------------------------------The Urban Dharma Newsletter
- February 2015
------------------------------1. Chinese New Year 2015: 6 things you need to know about the Year of the Goat (or Sheep) – http://www.independent.co.uk
2. No Big Bang? Quantum equation predicts universe has no beginning – http://phys.org
3. THE FIVE HINDRANCES – PRESENTED BY the Wanderling
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So much stuff to do… Sorry for the lateness of the newsletter… I posted some new stuff on iTunes and gave a bunch of talks this month. Life is full.
You can find these talks on iTunes the Urbandharma podcast or http://www.MyPodcast.netWorking on Perfection
- (Video) - 2/2/15 - 29 Min. - My talk (1/18/15) at the 'Center for Spiritual Living' in Simi Valley, CA on three of the Buddhist perfections.Some Thoughts on Life and Death
- 1/25/15 - 27 Min. - My talk at "Against the Stream" on Melrose in Los Angeles, CA1. Chinese New Year 2015: 6 things you need to know about the Year of the Goat (or Sheep)
Chinese New Year, the longest and most important holiday in the Chinese calendar.
The world’s largest annual human migration is now well underway as 2.8 billion trips are made across China in what is known as chun yun, when students, migrant workers and office employees living away from home will make the journey back to celebrate with their families.
It is China’s most important holiday
Chinese New Year is the longest national holiday in China, spanning a total of fifteen days, and New Year’s Day is the most important date in the Chinese calendar.
The first three days of the new year are a statutory holiday but usually most people will have the time from New Year’s Eve to the sixth day of the new year off from work.
Although China has used the Gregorian calendar since 1912, Chinese New Year is based on the ancient Chinese lunar calendar, and it falls on the second new moon after winter solstice - somewhere between 21 January and 19 February, meaning it changes from year to year.
It is pronounced “Gong Xi Fa Cai” in Mandarin and “Gong Hey Fat Choy” in Cantonese, although both are written the same way.
Fireworks explode at the River Hongbao Lunar New Year Celebrations along Marina Bay in Singapore Fireworks explode at the River Hongbao Lunar New Year Celebrations along Marina Bay in Singapore (Reuters) Roughly a sixth of the world will celebrate it
As well as being celebrated in China itself, celebrations occur in Taiwan, Singapore, Malaysia and all countries where there are significant Chinese populations.
London and San Fransisco both claim to host the largest celebrations outside of Asia, and smaller celebrations occur in most Western countries. This year London’s celebrations will take place on 22 February from 10am to 6pm in Trafalgar Square and include a parade through the West End.
Wish people a happy new year by saying “Xin Nian Kuai Le” in Mandarin or “San Nin Faai Lok” in Cantonese.
Goat dolls are on display at a gift shop for the upcoming Chinese Lunar New Year at a market in Bangkok's Chinatown Goat dolls are on display at a gift shop for the upcoming Chinese Lunar New Year at a market in Bangkok's Chinatown (EPA) Goat or sheep?
2015 is the year of the goat, but you may see it referred to as the “Year of the Sheep” too.
The confusion stems from the Chinese character “yang”, which can translate in colloquial Chinese as either sheep or goat.
Those born in 1919, 1931, 1943, 1967, 1979, 1991 or 2003 are goats, who can count their lucky colours as brown, red and purple.
Their characters are supposedly kind and peaceable, while their best months are supposedly August and November and their lucky flowers are primroses and carnations.
Children receive money and place them under the pillow before going to sleep, to bring happiness and good fortune (The Royal Mint) Children will sleep with money under their pillow
Children will be given red envelopes filled with money to bring happiness and good fortune.
The envelopes themselves are good luck, as well as the contents, and some children will sleep with their envelopes under their pillow for up to seven days to increase their luck.
A common misconception is that everyone receives money from everyone else as part of Chinese New Year celebrations.
In fact, only people who are not married receive the red packets of money (hong bak) and only those who are married give them out.
Dinners, parades, dragon dances, reunions and gift exchanges are all part of Chinese New Year celebrations.
Red clothing and elements are essential for Chinese New Year, as the mythical monster at the centre of the New Year, Nian, was supposedly scared of the colour red and fireworks, which have also become a key part of New Year celebrations.
Cleaning the house on the twentieth day of the second lunar month before the New Year, and subsequent house decorating, are both major rituals in the run up to New Year.
Each day has its own celebration: while on Day 2 it is traditional to visit friends and relatives, on Day 3 people tend to stay at home as it is not seen as auspicious to socialize.
The final day, Day 15, sees the Lantern Festival, where red Chinese lanterns are released into the sky.
"You cannot do a kindness too soon, for you never know how soon it will be too late." ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson2. No Big Bang? Quantum equation predicts universe has no beginning
‘This could be the reason Buddhists aren't concerned with a 'first cause'', maybe there isn't one.’ ~ Kusala
(Phys.org) —The universe may have existed forever, according to a new model that applies quantum correction terms to complement Einstein's theory of general relativity. The model may also account for dark matter and dark energy, resolving multiple problems at once.
The widely accepted age of the universe, as estimated by general relativity, is 13.8 billion years. In the beginning, everything in existence is thought to have occupied a single infinitely dense point, or singularity. Only after this point began to expand in a "Big Bang" did the universe officially begin.
Although the Big Bang singularity arises directly and unavoidably from the mathematics of general relativity, some scientists see it as problematic because the math can explain only what happened immediately after—not at or before—the singularity.
"The Big Bang singularity is the most serious problem of general relativity because the laws of physics appear to break down there," Ahmed Farag Ali at Benha University and the Zewail City of Science and Technology, both in Egypt, told Phys.org.
Ali and coauthor Saurya Das at the University of Lethbridge in Alberta, Canada, have shown in a paper published in Physics Letters B that the Big Bang singularity can be resolved by their new model in which the universe has no beginning and no end.
Old ideas revisited
The physicists emphasize that their quantum correction terms are not applied ad hoc in an attempt to specifically eliminate the Big Bang singularity. Their work is based on ideas by the theoretical physicist David Bohm, who is also known for his contributions to the philosophy of physics. Starting in the 1950s, Bohm explored replacing classical geodesics (the shortest path between two points on a curved surface) with quantum trajectories.
In their paper, Ali and Das applied these Bohmian trajectories to an equation developed in the 1950s by physicist Amal Kumar Raychaudhuri at Presidency University in Kolkata, India. Raychaudhuri was also Das's teacher when he was an undergraduate student of that institution in the '90s.
Using the quantum-corrected Raychaudhuri equation, Ali and Das derived quantum-corrected Friedmann equations, which describe the expansion and evolution of universe (including the Big Bang) within the context of general relativity. Although it's not a true theory of quantum gravity, the model does contain elements from both quantum theory and general relativity. Ali and Das also expect their results to hold even if and when a full theory of quantum gravity is formulated.
No singularities nor dark stuff
In addition to not predicting a Big Bang singularity, the new model does not predict a "big crunch" singularity, either. In general relativity, one possible fate of the universe is that it starts to shrink until it collapses in on itself in a big crunch and becomes an infinitely dense point once again.
Ali and Das explain in their paper that their model avoids singularities because of a key difference between classical geodesics and Bohmian trajectories. Classical geodesics eventually cross each other, and the points at which they converge are singularities. In contrast, Bohmian trajectories never cross each other, so singularities do not appear in the equations.
In cosmological terms, the scientists explain that the quantum corrections can be thought of as a cosmological constant term (without the need for dark energy) and a radiation term. These terms keep the universe at a finite size, and therefore give it an infinite age. The terms also make predictions that agree closely with current observations of the cosmological constant and density of the universe.
New gravity particle
In physical terms, the model describes the universe as being filled with a quantum fluid. The scientists propose that this fluid might be composed of gravitons—hypothetical massless particles that mediate the force of gravity. If they exist, gravitons are thought to play a key role in a theory of quantum gravity.
In a related paper, Das and another collaborator, Rajat Bhaduri of McMaster University, Canada, have lent further credence to this model. They show that gravitons can form a Bose-Einstein condensate (named after Einstein and another Indian physicist, Satyendranath Bose) at temperatures that were present in the universe at all epochs.
Motivated by the model's potential to resolve the Big Bang singularity and account for dark matter and dark energy, the physicists plan to analyze their model more rigorously in the future. Their future work includes redoing their study while taking into account small inhomogeneous and anisotropic perturbations, but they do not expect small perturbations to significantly affect the results.
"It is satisfying to note that such straightforward corrections can potentially resolve so many issues at once," Das said.
More information: Ahmed Farag Ali and Saurya Das. "Cosmology from quantum potential." Physics Letters B. Volume 741, 4 February 2015, Pages 276–279. DOI: 10.1016/j.physletb.2014.12.057. Also at: arXiv:1404.3093[gr-qc].
Saurya Das and Rajat K. Bhaduri, "Dark matter and dark energy from Bose-Einstein condensate", preprint: arXiv:1411.0753[gr-qc].
© 2015 Phys.org
A mile walked with a friend only contains a hundered steps. – Unknown3. THE FIVE HINDRANCES – PRESENTED BY the Wanderling
THROUGH THE GRACEFUL SERVICES OF THE DHARMA AND: AJAHN BRAHMAVAMSO
1 kamacchandra Sense Desire
2 vyapada Ill-will or Aversion
3 thina-middha Sloth and Torpor
4 uddhacca-kukkucca Restlessness and Anxiety
5 vicikiccha Doubt
"The Buddha says that all the hindrances arise through unwise consideration (ayoniso manasikara) and that they can be eliminated by wise consideration (yoniso manasikara). Each hindrance, however, has its own specific antidote. Thus wise consideration of the repulsive feature of things is the antidote to sensual desire; wise consideration of loving-kindness counteracts ill will; wise consideration of the elements of effort, exertion and striving opposes sloth and torpor; wise consideration of tranquillity of mind removes restlessness and worry; and wise consideration of the real qualities of things eliminates doubt." (S.v,105-106).
Although the overcoming or eradication of the Five Hindrances would be of high import in the normal course of almost anyone's life, simply lessening any adverse impact through the understanding of potential consequences would also be of some value. However, for those on a spiritual quest toward Enlightenment, especially those advancing through The Eight Jhana States under Buddhist precepts, unconditional elimination of the Five Hindrances is a must according to the rules and guidlines as they have come down to us through the Sutras and the recorded words of the Buddha.
Sense desire refers to that particular type of wanting or craving that seeks happiness through the five sense objects such as sight, sound, smell, taste, and touch, in the process enhancing the drive to replace even minor irritating or painful five-sense experiences with pleasant ones. It overrides any aspiration for happiness through mind alone, reinforcing the mind’s desire to encounter and grasp at future moments of enjoyment.
In its extreme form, sensory desire is an obsession to find pleasure in such things as a lustful fulfillment through continuing contact with other physical forms, good food to the point of gluttony, and other extremes, manifested in exaggeration through excess personal hoarding of wealth, power, position, and fame.
"Now, what is lack of food for the arising of unarisen sensual desire, or for the growth & increase of sensual desire once it has arisen? There is the theme of unattractiveness. To foster appropriate attention to it: This is lack of food for the arising of unarisen sensual desire, or for the growth & increase of sensual desire once it has arisen."
Starving the Hinderances, Ahara Sutta SN 46.51
When sensory desire is transcended, the mind of the meditator has no interest in the promise of pleasure or even comfort with this body. The body disappears and the five senses all switch off. The mind becomes calm and free to look within. The difference between the five sense activity and its transcendence is like the difference between looking out of a window and looking in a mirror. The mind that is free from five sense activity can truly look within and see its real nature. Only from that can wisdom arise. Also kama-raga, number four of The Ten Fetters of Buddhism. Desire, as Tanha, is considered one of the "Daughters of Mara," one of three tempters sent by Mara, The Personification of Evil, to entice the future Buddha into abandoning his quest for Enlightenemnt. Also considered one of The Three Poisons and The Ten Grave Precepts.
Equally as significant this same hindrance is Number One at the top of the list of the Patimokka, the 227 Rules to be observed by members of the Buddhist Order. Out of the 227 rules it is one of ONLY four, called the Parajikas, that if breached incurs explusion from the order for life. If you think Buddhism takes it lightly take some time to read Parajikas. Buddhism might not be your cup of tea.
Ill will refers to the desire to punish, hurt or destroy. It includes sheer hatred of a person or even a situation. It can generate so much energy that it is both seductive and addictive. At the time, it always appears justified for such is its power that it easily corrupts our ability to judge fairly. It also includes ill will towards oneself, otherwise known as guilt, which denies oneself any possibility of happiness. In meditation, ill will can appear as dislike towards the meditation object itself, rejecting it so that one's attention is forced to wander elsewhere.
"And what is lack of food for the arising of unarisen ill will, or for the growth & increase of ill will once it has arisen? There is awareness-release. To foster appropriate attention to that: This is lack of food for the arising of unarisen ill will, or for the growth & increase of ill will once it has arisen."
Starving the Hindrances, Ahara Sutta SN 46.51
Ill will is overcome through what is called Metta in Sanskrit (i.e., loving kindness). If it is ill will towards a person for any reason, Metta allows you to see more good in that person than all that hurts you. It helps you to understand why that person hurt you and encourages you to put aside your own pain to look with compassion on the other. If doing so is a hurdle too difficult to surpass, Metta turned toward one's self can assist in NOT dwelling on ill will toward that person. It will inhibit that person from hurting you further with the memory of any adverse deeds. Similarly, if it is ill will towards oneself, Metta sees more than one's own faults and can understand one's own faults, finds the courage to forgive them, learn from their lesson and let them go. If it is ill will towards the mediation object Metta embraces the meditation object with care and delight. For example, just as a mother has a natural Metta towards her child, so a meditator can look on their breath with the very same quality of caring attention. Then it will be just as unlikely to lose the breath through forgetfulness as it is unlikely for a mother to forget her baby in the shopping mall, --- and it would be just as improbable to drop the breath for some distracting thought as it is for a distracted mother to drop her baby!
When ill will is overcome, it allows lasting relationships with other people, with oneself and, in meditation, a lasting, enjoyable relationship with the meditation object, one that can mature into the full embrace of absorption. Also patigha, number five of the Ten Fetters of Buddhism.
SLOTH AND TORPOR:
Sloth and torpor refers to that heaviness of body and dullness of mind which drag one down into disabling inertia and thick depression.
"And what is lack of food for the arising of unarisen sloth & drowsiness, or for the growth & increase of sloth & drowsiness once it has arisen? There is the potential for effort, the potential for exertion, the potential for striving. To foster appropriate attention to them: This is lack of food for the arising of unarisen sloth & drowsiness, or for the growth & increase of sloth & drowsiness once it has arisen."
Starving the Hindrances, Ahara Sutta SN 46.51
Sloth and torpor is overcome by rousing energy. Energy is always available but few know how to turn on the switch. A young child has a natural interest, and consequent energy, because its world is so new. Thus, if one can learn to look at one's life, or one's meditation, with a 'beginner's mind' one can see ever new angles and fresh possibilities which keep one distant from sloth and torpor, alive and energetic. Similarly, one can develop delight in whatever one is doing by training one's perception to see the beautiful in the ordinary, thereby generating the interest which avoids the half-death that is sloth and torpor.
RESTLESSNESS AND ANXIETY:
Restlessness refers to a mind which is like a monkey, always swinging on to the next branch, never able to stay long with anything. It is caused by the fault-finding state of mind which cannot be satisfied with things as they are, and so has to move on to the promise of something better, forever just beyond.
"And what is lack of food for the arising of unarisen restlessness & anxiety, or for the growth & increase of restlessness & anxiety once it has arisen? There is the stilling of awareness. To foster appropriate attention to that: This is lack of food for the arising of unarisen restlessness & anxiety, or for the growth & increase of restlessness & anxiety once it has arisen."
Starving the Hindrances, Ahara Sutta SN 46.51
Restlessness is overcome by developing contentment, which is the opposite of fault-finding. One learns the simple joy of being satisfied with little, rather than always wanting more. One is grateful for this moment, rather than picking out its deficiencies. For instance, in meditation restlessness is often the impatience to move quickly on to the next stage. The fastest progress, though, is achieved by those who are content with the stage they are on now. It is the deepening of that contentment that ripens into the next stage. So be careful of 'wanting to get on with it' and instead learn how to rest in appreciative contentment. That way, the 'doing' disappears and the meditation blossoms. Number nine of the Ten Fetters of Buddhism.
Doubt refers to the disturbing inner questions at a time when one should be silently moving deeper. Doubt can question one's own ability "Can I do This?", or question the method "Is this the right way?", or even question the meaning "What is this?". It should be remembered that such questions are obstacles to meditation because they are asked at the wrong time and thus become an intrusion, obscuring one's clarity.
"And what is lack of food for the arising of unarisen uncertainty, or for the growth & increase of uncertainty once it has arisen? There are mental qualities that are skillful & unskillful, blameworthy & blameless, gross & refined, siding with darkness & with light. To foster appropriate attention to them: This is lack of food for the arising of unarisen uncertainty, or for the growth & increase of uncertainty once it has arisen."
Starving the Hindrances, Ahara Sutta SN 46.51
To deal with doubt a skilful meditator pursues a silent gathering of evidence, reviewing it only at the end to uncover its meaning. It is helpful to talk to someone who has great confidence in the Buddha and his teachings. Doubt can only be truly overcome, however, by our own practice of the Buddha’s teaching and by discovering the truth for ourselves. The Buddha said many times, “Come and see for yourself.”