Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Happy Birthday, BCB!

I am very happy to announce that this month is the 3rd anniversary of ByChanceBuddhism! 

I still remember the day I sat with my love, discussing what kind of blog I would like to write- and what I should call it. I will never forget his encouragement, or the clarity and determination I felt as I decided the focus -and name- of ByChanceBuddhism. 

Three years later, here we are! I would also like to thank all of you, my readers, who have been so kind as to provide so many insightful comments and support, especially over the past year. Your participation and contributions mean more to me than you know. You are among the many blessings that I have encountered whilst traveling the Buddhist path.  

As a small token of my appreciation, I would like to share this picture with you:

May you be happy as you travel along your own path, cultivating wisdom, compassion, and peace.

Thank you all so much- Here's to many more years writing BCB!

May all beings be happy!  

Monday, January 7, 2013

Not again! The Dalai Lama's 18 Rules for Living: Another fake

Okay, let's cut right to the chase: You know the "Dalai Lama's 18 Rules for Living"? FAKE with a capital F. But I promise, I really don't mean to be a kill-joy or know-it-all. Being the inquisitive person I am, I try to get to the bottom of things . . .

A while ago, I viewed this YouTube video featuring "the Dalai Lama's 18 Rules for Living". They really resonated with me, and so being a fan of H.H., I wanted to share them with others here at BCB. 

However, given the epidemic of fake Buddha quotes on the internet, I erred on the side of caution and decided to first check the source of these great sayings. And BAM! to my dismay one of the first hits from googling "The Dalai Lama's 18 Rules for Living" is an article from Snopes.com. As it turns out, the Dalai Lama is not the source of these quotations. They are from a book written by H. Jackson Brown, Jr., called Life's Little Instruction Book: 511 Suggestions, Observations, and Reminders on How to Live a Happy and Rewarding Life.

The Snopes.com article reveals that a list of 45 of the 511 tips from the Life's Little Instruction Book was first portrayed as 'modern Japanese good luck tantra' or a 'Nepalese tantra totem' in a 1999 email chain letter. I gather that apparently since then someone cherry-picked the ones that 'sounded' like the Dalai Lama, making up a concise list to "oooo" and "ahhh" about- and share with others in emails and blog posts. Moving to the YouTube age, someone synchronized these tips with soothing music and photos of mountain scenes, smiling Tibetan children, and of course the ever-benevolent-looking Dalai Lama.  

I have found this video posted on several blogs (some of them Buddhist blogs) where the author gushes about how much each point resonated with them (like I almost did!). While it is good that some people (not me, by the way) have taken the time to post in the comments that the Dalai Lama didn't write these sayings, often all the author says is 'oh no!' - but does not update the post to inform readers of their error- and the true source of the quotations. 

I know that misattribution has always been a problem in literate societies, but things like this are starting to annoy me. In this age of the internet we do get bombarded by too much information, and we can't possibly keep track of it all. But we also know that it is SO EASY to check the accuracy of quotes like these. Not to mention, the Dalai Lama has actually said a lot of great things that could have been put into a nice little list of 'Rules for Living', but for some reason the misattributed ones were perpetuated instead. 

And then there's the hand-waving, "but it doesn't really matter who said them, as long as they help people" excuse. I agree with this in some situations, but certainly not in this one. The source of these quotations was a book, written by an author who no doubt put time and effort into writing it. In this instance misattribution is actually hurting someone, because not only is their work is being misrepresented, but they are not being given any credit for it. 

So did the person or people who took those tips from Life's Little Instruction Book mean to hurt the author? In a way, they must have known they were doing some harm, because rather than giving the author his due credit, they attributed the list of life lessons to a nebulous, 'exotic' source. However, as I'm sure the 'creators' of the chain email delighted in seeing it go to recipients around the world, the real driving force here is probably what it usually is- human ego. 

With that, I will leave you with some very wise words from Howard Wolowitz, M.Eng, the nerdy engineer character on the 'geekarific' hit show "The Big Bang Theory". Enjoy!    

May all beings be happy (and at least look for truth on the internet)! :)

For a list of quotations and writings from H.H. The Dalai Lama, please check out these, from Bamboo in the Wind.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Heads up: A 100-day meditation challenge

A major part of my purpose here at BCB is to inform others of things I learn about Buddhism, Buddhist spiritual resources, and happenings on the Buddhist forefront. 

And I have exciting news!

Recently I came across an awesome post on Bodhipaksa's (who you may now be familiar with due to my posts about his exposure of fake Buddha quotes) meditation website, Wildmind, announcing the beginning of the Hit the ground sitting! the 100-day meditation challenge

The challenge: Meditate each day for 100 days
The 'rules': 
1) sit for at least five minutes 
2) rather than being from midnight to midnight, a day is the time between waking and going to bed
3) walking meditation 'counts' 

Simple, right?

And, last but not least, Bodhipaksa offers some great advice. He says that when in doubt, just remember that you are redefining yourself. He offers this affirmation- 

"I meditate everyday. It's what I do. It's just who I am."

Though he encourages acknowledging that may not be true yet, believe that it is true. With your own  diligent effort, it will be in about 3 months' time. 

So in not wanting to steal any more thunder from Bodhipaksa's great challenge, I encourage you to read the Day One post of the 100-day meditation challenge for 'rules' and inspiration. And to keep up to date with the rest of the 99+ posts, please include the links for Bodhipaksa's two main sites: bodhi tree swaying and the Wildmind Buddhist Meditation Blog in your blog list. Finally, if you would like to read (or contribute to) the discussion, please navigate the posts from the Wildmind blog.     

I hope you enjoyed this post, and that it was helpful to you. Please comment if you also plan to take the 100-day challenge! (PS: Don't worry about being 'behind'- I missed the first two days as well!) 

May all beings be happy!     

Dinacharya: The basics

In my last post I discussed my desire to follow a daily routine that is in harmony with the daily cycles and rhythms of nature. I believe that Dinacharya, or the daily routine based upon Ayurvedic principles, is a great guide for cultivating such a routine.

Dinacharya is a Sanskrit word, which, like many Sanskrit words, is made up of several related parts, each with their own meaning. Here they are:

din = day or daily
cha = to walk forward
acharya = the learned teacher, walking their students forwards towards knowledge
charya = practiced wisdom through routine

Thus: Dinacharya refers to the wisdom of cultivating a daily routine where one lives each day well.*

This idea of living each day 'well' is focused upon following and being in harmony with the daily cycles. In Ayurvedic thought, there are five natural elements, including space, air, fire, water, and earth. In human beings elements are represented in three doshas, or biological energies of body and mind. These include Vata (space and air), Pitta (fire and water), and Kapha (water and earth).** 

In addition to human beings, doshas have also been assigned to specific times in the day, when each of the corresponding elements is said to dominate. Here are the times:

Vata: 2am - 6am and 2pm - 6pm
Kapha: 6am - 10am and 6pm - 10pm 
Pitta: 10am - 2pm and 10pm - 2am*** 

That's where Dinacharya comes in. The fact that certain elements dominate specific parts of the 24-hour cycle means that certain activities are better suited to specific times. For example, it is beneficial to wake and meditate in the air-dominated Vata hours before 6am, while it is best to eat our largest meal (lunch) during the 10am and 2pm Pitta time, when the fire element (and digestive fire) are strongest. 

Other emphases of the daily routine outlined by Dinacharya include: 

Before rising from bed:
Waking with a positive intention for the day
Assessing the body for any imbalances, being mindful of the body
Mind/memory exercise: Without judgement recalling the previous day's events from morning to bedtime

Scraping the tongue with tongue scraper to remove toxins (called ama) deposited overnight
Drinking a glass of warm water (perhaps with some lemon and a little honey)
Morning ablutions: Washing face, brushing teeth, gargling
Emptying the bowels
Dry brushing the skin

Morning routine:
Light exercises such as sun salutations, yoga, walking, swimming, etc. 
Oil massage (Abhyanga): Massage the body (or at least the ears, forehead, and feet)    

Breakfast ~ 7am
Lunch ~ 12pm
Tea ~ 4pm
Dinner ~ 6-7pm

The time between 10am and 2pm is the best time for productive work, after 2pm for creativity, and after 6pm for dinner/light exercise/relaxation/intimacy. 

Another meditation session can be done before dinner, around twilight/sunset.

Spend the evening relaxing and free from major stimulation. 

Retire between 10 and 11pm. 

So how will all this relate to me, someone who lacks discipline, has a hard time keeping a schedule, and feels perpetually out-of-whack? Well, I am hoping that by being mindful of these natural cycles, I can slowly allow myself to become in tune with them once again. My intention is that this process is a gentle, non-judgmental one, as I allow myself to experience the joy of discovering the rhythms of nature, instead of fighting against them. I am excited about this new adventure, but unlike the past, not in a frenzied, impatient way, but with soft, open-minded anticipation. 

As of now, I have only been able to do a small fraction of what is outlined above, but that's okay. Like I've said before, I've been out of sync for such a long time, so it is only natural that it would take some time to get back into the rhythm of things. Although I am instinctively drawn to each of the practices recommended by Dinacharya, I also have to test each one out, to make sure the sequence, timing, and the activity itself is right for me. 

Of course my blog here at BCB will not focus on this process, but I will keep you updated now and then. As always, I look forward to your comments about what you think of the ideas in this post, and welcome any insight or experience you may have had.

May all beings be happy!


 *Note: This definition was provided by the Dinacharya Institute's website. The Dinacharya Institute is a school dedicated to teaching students how to embrace and cultivate this ancient daily routine in our modern world, and is located in New York, NY. 

**This information was obtained from the Ayurveda 101 page from the Eat.Taste.Heal website, which is dedicated to teaching people to use Ayurvedic principles and diet to better their lives.

*** Information about the times and recommended activities outlined by Dinacharya was obtained from the Ayurveda Place website, which has a blog dedicated to informing people about Ayurveda, and also sells a variety of Ayurvedic products. 

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Dinacharya: becoming in tune with life's rhythms

I generally don't make New Year's resolutions, and seeing that I am slowly weening myself of my own perfectionist tendencies, perhaps making one is not the best idea anyway. Sure, I want the typical things, i.e. to be better about writing cards and letters, remembering people's birthdays, decluttering, losing weight, and to have super-toned arms. But even if I were the resolution-making type, I feel that items like these are just distracting from the bigger picture- and from what I really want. 

What I want is simple, yet also profound, intriguing- and potentially quite challenging. 

I want to become more in tune with life, and the rhythms that help make us who we are. 

For so many years I have juggled various obligations- and been a slave to many masters, mainly the clock, the calendar, coursework, exams, labwork, my dissertation, and the expectations of others. The result is that although I may have accomplished a lot academically, years of ignoring and pushing aside the natural rhythms of life has left me feeling unsettled. I feel that for the first time in a long time, the current lull of activity in my life has given me the opportunity to focus on these rhythms, and to dedicate myself to becoming in tune with them. 

Although my efforts to cultivate mindfulness would probably count as 'tuning in', they have been sporadic, and more focused on my own actions, rather than how they fit into the bigger picture. As someone interested in Ayurveda (the ancient Hindu system of traditional medicine), I have time and again come across the concept of Dinacharya, or recommended daily routine. I won't get into all the details here, but I will just say that I am impressed with the way Ayurveda determines how to treat and nourish the whole person, based upon carefully determined characteristics of an individual. What's more, is through the recommended daily/weekly actions of Dinacharya, one learns to be in tune with one's own body- and the natural world around us.

Why is this so important to me? I feel that in today's fast paced, modern world, we are vulnerable not only to stress and exhaustion, but to losing sight of who we are- and where we fit within the backdrop of the natural universe. And let's be honest, despite all the gizmos, gadgets, and apps we humans have invented to entertain and comfort ourselves, the serenity of a peaceful natural setting outmatches our "smart" phone every time.  

What does all this have with Buddhism? To put it simply, I think that in becoming aware of natural phenomena outside the context of ourselves will be a great endeavor in cultivating mindfulness, not only of the natural world, but in how we are connected to it. This type of wisdom is something I believe would have strong and lasting effects on the physical, emotional, and mental health of sentient beings- and perhaps even on the earth's environment.    

So, as far as 'tuning in' I am viewing this as a very long-term goal. After all, years (maybe decades) of being 'tuned out' will certainly take some undoing. But it is not a race. I know it will be hard to switch gears- thinking about he turning of the earth, the changing of the seasons, the phases of the moon- it might all sound very remote. But we must never forget that these things are part of who we are- things we think we have abandoned and forgotten. But we can get back in touch with them, even on a very simple level, if we just take the time to watch and listen. 

And that's just what I intend to do. 

What did you think about the ideas presented in this post? Do you think it is possible to reconnect with the natural rhythms of life, especially after being 'tuned out' so long? Is it important to even try? How do you think the above relates to Buddhism, if at all? 

"Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished" ~ Lao Tzu

May all beings be happy!