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Archive for December, 2008

Okay, I admit the title of this post is not quite accurate. Actually, it should read “Nickelodeon Featuring the Avatar”.

Since 2005, Nickelodeon has featured an animated series called Avatar the Last Airbender, airing three seasons and winning an Emmy Award in American animated television series. Originally tageted twoards 6-11 year olds, this show has gained popularity among many outside the age bracket – including me. What I find most intriguing about Avatar is that it features a main character, a child monk named Aang, who adheres to Buddhist principles and even talks about basic Buddhist ideas such as forgiveness, nonviolence, and attachment. Though Nickelodeon never directly refers to Buddhism, the fact that one of the most popular and widely watched networks targeted towards children features a hero that succeeds in his journey based upon Buddhist concepts is amazing. I applaud Nickelodeon for producing this show and encourage anyone interested after reading this post to watch it for themselves. 

WARNING: this post MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS for those of you who have not watched all three seasons of Avatar. (more…)

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Working up an appetite

job-huntSo after six months of looking, I’ve finally come upon a job through a temp staffing agency. I’m glad to have found something in this economy and wish everyone else luck. I can say one thing about job searching: it sucks.

Still, it was a necessary thing to do. It was a much better option than vegetating while interest accrued on my student loans. And I am inspired by my previous experiences in work, and by the words of E.F. Schumacher: (more…)

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Dharma is BS

Several years ago I decided to sit in on Buddhism classes by Dr. Gregory Schopen. I heard legendary stories about his research and personality, so I had to check it out for myself.Gregory Schopen Those few weeks had a major effect on not just how I see Buddhism, but also on how I viewed academic research in general. One lecture in particular has stuck with me, and this was about “what the Buddha said.”

We Buddhists love to talk about what the Buddha said. Of course, none of us has ever heard the actual words he said. We usually don’t even quote the Pali or Sanskrit words that he’s claimed to have said. For those of us who don’t speak Sanskrit our Pali, we beg our readers to put their trust in our trust of the fellows who translate from the Pali or Sanskrit texts (and their editors). Sometimes we need to elaborate on the meaning of these translated texts, apparently the Buddha’s words don’t always speak for themselves.

Schopen applied this reasoning to Buddhist texts, and did so much more simply. And of course he uses the provocative abbreviation BS for what the Buddha Said.*

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I found this blog post on Celestial Lands today via Buddhist Military Sangha and was captivated. UU Army Candidate Chaplain David Pyle shares some “observations of similarities and surface differences between Sesshin and Military Basic Training, in the hopes that it might inspire thought.”

Just this morning I talked with my youngest brother, who will soon be off to basic training in North Carolina. Usually I can give plenty of advice to my brother ranging from finding memory leaks to playing the guitar, but today I had nothing to say. I have never been through basic training.

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Buddhism For Sale

Hello everyone,

As a new contributor to Dharma Folk, I am honored to particpate in the discussion of Buddhism through this blog.

As my first post, I have gathered several pictures of Buddhist related products taken while Christmas shopping. It’s always surprising to see Buddhism appearing randomly on t-shirts, in restaurants, as toys, and whatever else people can think of. This “Buddhamania” phenomenon, as the Los Angeles Times calls it, appears everywhere – the Buddha figure seems to be getting more and more popular, though not always in a spiritual context.

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I always loose my malas. I only ever accept these as gifts, so I can never replace them when I lose them. I think these are very useful devices, and so one of the techniques I’ve used in place of a mala is by counting on my fingers.

I count the segments of the fingers instead of the actual fingers. (I know these are often called phalanges, like the bones, but I prefer segments.) With three segments to a finger (sorry, I don’t count the thumb), there are twelve to a hand, and so you can count up to 12 on one hand or 24 on both hands. This is especially useful for counting seconds of minutes.*

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I promised I’d talk about it and so I will. Even before I persued the by-lines of Tricycle, I’d already coded the Best Buddhist Writing of 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007 and 2008. This list was easy enough to get because all the contributing authors are listed for each book in my local library catalog. Plus, these authors are much more famous than the individuals who publish in Tricycle — of course, we’re talking about the authors of the Best Buddhist Writing here — and the famous factor means that they’ll have Wikipedia pages! That makes finding out race, ethnicity and birthplaces much, much easier. So following the same methods as in the Tricycle study, here’s what I found.

Out of a whopping 136 unique authors, 21 were Asian. Percentage-wise, this is 15.4%, which is remarkably close to the 15.9% I found in the last year’s issues of Tricycle. This similarity in turn reminded me of a long ago grad school class where we discussed Thomas Schelling and mild racism.

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