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Archive for July, 2009

Michelle & VanI spent this weekend Obon hopping, and it wasn’t until tonight when I popped open my email client that I read that Michelle Maykin had passed away. You probably haven’t heard of Michelle. You probably haven’t heard of her husband Van, who started Project Michelle, an outreach program to find the one bone marrow donor who could save Michelle’s life. This program focused on education, outreach and bone marrow registration drives, all motivated by Michelle’s story and by the unparalleled enthusiasm of her family, friends and even people who never knew her. Her story and struggle have reminded me of the incredible positive impact we can have in our short lives. After all, at the age of just 27, Michelle could claim credit to inspiring four individuals who donated their stem cells, 15 others who are currently being tested for other patients and 110 more who have been identified as possible matches. Not to mention the thousands of others who joined the National Marrow Donor Registry because of Project Michelle. She helped save lives. She raised awareness of the urgency for Asian Americans to contribute to the national Marrow Registry, where Asian Americans and other minorities are vastly less likely to find the necessary exact donor match than their White counterparts. For mixed race Americans, the chance of finding this perfect match is roughly zero. Please help celebrate Michelle’s life by joining the National Marrow Donor Registry if you haven’t already. You can even order a home kit in the mail, which is free if you are a minority. You might just save a life. May her memory be a blessing.

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I’m going to take the amateur linguist in me for a spin. C.N. Le’s blog post on Asian Nation last Thursday was perceived as ridiculously offensive, even racist, by a number of White bloggers. I walked away from this post with different conclusions, perceiving no racist finger pointing, and instead a strong affirmation of the very same sentiments I occasionally experience at multicultural Buddhist retreats. In spite of heated back-and forth-comments, which have made liberal use of the terms racist, racism and white privilege, I believe further discussion is necessary. How did we come to these different conclusions from the very same words?

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optical illusion

I recently posted an article about “karma” that I found on the Examiner that I thought was very well written. As with any concept in Buddhism, describing what “karma” is the length of an article can be very tricky and difficult to do in a comprehensive yet easy-to-understand manner. I thought the author of this article, Emily, achieved both and therefore posted it on my Facebook account.

My friend pointed out that the way Emily described karma diverged from the way another author, Ven. Mahasi Sayadaw, described karma from another article I had posted on Facebook a while back. I reread both articles and she was right, they did conflict in the way they described “karma”. But both descriptions seemed valid. Both authors seemd to know what they were talking about and I never thought twice to think they conflicted until my friend brought it up. So who’s right and who’s wrong? Who has the more accurate description of karma?

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MeditatorI’m writing today’s post as a white male American Buddhist. I shouldn’t introduce myself as a privileged white Buddhist, though. Not because it’s unfair—but simply because it’s redundant.

To be clear, my privilege didn’t come as some sort of elite pedigree. My family lived in the urban projects, neither of my parents held a college degree, and I didn’t spend much of my childhood getting to know them because they both worked more than full-time jobs to cover the bills. My Jewish immigrant progenitors weren’t colonists, settlers, politicians or plantation owners. They were persecuted refugees who didn’t come here until long after the turn of the twentieth century—where, overworked, they continued to endure prejudice and discrimination—and they voted Democrat and Civil Rights all the way. But my white privilege runs even deeper. I am privileged by the very fact that I’m a white American dude.

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I’ve just read Dan Dennett’s Freedom Evolves, and am very convinced of his naturalistic take on evolution, the freedom it gives life, and how that freedom eventually became the most important kind of freedom, the kind that humans deal with. And deal with we do.
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Last night I was making rice and as soon as I poured water into the pot, I noticed some tiny dark beetles float to the top. This phenomenon isn’t at all surprising, but I felt bad. Because I now knew that I was going to wash these suckers out and flush them down the drain. They would probably all die out once I washed the dishes and sent dish soap coursing through the pipes. So much for generating good karma!

Rice bugs!

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Twelve years ago today I found myself out by Dún Laoghaire harbor, and looked out to see the USS John F Kennedy. That was the most “American” July 4 for me, if only because that massive symbol of America in a foreign harbor reminded me of all my family that had served in the forces and who were celebrating the Fourth of July back home. So to celebrate this day, especially for our service members overseas, here’s an excerpt from a prayer by Venerable Master Hsing Yun that was posted on Buddhist Military Sangha.

Oh great compassionate Buddha!
May our armed forces:
Be able to understand
Both themselves and their opponents, and avoid danger;
Be well-versed
In the art of war and uphold justice;
Be able to exercise compassion and wisdom,
And achieve victory through martial virtues;
Be able to possess courage and kindness,
And win the war without fighting a battle.
May they defend the nation
With the spirit of fearlessness;
May they guard the people
With the courage of great compassion.

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