $1.00 earned by a man, the average woman receives only 77 cents, while African American women only get 67 cents and Latinas receive only 57 cents.
Hate Crimes on the Rise: The number of hate crimes increased nearly 8 percent to 7,700 incidents in 2006.
Efforts Continue to Suppress the Vote: A recent study discovered numerous organized efforts to intimidate, mislead and suppress minority voters.
Disparities Continue to Plague Criminal Justice System: African Americans and Hispanics are more than twice as likely as whites to be searched, arrested, or subdued with force when stopped by police. Disparities in drug sentencing laws, like the differential treatment of crack as opposed to powder cocaine, are unfair.
Obama will reverse the politicization that has occurred in the Bush Administration’ s Department of Justice. He will put an end to the ideological litmus tests used to fill positions within the Civil Rights Division.
Obama will work to overturn the Supreme Court’s recent ruling that curtails racial minorities’ and women’s ability to challenge pay discrimination. Obama will also pass the Fair Pay Act to ensure that women receive equal pay for equal work and the Employment Non-Discrimination Act to prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity or expression.
Obama will strengthen federal hate crimes legislation, expand hate crimes protection by passing the Matthew Shepherd Act, and reinvigorate enforcement at the Department of Justice’s Criminal Section.
Obama will sign into law his legislation that establishes harsh penalties for those who have engaged in voter fraud and provides voters who have been misinformed with accurate and full information so they can vote.
Obama will ban racial profiling by federal law enforcement agencies and provide federal incentives to state and local police departments to prohibit the practice.
Obama will provide job training, substance abuse and mental health counseling to ex-offenders, so that they are successfully re-integrated into society. Obama will also create a prison-to-work incentive program to improve ex-offender employment and job retention rates.
Obama believes the disparity between sentencing crack and powder-based cocaine is wrong and should be completely eliminated.
Obama will give first-time, non-violent offenders a chance to serve their sentence, where appropriate, in the type of drug rehabilitation programs that have proven to work better than a prison term in changing bad behavior.
Record of Advocacy: Obama has worked to promote civil rights and fairness in the criminal justice system throughout his career. As a community organizer, Obama helped 150,000 African Americans register to vote. As a civil rights lawyer, Obama litigated employment discrimination, housing discrimination, and voting rights cases. As a State Senator, Obama passed one of the country’s first racial profiling laws and helped reform a broken death penalty system. And in the U.S. Senate, Obama has been a leading advocate for protecting the right to vote, helping to reauthorize the Voting Rights Act and leading the opposition against discriminatory barriers to voting.
Dr. B.R. Ambedkar
He was born among the so-called “untouchables” in < ?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = “urn:schemas- microsoft- com:office: smarttags” /> India , but through his remarkable genius he became one of the most prominent personalities of his time. After India achieved independence in 1947, Ambedkar became the first law minister in independent India (what we might call the Attorney General). As such, he was the principal architect of India ’s Constitution. It’s the world’s longest democratic constitution, and includes many
articles against the practice of un-touch-ability. It also provides for what we call affirmative action; people from all backgrounds should have access to education, scholarships and government jobs, but the preferences would be given to the lowest people in society. Ambedkar was responsible for all that.
In the last five years of his life he made good on a promise he made in 1935, “I was born a Hindu, but I’m determined not to die a Hindu. I’m going to figure out which of the religions offers me and my community the most dignity and humanity.” Many who knew him and study him think Ambedkar had Buddhism in mind all along, because he was deeply moved by a book on the life of the Buddha given him upon graduation from high school. But if
he had declared himself a Buddhist in the 1930s he would have lost a lot of his clout as a negotiator with the British and with other Hindus like Gandhi in the drama of emerging independence. So he held off until 1951 when he retired from the government, and spent the last five years of his life preparing for a huge conversion ceremony on October 14th, 1956, which is the traditional date of Ashoka’s conversion to Buddhism.
The year 1956 saw the worldwide celebration of the twenty-five hundredth year of the birth of Buddha Shakyamuni. So the date and the place, Nagpur in central India, a city which was associated with the preservation of Buddhist teachings by the Nagas, the serpent people, was highly symbolic of the rebirth of Buddhism in a land which had seen no Buddhism for
virtually a thousand years. Nearly a half-million untouchables took refuge at Ambedkar’s conversion ceremony; and then six weeks later, he died of a long-standing illness.
In the years since his great conversion, Ambedkar had become a symbol of hope for low-caste people throughout India but his Buddhist movement since then has had to struggle along with support from outsiders like Sangharakshita and his British Buddhist followers, though it also attracted some talented leaders within India and the untouchable community. Where it’s going, and whether it’s growing and flourishing, is anybody’s guess. But we have Ambedkar’s own thoughts and writings to consider for our purposes today.
Choice and Adaptation
I’d like to mention two proposals that he made in his effort to adapt Buddhism to modern circumstances - not just for the untouchables, but really for the modern world. The first is that one must choose what religion one will follow, and the second is that one must adapt it to fit one’s needs.
One premise of Ambedkar’s religious sensibility was that as modern (or even postmodern) people we are forced to choose our belief system. It’s not only possible for people to become heretics, but we have what Peter Berger called the “heretical imperative.” (The word heresy, by the way, comes from the Greek root, which means simply “to choose”; it means to choose a belief and a lifestyle.) We really are forced by the world today to choose who we will be and what we will believe, because the grip of tradition on our minds has now been loosened by modern education, by science, by travel and by global communication. We are now faced with so many options for belief and practice that we have to sit down quietly with
ourselves and say, “What do I believe? What shall I do with my life? Who will be my friends and allies? Where should I put my extracurricular energies?” These are things that all people in the world are now facing. (There are certainly repressive countries where those options are limited, but I think most in the world today recognize the goal of being able to make yourself, remake yourself, and point yourself in some direction.)
Following his dramatic announcement in 1935 C.E. that he would adopt a new religion, Ambedkar considered Christianity, Islam, Sikhism, Jainism and Buddhism as possible options for him in India . They were all active religions, except for Buddhism, which, although originating in India had vanished by the twelfth century. Ambedkar asked, “Which of these
traditions offers my community the most dignity, the most inspiration, the most empowerment to move ahead and to realize a good life or a good future or a good symbolic universe, a universe that makes me feel that life is worth living and there’s a future for the world?”
Buddhism seemed to offer the most for Ambedkar and his followers because it was an indigenous religion; it wasn’t, like Christianity or Islam - something imported. It also offered something unique, a kind of reticence to lock onto fixed beliefs or practices. There was this notion within Buddhism that you must experiment within the laboratory of your own life
to see what works and what makes sense.
This helped with Ambedkar’s second principle: the notion that once I’ve chosen a major tradition or body of thought, I must adjust it so that it works in the circumstances that I face or that my community faces. Ambedkar echoed the discourse in the Kalama Sutta in which the Buddha said, “Don’t blindly trust teachings and writings, but test them in your
own life.” This idea of testing for yourself and questioning authority has become a hallmark of Western or modern Buddhism.
The heart of Buddhism was an attitude, or, perhaps, Buddhism was an attitude of heart. The Buddha, of course, was a human being representing a potential that all human beings have. So all of that went into Ambedkar’s search for a tradition that could be adaptable to a culture in which pluralism was present, but in which a significant proportion of people felt dis-empowered and dehumanized. Buddhism, for Ambedkar, emerged as a model for becoming a full human being. Yet it was a model still in need of some changes.
The Limitations of Buddhism
In his final work, The Buddha and His Dhamma, Ambedkar pointed to four problems he saw with the Buddhist tradition as received from the past, four issues that conflict with our modern sensibility. We should not forget that Ambedkar was trained in the West; he was a follower of John Dewey, the eminent American pragmatist philosopher.
1) The first thing that Ambedkar questioned was the legend of the Buddha’s isolation, as a prince, from normal human experiences. How could a twenty-nine year-old man suddenly discover illness, suffering, and death, and then abandon his family in a fit of existential angst? Wasn’t that a little late for someone to discover these things? So there’s something
about the Buddha’s story that’s a little odd to our way of thinking, because we know that young people today confront these realities of life during their adolescent years and we encourage them to wrestle with these things and resolve them in certain ways.
2) The second issue has to do with the causes of suffering. The second noble truth says that suffering is a result of craving and ignorance; therefore if someone is suffering we have to say, “Change your attitude. Practice meditation. Practice morality and your life will improve.” But might there be circumstances in which there are innocent victims? There are children or whole communities who are marginalized and oppressed by social, political and economic forces that are essentially beyond their control, unless they somehow collectively organize a resistance to oppression. Can Buddhism encompass the notion of social change, which has
both victims and oppressors?
3) The third problem was the question of karma and rebirth. Do we really believe in rebirth? Do we really believe that karma is a kind of ongoing accumulation of energy that will dictate not only the quality of our life but cause us to be reborn again and again? Must we conclude, for example, that a handicapped person is serving a sentence for past indiscretions or
crimes? Ambedkar had difficulty with the place of traditional teachings of rebirth in our modern world view, not only in terms of what we now know about psychology and physics, but in light of the social issues surrounding the life of untouchables in India .
4) The final contradiction or problem Dr. Ambedkar saw in Buddhism was the role of the monk or the ordained person. What is the true role of the ideal practitioner of Buddhism? Should it be one who is renouncing and retreating from the life of family responsibilities, work, and society, living essentially apart, except for the ritualized contacts of the
begging rounds or teaching? Or should those ideal practitioners of the Buddha’s teaching be seen not as sitting but as walking; that is, walking out into the community and trying to help people improve their material circumstances as well as their spiritual condition? Shouldn’t the monks be trained as social workers? This was one of Ambedkar’s core questions. And
his model was the Jesuits, the Benedictines and Protestant missionaries who founded clinics and literacy programs and helped people to dig wells, build roads, and otherwise improve their situation through engaged activity.
In looking at these issues and other basic notions of Buddhism, Ambedkar modified the tradition quite freely.. One of the most important changes he made was a rather radical re-interpretation of what was meant by nirvana. According to Ambedkar, nirvana is not a metaphysical or psychological state or attainment, but a society founded in peace and justice. He brought a transcendent view of nirvana down to earth.
This is an important feature of engaged Buddhism as manifested in many parts of Asia today. A common feature of this movement is to disregard notions of another world, whether it’s a psychological world or a metaphysical world, and to translate that into a society based on equality and the free exchange of ideas and goods. This is a kind of socialism, and
Ambedkar himself, though not a socialist per se, was significantly influenced by socialist thinkers.
With this different understanding, the discussion of nirvana becomes analogous to the discussion in Christianity about the kingdom of God or heaven. Is it an afterlife, or is it an ideal community on this planet? Ambedkar and his followers would vote for the latter concept. We need to create communities that unlock human potential and dignity - that’s
If you look at the Satipatthána Sutta or the Visuddhimagga you find texts setting forth a complex set of meditation skills and ethical practices, which the tradition offers us as the path to awakening. That is largely de-emphasized in Ambedkar’s writings and in his thought. For him the pursuit of education at all levels was a form of meditation and mental cultivation. This in turn supplemented the institutions of a free society - representative government, due process, and an impartial judiciary when an untouchable can go to a court and have a judge actually award the verdict to him or her. This is nirvana. All this has nothing to do with the traditional wealth of meditation practices available.
It is important to keep in mind that Ambedkar’s primary teachers were books. In this sense he shares something with Western “Buddhists” who have been brought to Buddhism by reading Alan Watts, D.T. Suzuki, Shunryu Suzuki, or Trungpa Rinpoche, rather than being trained in Buddhism by a personal teacher who is devoting his or her life to practice and teaching meditation. There are many people in America who call themselves Buddhists because they’ve read books about it - the “bookstore Buddhist” or the “nightstand Buddhist,” as Tom Tweed calls them. Ambedkar had thirty thousand books, including a huge collection on Buddhism; these have marks all over the margins and underlines and crossings out, agreeing and disagreeing with elements of the tradition and deciding how Buddhism would
work for him. These books were his teachers.
As a personality, Ambedkar was certainly volcanic; he didn’t have the calm demeanor of Thich Nhat Hanh. It wasn’t breath and smile for Dr. Ambedkar. Ambedkar was deeply scarred by being an untouchable in his society all his life, and he brings the passion of that experience to his understanding of Buddhism. Educate, Agitate, and Organize - this was Ambedkar’s slogan during his years as a civil rights leaders in India . Today it is still used by his followers as Buddhists, which really irritates other Buddhists who say that agitation has no role to play in Buddhism. Well, does it? Should Buddhists be, in a certain sense, agitators for a better society, for reconciliation, or are these irreconcilable concepts?
Given the way Buddhism is evolving in the West, with its strong emphasis upon meditation and psychology, Ambedkar’s perspective is very provocative. Many of us are drawn to Buddhism because it offers peace - inner peace and world peace. We would like to be more un-perturb-able, loving, compassionate and joyful, rather than the crusading radicals some of us were in the sixties. If Buddhism has to do with stilling the fires of passion, then mettá bhávaná [the cultivation of loving kindness] is probably the best and highest practice for engaged Buddhism in the traditional mold - achieving peace and then projecting that peace to others.. If this attainment of peace has some ripples in the world, great; but the world is really not the primary concern of a traditional Buddhist. It is rather training the monkey mind to settle down.
But it may be worth looking closely at Ambedkar’s idea that Buddhism is something we receive and then have to work with. Buddhist teachings invite us to take responsibility for ourselves, and this is being interpreted in engaged Buddhist circles as taking responsibility for the entire Sangha, the larger community, and ultimately, our eco-system on this planet Earth. Ambedkar’s approach tells us that if we spend too much time in personal meditation practice, and in retreat from the world of social relationship, we will be irresponsible to our community. So we need to get off the cushion, get out of the house, get out there and start to educate, agitate and organize. This is a collectivist notion of Sangha as people working together for a society of justice, wherein our Buddhist practice becomes the engaged activity of social change.
The Meaning of Buddhism
The teaching founded by the Buddha is known, in English, as Buddhism. It may be asked, who is the Buddha? A Buddha is one who has attained Bodhi; and by Bodhi is meant wisdom, an ideal state of intellectual and ethical perfection which can be achieved by man through purely human means. The term Buddha literally means enlightened one, a knower. Buddhists believe that a Buddha is born in each aeon of time, and our Buddha—the sage Gotama who attained enlightenment under the bo tree at Buddh Gaya in India —was the seventh in the succession. Gotama was born the son of an Indian king on the border of modern Nepal 623 years before Christ. The wise men of the kingdom foresaw that he would become either an emperor or a Buddha, and his father, wanting him to be an emperor, kept him utterly secluded from all unpleasant things, so that he might not become wise by seeing life. But the gods knew that Gotama must become the Buddha, and so they visited earth in various forms to let him see them. On three successive days, while on his way to the royal park, Gotama saw an old man, a sick man, and a corpse, and thus he learned that men—all men—must suffer and die. On the fourth day he saw a monk; from this he understood that to learn the way of overcoming man’s universal sorrow lie must give up worldly pleasures. Accordingly, in his twenty-ninth year, he renounced his kingdom and became an ascetic.
Gotama wandered about the countryside, a seeker after truth and peace. He approached many a distinguished teacher of his day, but none could give him what he sought. He strenuously practiced all the severe austerities of monkish life, hoping to attain Nirvana. Eventually his delicate body was reduced almost to a skeleton. But the more he tormented his body the further away he was from his goal. Realizing the futility of self-mortification, he finally decided to follow a different course, avoiding the extremes of pain and indulgence.
The new path which he discovered was the Middle Way , the Eightfold Path, which subsequently became part of his teaching. By following this path his wisdom grew into its fullest power, and he became the Buddha.
As a man Prince Gotama, by his own will, love, and wisdom, attained Buddhahood—the highest possible state of perfection—and he taught his followers to believe that they might do the same. Any man, within himself, possesses the power to make himself good, wise, and happy.
All the teachings of the Buddha can be summed up in one word: Dhamma. It means truth, that which really is. It also means law, the law which exists in a man’s own heart and mind. It is the principle of righteousness. Therefore the Buddha appeals to man to be noble, pure, and charitable not in order to please any Supreme Deity, but in order to be true to the highest in himself.
Dhamma, this law of righteousness, exists not only in a man’s heart and mind, it exists in the universe also. All the universe is an embodiment and revelation of Dhamma. When the moon rises and sets, the rains come, the crops grow, the seasons change, it, is because of Dhamma, for Dhamma is the law of the universe which makes matter act in the ways revealed by our studies of natural science.
If a man will live by Dhamma, he will escape misery and come to Nirvana, the final release from all suffering. It is not by any kind of prayer, nor by any ceremonies, nor by any appeal to a God, that a man will discover the Dhamma which will lead him to his goal. He will discover it in only one way—by developing his own character. This development comes only through control of the mind and purification of the emotions. Until a man stills the storm in his heart, until he extends his loving-kindness to all beings, he will not be able to take even the first step toward his goal.
Thus Buddhism is not a religion at all, in the sense in which the word is commonly understood. It is not a system of faith or worship. In Buddhism, there is no such thing as belief in a body of dogma which must be taken on faith, such as belief in a Supreme Being, a creator of the universe, the reality of an immortal soul, a personal savior, or archangels who are supposed to carry out the will of the Supreme Deity. Buddhism begins as a search for truth. The Buddha taught that we should believe only that which is true in the light of our own experience, that which conforms to reason and is conducive to the highest good and welfare of all beings. Men must rely on themselves. Even though he may “take refuge in Buddha,'’ the expression used when a man pledges himself to live a righteous life, he must not fall victim to a blind faith that the Buddha can save him. The Buddha can point out the path, but he cannot walk it for us.
The truth which the Buddhist sees when he looks around him is the truth of cause and effect. Every action, no matter how insignificant, produces an effect; every effect in its turn becomes a, cause and produces still further effects. It is meaningless to inquire for a First Cause. A First Cause is inconceivable; rather, cause and effect are cyclical, and this universe when it dies and falls apart will give rise to another universe, just as this one was formed from the dispersed matter of a previous universe. The origin of the universe, like that of every individual person or thing in it, is dependent on the chain of previous causes, which goes on and on in an endless cycle of birth, death, and rebirth. This is the principle of dependent origination.
What of the soul? The Buddha taught that there is no soul or self, and he used the metaphor of the cart. If you take away the wheels and axles, the floorboards and sides, the shafts, and all the other parts of the cart, what remains? Nothing but the conception of a cart, which will be the same when a new cart is built. So the uninterrupted process of psychophysical phenomena moves from life to life. Each life passes instantaneously in death to a new life, and the new life is the effect of the causes in the old life. A candle flame at this instant is different from the flame that burned an instant ago, yet the flame is continuous.
Thus in the chain of interdependent causation all phenomenal existence is constantly changing. The elements combine and recombine with no underlying substance, or soul, to give them permanence. This is the Wheel of Life. The main cause of the restlessness, the suffering, which is the lot of beings turning on the Wheel of Life, is craving or selfish desire for existence, and it is this desire which sets the life force in motion. Desire is manifested in action. This action is in reality volition or will power, which is responsible for the creation of being. It is called karma in Sanskrit, but in the Pali language, which the Buddha spoke and in which all the Buddhist scriptures were written, it is softened to kamma.
In this universe in which nothing is permanent all change is governed by kamma or the kammic force. Kamma means action. In its general sense, kamma means all good and bad actions. Kamma refers to all kinds of intentional actions whether mental, verbal, or physical, that is, all thoughts, words, and deeds. In its ultimate sense kamma means all moral and immoral volition.
Kamma, though it activates the chain of cause and effect, is not determinism, nor is it an excuse for fatalism. The past influences the present, but does not dominate it. The past is the background against which life goes on from moment to moment; the past and the present influence the future. Only the present moment exists, and the responsibility for using the present moment for good or ill lies with each individual.
Every action produces an effect; it is cause first and effect afterward. We therefore speak of kamma as “the law of cause and effect.” If you throw a stone into a pond, the ripples spread out to the shore, but that is not all, for the ripples return inward until they touch the stone again. The effects of our actions come back to us, and as long as our actions are done with evil intent, the waves of effect will come back to us as evil. But if we are kind and keep ourselves peaceful, the returning waves of trouble will grow weaker until they die down and our good kamma will come back to us in blessing.
In the world around us there are many inequalities in the lot of man—some are rich, others are poor, some live full lives, others die young, etc. According to Buddhism, the inequalities which exist are due, to some extent, to environment—which is itself shaped by cause and effect—and to a greater extent to causes, that is kamma, which are in the present, the immediate past, and the remote past. Man himself is responsible for his own happiness and misery. Thus kamma is not fate nor destiny nor blind determinism. Man has a certain amount of free will; he can modify his actions and affect his future. Each act, whether mental or physical, tends to produce its like. If a man does a good deed or thinks a good thought, the effect upon him is to increase the tendencies to goodness in him.
The understanding of kamma gives us power. The more we make the doctrine of kamma a part of our lives, the more power we gain, not only to direct our future, but also to help our fellow beings more effectively. The practice of good kamma, when fully developed, will enable us to overcome evil and even to overcome kamma itself, thus bringing us to our goal, Nirvana.
The principle of dependent origination and the law of kamma provide the background for understanding the nature of rebirth. According to Buddhism, death is “the temporary end of a temporary phenomenon.” It is not the complete annihilation of the being, for although the organic life has ceased, the kammic force which hitherto actuated it is not destroyed. Our physical forms are only the outward manifestations of the invisible kammic force. When the present form perishes, another form takes its place according to a good or bad volitional impulse—the kamma that was the most powerful—at the moment before death.
At death the kammic force remains entirely undisturbed by the disintegration of the physical body, and the passing away of the present consciousness creates the conditions for the coming into being of a fresh body in another birth. The stream of consciousness flows on like a river which is built up by its tributaries and dispenses its water to the countryside through which it passes. The continuity of flux at death is unbroken in point of time; there is no breach in the stream of consciousness, and therefore there is no room whatever for an intermediate stage between this life and the next. Rebirth takes place immediately.
The present being, present existence, is conditioned by the way one faced circumstances in the last and in all past existences. One’s present character and circumstances are the result of all that one has been up to the present, but what one will be in the future depends on what one does now in the present. The true Buddhist regards death as a momentary incident between one life and its successor and views its approach with calmness. His only concern is that his future should be such that the condition of that life may provide him with better opportunities for perfecting himself.
Buddhism teaches that with the practice of meditation and concentration the memory can be trained. By meditation and mind culture one can acquire the power to see one’s rebirth as a link, or a succession of links, in a chain of births; one can also acquire the power of looking back into one’s previous lives. Not only this, but Buddhism also teaches that with the attainment of Nirvana in this life itself, through enlightenment and true wisdom, one can reach the end of this chain of rebirths.
Nirvana, the state to which all Buddhists aspire, is the cessation of desire and hence the end of suffering. Nirvana in Sanskrit means “the blowing out.” It is understood as the extinguishment of the flame of personal desire, the quenching of the fire of life. Among Westerners Nirvana is often thought of as a negative state, a kind of “nothingness. ” But in the Buddhist scriptures it is always described in positive terms; the highest refuge, safety, emancipation, peace, and the like. Nirvana is freedom, but not freedom from circumstance; it is freedom from the bonds with which we have bound ourselves to circumstance. That man is free who is strong enough to say, “Whatever comes I accept as best.”
Nirvana is the dying of the kammic force. The Buddhist ascends to Nirvana through many stages of the Middle Way , the path of wisdom, morality, and control. There is not space enough here even to mention these phases or the various aspects of the regimen recommended by the Buddha in his vast scriptures; but it may be taken for granted that the life of the conscientious Buddhist is full and rich. Through the cycle of rebirths he ascends, he perfects himself, he conquers his cravings through wisdom and love. Slowly the kammic force ebbs away, the flame dies down.
At the root of man’s trouble is his primal state of ignorance. From ignorance comes desire, which sets the kammic force in motion. Hence the way to Nirvana lies through knowledge, and we come again full circle to Dhamma, the Buddha’s teachings. For in Dhamma, as truth, lies release from ignorance and desire and perpetual change, and the Buddha has shown us the way to truth.
What, then, is the meaning of Buddhism? Ultimately Buddhism, although not strictly speaking a religion, is a systematic exercise in spirituality, certainly one of the greatest ever conceived. It offers the individual a means by which he may fulfill himself through understanding, reaching eventually the plane of the supraperson on which both the self and self-knowledge are no longer useful. Meister Eckhart, the great Christian mystic, said: “The kingdom of God is for none but the thoroughly dead.” The Buddhist would agree, though he would probably prefer a less grim way of saying it. Nirvana in life, the peace which “passeth all understanding, ” is the conquest of life, the discovery of the permanent in its flux of psychophysical accidents and circumstances. The Buddhist believes that through meditation and good hard thought he can follow the Buddha through the successive stages of enlightenment and achieve at last the perfect wisdom which surmounts all need.
But by no means all Buddhists are monks or adepts. What does Buddhism mean for the ordinary person going about his work in the world? All through the Buddha’s teaching, repeated stress is laid on self-reliance and resolution. Buddhism makes man stand on his own feet, it arouses his self-confidence and energy. The Buddha again and again reminded his followers that there is no one, either in heaven or on earth, who can help them or free them from the results of their past evil deeds. The Buddhist knows that the powers of his own mind and spirit are enough to guide him in the present and shape his future and bring him eventually to the truth. He knows that he possesses a strength which is ultimately unsurpassable.
Moreover, Buddhism points unequivocally to the moral aspect of everyday life. Though Nirvana is amoral, in the sense that final peace transcends the conflict of good and evil, the path to wisdom is definitely a moral path. This follows logically from the doctrine of kamma. Every action must produce an effect, and one’s own actions produce an effect in one’s own life. Thus the kammic force which carries us inevitably onward can only be a force for good, that is, for our ultimate wisdom, if each action is a good action.
This doctrine finds its highest expression in metta, the Buddhist goal of universal and all-embracing love. Metta means much more than brotherly feeling or kindheartedness, though these are part of it. It is active benevolence, a love which is expressed and fulfilled in active ministry for the uplifting of fellow beings. Metta goes hand in hand with helpfulness and a willingness to forego self-interest in order to promote the welfare and happiness of mankind. It is metta which in Buddhism is the basis for social progress. Metta is, finally, the broadest and intensest conceivable degree of sympathy, expressed in the throes of suffering and change. The true Buddhist does his best to exercise metta toward every living being and identifies himself with all, making no distinctions whatsoever with regard to caste, color, class, or sex.
In addition, of course, the teachings of the Buddha are a prime cultural force in Oriental life, just as the Bible is the ultimate source of much Western art and thought. The Buddhist scriptures are larger and more detailed than the Christian Bible, however, and in translation would fill a dozen volumes. In Pali, the language of the scriptures, the Buddha’s teachings are called Tripitaka, which means “The Three Baskets.”
Vinaya Pitaka, “The Basket of Discipline,” consists of five books which expound the rules of monastic life. Sutta Pitaka, “The Basket of Discourses,” is a collection of discussions, stories, poems, and proverbs, written in simple language, imparting all the precepts of practical Buddhism. The third basket, Abhidhamma Pitaka, or “Basket of Ultimate Things,” deals with epistemological, metaphysical, and psychological matters and is of interest mainly to trained philosophers.
Thus the Tripitaka offers cohesive guidance at every level of intellectual, ethical, and spiritual activity. The Buddha’s word is light, a lamp for Burma —and for everyone.
Not moving towards BJP: Mayawati
LUCKNOW: Amid reports of a possible Congress-Samajwadi Party tie-up on the India-nuclear deal and beyond, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati on Tuesday scotched rumours of the Bahujan Samaj Party moving towards the Bharatiya Janata Party. She emphasised that the “BSP has had no pre-poll alliance with the saffron party and will have none in the future.”
Following BJP leader L.K. Advani’s utterances on Uttar Pradesh at a June 27 public meeting in Kanpur, the Congress and the SP have charged Ms. Mayawati with entering into an understanding with the saffron party.
Accusing the Congress and the SP of launching a malicious propaganda against her party to harm its political interests, Ms. Mayawati said both were worried at the prospect of Muslims shifting to her party on the controversial nuclear deal issue.
Ms. Mayawati claimed that Muslims were opposed to the nuclear deal.
Centre’s apathy responsible for floods affecting U.P. every year : CM
Lucknow : July 01, 2008 The Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister, Ms. Mayawati has said that the State Government was making all possible efforts to deal with the situation of floods. She said that paucity of funds would not be allowed to hamper rescue and relief works. She said that the Union Government’s apathy was responsible for the destruction caused by floods every year. She said that decision has been taken to plant 10 crore saplings during the rainy season for the permanent solution of drought problem of Bundelkhand region. The Chief Minister was addressing a press conference organised at her 5-Kalidas Marg official residence here today. She said that every year some districts of the state, especially those situated in the terai and eastern U.P. were badly affected by floods causing huge damage of people, property and thousands of acres of crops. Ms. Mayawati said that the State Chief Secretary had already reviewed the preparations undertaken to deal with the floods in the first week of June itself and necessary directives had also been issued in this regard. Besides, the State Irrigation Minister had also been directed to make all possible efforts to deal with the situation. The Chief Minister said that one of the main causes of the serious condition of floods in the state was that some of the major rivers flowing through the state like — Sharda, Ghaghra, Rapti and Gandak, originated from our neighbouring country Nepal and some times owing to heavy rains and also because of excessive release of water from the dams, the districts situated on the banks of these rivers face vicious situation of floods. Ms. Mayawati said that keeping all the above factors in mind, the Chief Secretary had reviewed the flood security arrangements and situation of relief and rescue works by visiting Gorakhpur, Kushinagar and Maharajganj districts on June 21 last. Besides, the State Irrigation Minister also visited the Purvanchal and Gorakhpur regions, which were affected by floods on June 27 last and suspended some officers for showing laxity in their duties and works. Departmental action was also initiated against some others. The Chief Minister said that the State Government had already taken necessary steps to provide quick relief to the people affected by the flood. The Flood Company of the PAC had been provided motorboats and other necessary equipment to deal with any challenge of floods. Besides, the army had also been alerted and the officers of the State Government had been in constant touch with their counterparts in the army. Holding the insensitivity of the Union Government responsible for the situation of floods, Ms. Mayawati said that the problem of flood caused by Sharda, Ghaghara, Rapti and Gandak could have been dealt with had the Union Government been sensitive towards it. She said that the Government of India had been requested last year that to ensure permanent solution of the flood situation arising because of the overflow of rivers originating from Nepal, it was necessary to take an early decision regarding the irrigation and flood control projects pending between Nepal and India. She regretted that the Union Government, like other several requests made by the State Government earlier, had not taken any concrete step in this regard so far and because of that the flood situation remains same as earlier.. The Chief Minister, on this occasion, said that the ‘Van Mahotsav Week’ had commenced in the State and a decision to plant 10 crore saplings in the Bundelkhand region during the rainy season had been taken by the Government so that the problem of drought could be solved permanently. The other purpose of this decision is to promote horticulture. This plantation drive would include plants, especially of lemon and other suitable fruit varieties. It would improve the economic condition of the area. She said that with a view to ensuring environment conservation, saplings of neem, imli, bel and other species would also be planted. She said that after it such trees would also be planted in other areas of the state. She hoped that efforts of her Government would ensure improvement in the economic condition of the people in the coming years. *******
Home guard will get Rs. 126 daily duty allowance
Lucknow: June 30, 2008 The Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister, Ms. Mayawati has increased the daily duty allowance of Home Guard volunteers. Now, each home guard would get the payment of Rs. 126 per day on duty anywhere in the state. It may be recalled that home guards volunteers were being paid Rs. 100 per day for duty in district and Rs. 105 per day for duty in other districts. The Chief Minister has increased the allowance keeping in view the demand of home guard volunteers for a long time. Home guards work more than the skilled labourers and equal to police constables. They were getting the duty allowance less than skilled labour so far. Taking a serious note of it, the Chief Minister has taken the decision of increasing the duty allowance of home guard volunteers. ********
Bahujan samaj party MLA Guddu Pandit was today (June 29) arrested for allegedly “abducting” a woman television reporter three days back.
Pandit, who was shown as having been taken into custody from Sector 24 of Noida, has been charged under various sections of Indian Penal Code by the Uttar Pradesh, officials sources said.
An MLA from Dibai assembly constituency in Uttar Pradesh, he was summoned by Chief Minister Mayawati at her residence in New Delhi after the reporter lodged a complaint with her of his misbehaviour.
The reporter told the Chief Minister that Pandit had allegedly forced him to travel with him from one place to another.
Pandit was handed over a notice from investigation officer of Gijod Police station for appearing before him.
Noida (city) Superintendent of Police Ashok Tripathi said Pandit was summoned and placed under arrest.
Incidentally, Guddu Pandit once worked as a driver with disgraced UP MLA Amarmani Tripathi. Tripathi was implicated in the murder of poetess Madhumita Shukla and is serving time in prison.
A case under section 147 (rioting), 366 (deceitful means to compel a person to travel places), 363 (whoever kidnaps or abducts a women and compels her to marry or have a sexual relation), 497 (adultery) and 420 (cheating).
(With inputs from PTI)
Senator Clinton made history over the past 16 months — not just because she has broken barriers, but because she has inspired millions of Americans with her strength, her courage, and her commitment to causes like universal health care that make a difference in the lives of hardworking Americans.
“The teenagers and college students who left their homes to march in the streets of Birmingham and Montgomery; the mothers who walked instead of taking the bus after a long day of doing somebody else’s laundry and cleaning somebody else’s kitchen — they didn’t brave fire hoses and Billy clubs so that their grandchildren and their great-grandchildren would still wonder at the beginning of the 21st century whether their vote would be counted; whether their civil rights would be protected by their government; whether justice would be equal and opportunity would be theirs. . . . We have more work to do.”
— Barack Obama, Speech at Howard University, September 28, 2007