Saturday, October 31, 2009

Balmorhea Native Publishes: "Bad Biscuits and Ugly Women; A Roundup of Stories

This June, Liz Kingston Bettle, born and raised in Balmorhea before going off to college at Howard Payne University, published a collection of humorous short stories and anecdotes, many of which relate family stories and childhood experiences growing up in West Texas. The following is a review from The PR Web:

Bad Biscuits and Ugly Women, A Roundup of Stories

This collection of short, humorous tales offers a lighthearted diversion.

Pittsburgh, PA (PRWEB) October 30, 2009 -- Liz Kingston Bettle, of Lampass, Texas, has compiled a collection of many humorous stories in Bad Biscuits and Ugly Women, A Roundup of Stories her new book from Dorrance Publishing.

Some of these tales were passed along from family members while she was growing up in West Texas, and others were personally experienced while encountering the vagaries of military life with her Marine Corps husband. In recent years, while relating these stories to contemporary friends and relatives, Mrs. Bettle has frequently been encouraged to record these tales on paper so that other people might also relish their delightful humor. From funny sayings to actions that didn't make sense, everyone should find a story to relate to or laugh over in this collection. Readers may read these brief stories one at a time when looking for a smile, or read them all at one sitting for a good time, but either way, they should be prepared for hearty, good-natured amusement.

A native of Balmorhea, Texas, Liz Kingston Bettle currently lives in Lampasas, Texas, with her husband of forty-five years, George Richard (Dick) Bettle. She graduated from Balmorhea High School and earned a B.A. from Howard Payne University before working as a chef, floral designer, and secondary school teacher. She is now retired and enjoys collecting swan figurines and Indian artifacts.

Bad Biscuits and Ugly Women: A Roundup of Stories is a 66-page paperback with a retail price of $8.00. The ISBN is 978-4349-0263-4. It was published by Dorrance Publishing Co., Inc. of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. For more information or to request a review copy, please visit our virtual press-room at www.dorrancepressroom.com or our online bookstore at www.dorrancebookstore.com.

If there is not a copy of this quaint example of Texana in the Balmorhea Library, I will donate mine.

* * *

Monday, March 23, 2009

Curanderismo

Christ in the Desert, Benedictine Monastery, Abiquiu, New Mexico



Last weekend I met two graduate students from the University of Texas. They had a flat tire on I-10 returning from a weekend at the famous monastery in Abiquiu, south of Taos, New Mexico, Christ in the Desert. I met and talked with them at Jim's Tire Shop in Saragosa, Texas, close to Balmorhea.

One of the stundents is working on a dissertation in Southwestern Culture. We began talking about Ojinaga and a famous curadero, Don Martin. A curandero is basically a cross between a Native American medicine man and a Catholic lay saint/healer and represents a phenomenon known to anthropologists, philosophers and theologians as synchrotism.


In the case of the famous curandero of Ojinaga, Don Martin is reportedly an ancestor of the "diaspora" of the San Carlos and Ojinago people visited by Cabaza de Vaca in the late 1530s [cf. painting left]. De Vaca was known by oral tradition to the Native Americans of the region as a spiritual healer; both his religion and his healing arts are said to be carried on by the curanderismo tradition.

The following article can be found on the Ojinaga Home Page, writen by Bryant "Eduardo" (also known as "Pancho") Holman, which provides information on Don Martin and curandisos like him.

CURANDERISMO

by Bryant "Eduardo" Holman

When I first came to live in Ojinaga, I immediately became intrigued as to how much the people here are influenced by what is almost an obsession with what we might term the supernatural. I came to find out that this fact is almost the cornerstone of the culture here, and that this is really the norm throughout Mexico. It amazed me that anthropologists and writers seem to have missed the point on this issue, by and large.

In the course of studying this phenomenon it finally became clear that the only way I was going to really understand it would be to befriend an actual curandero, and thus I came to seek out and to know Don Martín. I have since discovered that he is quite famous both here in Ojinaga and in the San Carlos region, besides having a large following all around the area of the "diaspora" of the Ojinaga and San Carlos people in the United States.

[continues....]

~+~

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Jay Oates - Balmorhea

From the Odessa American:

Jay Mosley Oates
February 24, 2009 - 9:07 PM

BALMORHEA - Jay Mosley Oates, 94, of Balmorhea, died Monday, Feb. 23, 2009, at Hospice House.

Services are scheduled at 10 a.m. at First Baptist Church of Balmorhea with Roy Bird officiating. Burial will be at Balmorhea Cemetery. Arrangements are by Pecos Funeral Home.

He was born in Toyahvale. He was an engineer.

SURVIVORS: Sons, Charley Oates and Jay Harold Oates, both of Balmorhea, and John Oates of Abilene; 10 grandchildren; 10 great-grandchildren; and one great-great-grandchild.
Jay was my friend and next door neighbor. He was the first person to welcome me to Balmorhea. He gave me a tour of his deceased wife's rock shop and we talked for hours. The last time I saw him, he had come to the front door dressed immaculately in pressed blue shirt, khakis and suspenders. Handsome and debonair, he was so clean he sparkled. I will always remember him.

+ + +

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Upstart State Senator Threatens to Inflame Border Crisis; Fox News Sensationalizes the Situation

In response to a series of stories, one of which is featured below on Fox News, upstart Texas State Senator and radio talk show host Dan Patrick (R-7th District/Houston) [pictured at right] appeared on Fox News with the notoriously obnoxious Glen Beck, presuming to speak for the people of Texas.

His appearance was regarding the law enforcement and military responses he is proposing in the event of a refugee crisis in northern Mexico, a possible crisis -- some say remote -- resulting from the violent clashes between Mexican federal forces and paramilitary hirelings of the Sinaloa and Tamaulipas (Gulf) drug cartels. Patrick's paranoia is based on the possibility that the violence will spread into Texas along with thousands -- some project a million -- refugees. But his zeal may be driven by "campaign contributions."

If we look closely into those contributions we find first of all a strong backing from the broadcast industry. Looking further we see a number of possibly hidden contributors bunched within lobbying groups. Looking within the list of the lobbyist's clients, we find the private prison corporations Civigenics and The GEO Group as well as the lobbyists who represented them. Both prison contractors have significant interests in Texas with multiple contracts for the detention of foreign nationals held for immigration violations.

But really, who can look inside a man's heart and know what his motivations are?

It should be noted that Dick Cheney maintains an $85-million investment in private prisons, specifically The GEO Group, via The Vanguard Group. It is for that reason that a South Texas district attorney, every bit the showman wanting to make a point, convinced a grand jury to indict the then Vice President, Richard Cheney, for the murder of a foreign detainee. A district judge ordered the charges dropped.

Cheney and the Privatization of Prisons

Indeed, in the opinion of some, Sen. Patrick is exploiting not only the dire situation on the Mexican border; but also the fear and prejudice of many south Texans -- all for his personal political gain and that of his financial backers. The notoriously xenophobic and Christian nationalist Lou Dobbs, who calls himself an "independent populist," would love this guy, a guy who supported Mike Huckabee in his run for the Republican party's presidential nomination in 2008. Isn't it funny how the most "religious" of "patriots" can get mixed up with Zealot Party interests. Erik Prince of Blackwater, as well as Gary Bauer and Alan Keyes immediately come to mind. George Bush doesn't count; he was faking it.

It is not surprising that Fox News is up to its usual sensationalizing for the cause of militarist excitation -- and those of their corporatist sponsors. Here is a news link to his appearance on FoxNews with the ever obnoxious Glen Beck, along with a script of the dialogue and the accompanying video of the interview.

Feb. 10: Police officers guard two vehicles in which suspected members of a crime gang are taken after being shown to the press in Mexico City.

Thursday, February 12, 2009 By Joshua Rhett Miller for Fox News
As drug cartels continue to terrorize Mexico, Texas officials are planning for the worst-case scenario: how to respond if the violence spills over the border, and what to do if thousands of Mexicans seek refuge in the United States.
Katherine Cesinger, a spokeswoman for Texas Gov. Rick Perry, said a multi-agency contingency plan is being developed, and it will focus primarily on law enforcement issues, including how to handle an influx of Mexicans fleeing violence.
"At this point, what we're focusing on is spillover violence," Cesinger told FOXNews.com Thursday. "The immediate concern, if any, would be that."

Unfortunately, the plan does not include any contingency in response to a possible influx of refugees if the "crisis" becomes chaotic. The only contingency seems to be that refugees will be held in the many detention centers in Texas contracted to private prison companies for the detention of foreign nationals.

This would mean a boon for private prison contractors like The GEO Group. No doubt, they are already licking their chops. Unfortunately, The GEO Group, as well as others, have a sorry record in the state when it comes to the humanitarian treatment of their detainees. One detention center scandal near Austin in 2007 involved maggot-contaminated food fed on the cheap to families of detained migrant workers. Two-hundred foreign detainees, including staff, fell sick with food poisoning after eating spoiled food served on the cheap at The GEO Group's Tacoma, Washington detention facility in 2007.

Often, the medical treatment provided by private contractors is poor at best, given their focus on the "bottom line." Beginning December 22, 2008, medical neglect involving mysterious deaths led to two riots in as many months at the GEO facility in Reeves County [pictured left] near the Mexican border. The Texas ACLU is currently pressing for an investigation.

In 2007 at their Val Verde detention facility there was a GEO scandal involving the mysterious deaths of three foreign nationals whose bodies were spirited out of the country to their countries of origin. Despite that Texas law requires an autopsy in such circumstances, their bodies were deported before autopsies could be conducted. The excuse was given that the law does not apply in cases involving foreign nationals, a claim that is telling in itself. Obviously, there were allegations of a cover-up that required the complicity of contract monitors and top GEO Group officials in Boca Raton, Florida, at company headquarters -- right there in the neighborhood with other CIA storefronts, of which their parent company, Wackenhut Corrections, was one.

Ongoing child abuse and neglect at the Coke County Juvenile Facility run by GEO caused such a uproarious scandal that it led to an organizational purge of the Texas Youth Commission. The GEO Group lost its contract with Coke County, but thanks to their cadre of deep pocketed lobbyists, GEO continues to operate in Texas despite scandal after notorious scandal.

Given the history of mismanagement and abuse in Texas detention centers, A military response to an influx of refugees -- especially if the job is left to the infamously abusive Border Patrol -- one which includes confinement of refugees in concentration camps like those run by The GEO Group, is egregiously short on the humanitarian responsibilities we share as good neighbors. It is incumbent upon Texas leaders to at least design a humanitarian response if they have become so concerned, as they appear to be, that a crisis may be imminent.

The last thing we need right now is the Texas National Guard showing up in the border region profiling its cowboy spurs, testosterone, steroid inflamed muscles and their knuckle heads.

There are even chain email letters circulating in the region by someone suspected to be associated with the Minutemen vigilante group, a "citizen's militia" that has been "guarding" the Mexican border because, as they claim, the federal government fails or refuses to. They stand on the Second Amendment and their raison d'être is undoubtedly the playing of patriot games, "Butt-Weizer" in hand, games that facilitate the acting-out of their vile bigotry. Indeed, with right-wing paramilitary groups such as these pressing for some action on the border, the potential for spreading violence and chaos is exacerbated exponentially. The original material for these chain letters can be found on RevolutionRadio, an extremist rant station that apparently loves Dan Patrick, one of their own.

Notwithstanding the threat of looming financial collapse of Western governments, including that of Mexico, which raises the potential for migration on its own, and with the projected flight of refugees from civil chaos caused by the military escalation against the drug cartels along the U.S. border -- something which the Mexican people have endured for an extended period of months now -- it is irresponsible and inhumane to think solely in terms of military contingencies. But leave it to Texas leaders and a Texas Homeland Security director who has already attempted to inflame passions by falsely claiming that the drug cartels are being trained by Middle Eastern terrorists as well as smuggling their jihadists across our southern border. The truth is that the most ruthless of the drug cartel's paramilitary men were originally trained in the School of the Americas at Fort Benning, Georgia, but that hasn't stopped the Air Force from deploying unmanned drones and sky blimps to film the action of nap-sack carrying migrant workers sneaking into Texas in the dead of night to pick cantaloupe in the Pecos River Valley.

The article continues:

More than 5,300 people were killed in Mexico last year in connection to criminal activity, and some experts predict things will get worse. Along with Pakistan, Mexico was identified in a Department of Defense report last year as a country that could destabilize rapidly.
If that were to happen, officials are concerned that the drug violence could cross the Rio Grande into southern Texas.
Cesinger said the plan currently does not address a potential flood of refugees, though "It may be something that comes into consideration."
"Worst-case scenario, Mexico becomes the Western hemisphere's equivalent of Somalia, with mass violence, mass chaos," said Ted Galen Carpenter, vice president for defense and foreign policy at the Cato Institute, a Washington-based think tank. "That would clearly require a military response from the United States."

Then, a chilling statement was made, one that, given the history of treatment of foreign nationals in United States detention centers, to say nothing of Guantanamo, Bagram, the Salt PitAbu Ghraib, raises great concern among the humanitarian minded who are aware of the abusive treatment of foreign detainees who are simply held as " or illegal aliens," a classification that has become a grossly pejorative label for human beings who are more respectfully referred to among the more enlightened minded as "migrant workers and their families." Research has shown that migrant workers have far lesser crime rates than the general American population.

Our record in Texas is especially dismal:

Some lawmakers in Texas have begun questioning how to deal with a potentially massive influx of Mexican citizens.
"Do you strengthen the borders so people cannot get in by the thousands every day, or do you create detention centers where people are held until their status is determined?" asked state Sen. Dan Patrick. "This is a potential refugee problem..."

Apparently unbeknown to arch-conservative and upstart State Senator Dan Patrick (R-Houston) above, the detention centers have already been built. It is common knowledge. It is also well know that migrant workers are being exploited by private prison contractors who detain them for months on end drawing fees for "bed days" with little regard for the food they eat or the medical treatment they require.

Crimes against humanity are being committed under our very noses. God forgive us. And God forgive me for blogging a Fox News article.

~*~

Reminiscing about The Point



~*~

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Unredacted documents reveal prisoners tortured to death; Stephen Cambone implicated

Stephen C. Webster
Published: Thursday February 12, 2009

Human rights groups accuse Pentagon of running secret prison, cooperating with CIA "ghost detention" program

"The American Civil Liberties Union has released previously classified excerpts of a government report on harsh interrogation techniques used in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay. These previously unreported pages detail repeated use of "abusive" behavior, even to the point of prisoner deaths.

"The documents, obtained by the ACLU under a Freedom of Information Act request, contain a report by Vice Admiral Albert T. Church, who was tapped to conduct a comprehensive review of Defense Department interrogation operations. Church specifically calls out interrogations at Bagram Air base in Afghanistan as 'clearly abusive, and clearly not in keeping with any approved interrogation policy or guidance.'"

The RawStory article continues here.

~*~

ACLU Action Alert; Investigate Reeves County Detention Center in Pecos, Texas

ACTION ALERT: Investigate RCDC

TAKE ACTION: Contact the Office of the Inspector General at the U.S. Department of Justice

The first two paragraphs below are supplied by the ACLU to be used in your plea if you choose. The paragraphs that follow [edited] were added by a former employee of The GEO Group, a private prison contractor who has become notorious for abuse and neglect at dozens of its facilities worldwide.

Please help these inmates. They are being exploited, neglected and abused by a corporatist system whose bottom line in profit. Moneys that should be applied to food and medical services, as well as rehabilitative educational programs, are being redirected to the company and county coffers. In the meantime, the human rights of these people (in this case non-violent foreign nationals being held in minimum security until their time is served after which they are deported) are being ignored.
--editor
To the Inspector General, U.S. Department of Justice:
As you are aware, RCDC, a federal Bureau of Prisons-contracted facility, has been the site of two multi-day riots since mid-December. Reports of inadequate medical care and other substandard conditions have been cited as a possible cause for both incidents.

One riot at any facility is troubling and rare, and because RCDC has been the site of two such incidents in as many months there is legitimate concern that serious problems within the facility may exist.
I used to work there, I know. But as a counselor I was seen as a "bleeding heart liberal." ALL of the money budgeted for substance abuse was diverted. I had zero funds to work with. I was even asked to provide fraudulent figures on the curriculum-based classes that were recommended by the federal contract, yet The GEO Group refused to purchase the specified curriculum with the excuse that our "local contract" permitted such leeway -- and even more basically, because the incarcerated population consisted of foreign nationals, not U.S. Citizens. Why then did they want me to commit fraud regarding the documentation of these classes?

Inmates used to complain to me that the night shift of corrections officers refused to come to their cells when inmates were pleading for emergency medical assistance. There were many medical emergencies exacerbated by this negligence -- as well as two deaths that I am aware of -- between 2004 and 2008, the time I worked there. The company made promises to address the inmates' issues, including food and recreation, yet nothing ever changed. Their unenlightened excuse was that these are foreign nationals and the taxpayers did not want to invest in rehabilitating foreigners. They were often accused of malingering but nothing could excuse the company's failure to investigate a crisis.

In a local television interview this morning, Sheriff Andy Gomez stated that these detainees receive better medical services than the general population of the town -- that "The GEO Group is doing a good job." Ironically, this is reminiscent of George W. Bush's remark in the wake of the Katrina debacle, "Good job, Brownie!" Incredulously, the sheriff even stated that the dental services were superior despite the fact that a dentist only comes in once a week and has time to see only 3-4 patients from a long waiting list. His disingenuous attempt at damage control comes after two weeks of stonewalling. Sheriff Gomez was simply repeating the sound bites given to him. Gomez, as well as the county commission on whose behalf he was speaking, is part of the problem -- Reeves County must share the cost for all these services -- they have been complicit in this gross medical neglect.

I urge you to investigate not only by interviewing current and former staff members; but also, by interviewing the inmates themselves. For obvious reasons, please do it in a way that protects their confidentiality. The privatization of prison services has led to abuse and neglect and the attitude of "warehousing" a population of human beings whose well being is sacrificed for the "bottom line."


Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Chained Immigrants Paraded By Arizona Sheriff -- Guantanamo Torture Worse Than at First Thought

Posted in Anti-Immigrant by Casey Sanchez on February 4, 2009

This afternoon in Maricopa County, Ariz., more than 200 Latino immigrants were chained, dressed in prison stripes and forced to march down a public street from a county jail to a detainment camp in a desert industrial zone outside Phoenix.

Along the way they were filmed by television news crews and guarded by at least 50 Maricopa County Sheriff's Office (MCSO) deputies, wearing body armor and combat fatigues, armed with shotguns and automatic rifles. At least two canine units were present; a Sheriff's Department helicopter hovered overhead.

The massive show of force was pure stagecraft for a blatant and dehumanizing publicity stunt orchestrated by Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio. The MCSO gave no indication that any of the immigrant prisoners were particularly violent or presented a grave danger to the public.

The article continues here.
Casey Sanchez, the writer of the featured article, apparently failed to observe that the migrant workers, most of whom are being held for minor infractions and drug and alcohol related offenses which should be addressed through treatment protocols rather than incarceration, are being paraded in the customary Maricopa County pink underwear issued by this notorious sheriff. This is an added level of public humiliation directed against males acculturated to machismo Latino values.

At RCDC III in West Texas, I personally witnessed inmates being detained in a large room 50 at a time in cold temperatures with nothing on but their boxer shorts. This is a typically inhumane treatment which, among others, is reser
ved for Guantanamo detainees. It is considered a form of torture and it's now being used in U.S. prisons and detention centers.

Obama has done nothing yet about prison overcrowding and the abuses that come with privatization. Perhaps he will as he implements his promised agenda. Or perhaps not. He may not even be aware of it. Given the following article, Obama seems to have promised much but is quickly being redirected. There is decreasing hope that he will actually deliver on his promise of prison reform unless he is pressured by a grass roots movement. His national security team seems to be guiding him in the direction of maintaining the policies of the Bush/Cheney regime, including its pathological bent for secrecy.
Last week, two British High Court judges ruled against releasing documents describing the treatment of Binyam Mohamed, a British resident who is currently being held at Guantanamo Bay. The judges said the Bush administration "had threatened to withhold intelligence cooperation with Britain if the information were made public."

But The Daily Telegraph reported over the weekend that the documents actually "contained details of how British intelligence officers supplied information to [Mohamed's] captors and contributed questions while he was brutally tortured." In fact, it was British officials, not the Americans, who pressured Foreign Secretary David Miliband "to do nothing that would leave serving MI6 officers open to prosecution." According to the Telegraph's sources, the documents describe particularly gruesome interrogation tactics:

"The 25 lines edited out of the court papers contained details of how Mr Mohamed's genitals were sliced with a scalpel and other torture methods so extreme that waterboarding, the controversial technique of simulated drowning, "is very far down the list of things they did," the official said."

Another source familiar with the case said: "British intelligence officers knew about the torture and didn't do anything about it."

An update quoting an article by Andrew Sullivan cautions:
Today in San Francisco, "a little-publicised court case into the treatment of Mohamed will open" in federal court. Andrew Sullivan notes that "we'll find out if the Obama administration intends to keep the evidence as secret as the Bush administration did."

See the entire article with associated reader comments here.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Alex Rodriguez Comes Clean; Steroid Use in MLB

In a December 2007 interview with CBS's "60 Minutes," A-Rod denied to Katie Couric that he ever used steroids (watch the eyes) :



Today, he admitted to ESPN that he had used steroids way back in 2003 when they were still legal (yea right).
NEW YORK — Alex Rodriguez admitted Monday that he used performance-enhancing drugs from 2001-03 when he played for the Texas Rangers.

"Back then it was a different culture. It was very loose. I was young. I was stupid," the New York Yankees star said in an interview with ESPN. "I was naive, and I wanted to prove to everyone that, you know, I was worth, you know _ and being one of the greatest players of all time.


His admission came two days after Sports Illustrated reported he tested positive for steroids in 2003, one of 104 players who tested positive during baseball's survey testing, which wasn't subject to discipline.

Read the rest of the Huffington Post article here.
In the late 60s, I played college football at Rice University in Houston, Texas. Every day on the training table, sitting above our steak was a little paper cup full of pills. Like sheep, we never even asked what they were -- we trusted our coaches. I bulked up almost over night and, looking back, I had all the negative side effects of steroid use.

When I injured my shoulder, they injected pain killers deep into the joint and threw me back into the game, causing even more damage. That went on week after week throughout the season.

The year before I went off to college, a player at the University of Arkansas died on the field during a game because of amphetamines given him by the coaching staff.

"Bullet Bob," the head defensive coach, used to visit the dorms at Rice and drink and tell dirty jokes with some of the players.

Darrell Royal of the University of Texas Longhorns used to take his team down to La Grange after the season to visit the "Chicken Ranch." Their football program had more money than ours. After investigative reporter Marvin Zindler of Houston's KTRK-TV broke the story, the Chicken Ranch was forced to close and La Grange became the subject of the movie, "The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas."

It was reported that the Texas Ranger baseball organization looked the other way while their players did everything they could to "remain competitive." Of course they did. Even their former owner, now former president of the United States, has a history of drug and alcohol abuse. It's in the culture.

Unfortunately, more often than not,
sheer ignorance and the "spirit of competition" (read: "obsession with winning") overloads good judgment, to say nothing of testosterone poisoning and politics.


And Just for Fun:





End note for those who love irony: Burt Reynolds, who co-starred with Dolly Parton in "The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas," played college football at Florida State University. He injured his knee early in his junior year, was allowed to go back into the game causing further injury and then returned to active status later in the season only to cause such severe damage that, in addition to an auto accident following the season, ended his sports career for good. See Wikipedia for further details of his life.

This blog entry was cross-posted to my blog on OpenSalon at:
Southern Perspectives; The Decline & Fall of the Southern Strategy

~*~

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Loving Kindness

Loving Kindness

Thus have I heard:

On one occasion the Blessed One was living near Savatthi at Jetavana at Anathapindika's monastery. Then he addressed the monks saying, "Monks." — "Venerable Sir," said the monks, by way of reply. The Blessed One then spoke as follows:

"Monks, eleven advantages are to be expected from
the release (deliverance) of heart by familiarizing oneself with thoughts of loving-kindness (metta), by the cultivation of loving-kindness, by constantly increasing these thoughts, by regarding loving-kindness as a vehicle (of expression), and also as something to be treasured, by living in conformity with these thoughts, by putting these ideas into practice, and by establishing them. What are the eleven?

1. He sleeps in comfort.
2. He awakes in comfort.
3. He sees no evil dreams.

4. He is dear to human beings.
5. He is dear to non-human beings.
6. Devas (gods) protect him.
7. Fire, poison, and sword cannot touch him.
8. His mind can concentrate quickly.
9. His countenance is serene.
10. He dies without being confused in mind.
11. If he fails to attain arahantship (the highest sanctity)
and now, he will be reborn in the brahma-world.

"These eleven advantages, monks, are to be expected from the release of heart by familiarizing oneself with thoughts of loving-kindness, by cultivation of loving-kindness, by constantly increasing these thoughts, by regarding loving-kindness as a vehicle (of expression), and also as something to be treasured, by living in conformity with these thoughts, by putting these ideas into practice and by establishing them."

So, said the Blessed One. Those monks rejoiced at the words of the Blessed One.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

From a Distance (God is Watching Us)



+

The Heart of Prajnaparamita Sutra -- "The Heart Sutra" on the Perfection of Wisdom


The Heart Sutra

Avalokiteshvara, the Bodhisattva of Compassion, meditating deeply on Perfection of Wisdom, saw clearly that the five aspects of human existence [Skandhas] are empty*, and so released himself from suffering. Answering the monk Sariputra, he said this:

Body [form] is nothing more than emptiness,
emptiness is nothing more than body
[form].
The body
[form] is exactly empty,
and emptiness is exactly body
[form].

The other four aspects of human existence --
feeling, thought, will, and consciousness --
are likewise nothing more than emptiness,
and emptiness nothing more than they.

All things are empty:
Nothing is born, nothing dies,
nothing is pure, nothing is stained,
nothing increases and nothing decreases.

So, in emptiness, there is no body
[form],
no feeling, no thought,
no will, no consciousness.
There are no eyes, no ears,
no nose, no tongue,
no body, no mind.
There is no seeing, no hearing,
no smelling, no tasting,
no touching, no imagining.
There is nothing seen, nor heard,
nor smelled, nor tasted,
nor touched, nor imagined.

There is no ignorance,
and no end to ignorance.
There is no old age and death,
and no end to old age and death.
There is no suffering, no cause of suffering,
no end to suffering, no path to follow.
There is no attainment of wisdom,
and no wisdom to attain.

The Bodhisattvas rely on the Perfection of Wisdom,
and so with no delusions,
they feel no fear,
and have Nirvana here and now.

All the Buddhas,
past, present, and future,
rely on the Perfection of Wisdom,
and live in full enlightenment.

The Perfection of Wisdom is the greatest mantra.
It is the clearest mantra,
the highest mantra,
the mantra that removes all suffering.

This is truth that cannot be doubted.
Say it so:

Gaté,
gaté,
paragaté,
parasamgaté.
Bodhi!
Svaha!

Which means...

Gone,
gone,
gone over,
gone fully over.
Awakened!
So be it!

In the Arms of the Angel

This piece by Sarah McLachlan is a most compassionate and enlightened treatment of the existential suffering that so many, many of us have sought to relieve through drugs and alcohol; but we were eventually betrayed by addiction in that path.

Suffering is universal.
Some of us seem to suffer more than others. Perhaps our spirits are given to a level of sensitivity that seeks a spiritual experience with such unrelenting yearning that we become vulnerable to betrayal by empty promises, not realizing that the goal itself had become the obstacle.

There are other solutions, more drastic, more permanent -- "permanent solutions to temporary problems." But these too result from our cravings and from the insatiable appetites of the hungry ghosts we have become by dent of a demanding temperament and our longing for relief.


ANGEL

Spend all your time waiting

for that second chance,

for a break that would make it okay.


There's always some reason

to feel not good enough,

and it's hard, at the end of the day.


I need some distraction,

Oh, beautiful release.

Memories seep from my veins.


Let me be empty,

Oh, and weightless,

And maybe I'll find some peace tonight.


CHORUS:

In the arms of the angel,

fly away from here,

from this dark, cold hotel room,
and the endlessness that you feel.


You are pulled from the wreckage,

Of your silent reverie.

You're in the arms of the angel,

may you find some comfort here.


So tired of the straight line,

and everywhere you turn,

there's vultures and thieves at your back.


The storm keeps on twisting.

Keep on building the lies

that you make up for all that you lack.


Don't make no difference,

escape one last time.

It's easier to believe in this sweet madness,

Oh, this glorious sadness,

that brings me to my knees.


REPEAT CHORUS:

You're
in the arms of the angel,
fly away from here,

from this dark, cold hotel room,
and the endlessness that you feel.


You are pulled from the wreckage,

Of your silent reverie.

You're in the arms of the angel,

may you find some comfort here.

Pali and Chinese canon text

  1. The Nature of Suffering (Dukkha):
    "This is the noble truth of suffering: birth is suffering, aging is suffering, illness is suffering, death is suffering; sorrow, lamentation, pain, grief and despair are suffering; union with what is displeasing is suffering; separation from what is pleasing is suffering; not to get what one wants is suffering; in brief, the five aggregates subject to clinging are suffering."[9][10]
  2. Suffering's Origin (Samudaya):
    "This is the noble truth of the origin of suffering: it is this craving which leads to renewed existence, accompanied by delight and lust, seeking delight here and there, that is, craving for sensual pleasures, craving for existence, craving for extermination."[9][10]
  3. Suffering's Cessation (Nirodha):
    "This is the noble truth of the cessation of suffering: it is the remainderless fading away and cessation of that same craving, the giving up and relinquishing of it, freedom from it, nonreliance on it."[9][10]
  4. The Way (Mārga) Leading to the Cessation of Suffering:
    "This is the noble truth of the way leading to the cessation of suffering: it is the Noble Eightfold Path; that is, right view, right intention, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, right concentration."[11][12]