Monthly Archives: September 2010

Ven. Hyon Gak sunim, the former guiding teacher of the Seoul International Zen center at Hwa Gye Sa temple, explains in very simple terms the notes of the disciples of Bodhidharma.

The notes of the Disciples of Bodhidharma part 8
The notes of the Disciples of Bodhidharma part 7
The notes of the Disciples of Bodhidharma part 6
The notes of the Disciples of Bodhidharma part 5
The notes of the Disciples of Bodhidharma part 4
The notes of the Disciples of Bodhidharma part 3
The notes of the Disciples of Bodhidharma part 2
The notes of the Disciples of Bodhidharma part 1

More videos can be found on: http://www.btnworld.org BTN WORLD is the world’s first non-sectarian international Buddhist TV channel where all diverse communities from all different world traditions could turn to for various Buddhist contents. BTN WORLD will not just be a Buddhist TV network, but to become a cross cultural bridge between all adherents of the Buddha Dharma all over the world.

There are always flowers

September 29, 2010

There are always flowers, for those who want to see them

The New Scientist reports that positive feelings change the way our brains work and expand the boundaries of experience, allowing us to take in more information and see the big picture.

Starting from an overview of how money does, and does not, influence happiness, the article then moves into Barbara Fredrickson’s research.

“One thing that is clear is that once life’s basics are paid for, the power of money to bring happiness is limited. In fact, it can be positively harmful to our sense of well-being. Jordi Quoidbach of the University of Liège, Belgium, and colleagues recently asked a group of people to taste a piece of chocolate in their laboratory. They found that the wealthier members of the group spent less time savouring the experience, and reported enjoying the chocolate less than the subjects who weren’t so well off. The same was also true of one group in a separate experiment. This time, half the people had been primed with images of money before they tasted the chocolate. These participants enjoyed the tasting less than a group who had not seen the images, suggesting that just the thought of money is enough to stem our enjoyment of life’s simple pleasures (Psychological Science, vol 21, p 759).

So just what is it that makes us happy? Happiness can take the form of many different positive emotions, and some hints of what makes us happy may come from work that questions why these emotions first evolved. The answer isn’t as obvious as it is in the case of negative emotions. These are clearly beneficial in the rough and tumble of survival: anger readies us to fight an opponent, fear makes us run away from danger, and disgust steers us away from contaminated foods and other sources of infection. Although there is no shortage of evidence that feelings of pleasure – obtained by finding a tasty meal or a sexy mate, for example – are important in rewarding and consolidating beneficial behaviours, it is harder to explain how the more diffuse positive emotions such as awe, hope or gratitude evolved.

This troubled psychologist Barbara Fredrickson of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, so she started looking for evolutionary benefits that pleasure might confer. “I thought there must be more to it than this,” she recalls.

Fredrickson’s “broaden and build” theory proposes that happiness and similar positive states of mind improve our cognitive capacities while we are in safe situations, allowing us to build resources around us for the long term. That’s in marked contrast to the effects of negative emotions like fear, which focus our attention so we can deal with short-term problems. “Positive feelings change the way our brains work and expand the boundaries of experience, allowing us to take in more information and see the big picture,” Fredrickson argues.

Since she proposed it in 1998 in the Review of General Psychology (vol 2, p 300), her theory has gathered a wealth of experimental support. Eye-tracking and brain-imaging experiments, for example, have revealed that positive moods increase and broaden the scope of visual attention, helping the brain gather more information.
A happy solution

Feeling good has also been shown to improve people’s creativity and ability to solve problems. In one experiment, subjects were shown a video of comedy bloopers to lighten their mood, before being presented with a practical problem involving a box of matches, a box of tacks and a candle. They were told to attach the candle to a pinboard in such a way that wax didn’t drip on the floor (the solution is to use the matchbox as a plinth for the candle). The experimenters found that people who had viewed the comedy clips were more likely to solve the problem than controls who saw a mathematics documentary intended to put them in a more neutral mood (Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, vol 52, p 1122).

Other experiments have found that a good mood improves people’s verbal reasoning skills (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, vol 104, p 383). And various studies have shown that when people are in a good mood, their social skills improve: they become more gregarious and trusting of others, and deal more constructively with criticism.”

Full article available on http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg20727791.000-how-to-be-happy-but-not-too-much.html

Seon

September 28, 2010

Korea gave a substantial contribution both to Chan and Confucianism (“Korea – A religious history”, James Huntley Grayson), which arrived from China. While Japanese Zen is often mentioned by Western researchers, Korean Seon was established well before its Japanese version, and it has been very important for the spread of Buddhism outside Asia.

Ancient Koreans were practising shamanic rites, inspired by their Siberian heritage, even after having adopted Chinese customs in politics and economy; from the six century on, the Korean kingdoms started to practice a distinctive form of Buddhism, and also visited Japan as missioners to spread it. Korean Buddhist was also influenced by local tribal philosopical systems, Confucianism and Taoism (more as a philosopy than as an organized religion). As we see later on, a strong Neo-Confucian movement in Korea almost removed traces of the Buddhist tradition in Korea.

After a long time with Buddhist schools rising and declining (most of them focused on meditation and the importance of the mind, but some with more esoteric teachings), social instability in the area of Silla coincided with the growth of Seon. The Seon use of shock techniques or silent contemplation, focusing more on spontainety than strict doctrine or scriptures, was adeguate for the political situation in Silla – and, as we’ll see later on, an ideal fit for Americans and the current interconnected society. Nine schools of Seon were rapidly established in the Sixth century, so Korean Zen went from being teached by Chinese missioners at the benefit of members of Royal court and elites, to a local version of Buddhism, teached by Koreans to other Koreans.

Buddhism followed the political and economic ups and downs of the Korean peninsula. For example, in the 14th century, King Kongmin decided to give more importance to Confucianism, by shaping the political apparatus on its principles and limiting the growing influence of the Buddhist monasteries. These times were important for several reasons, including the rise of Seoul as new capital. During the Yi dinasty, Buddhism found some supporters among rulers, but neo-Confucianism was predominant in the long-term, until it turned into a stagnating political ideology and declined. One event which stands out was the conversion of King Sejong – who had been promoting neo-Confucianism and repressing Buddhism for the previous part of his life – to Buddhism: two years before dying, he built a Buddhist temple within the Royal Palace, and passed away as a Buddhist. Once his final days were coming, he must have understood that, while Confucianism was very effective for political goals, on an overall level Buddhist was more helpful.

The opening of Korea to the European powers in 1876 coincided with a revival of Buddhism, supported by King Kojong: unreasonable taxes on monasteries were removed, temples were reconstructed and monks allowed to enter Seoul. Also, Japanese monks were allowed to meet with their Korean counterparts.

The interactions between Japanese and Korean Buddhism became very active, and local monks were divided between the ones accepting marriage and the ones in favour of celibacy. This disagreement became a very critical issue, and in 1954 the Korean President decided to assign to the Chogye the majority of Temples. A sizable number of Koreans identified progress with other Western religions, and the number of Korean Buddhists has been affected by this trend. Which, on the other hand, is also a great chance for the Buddhism nowadays, because Koreans have to reconsider many issues and to step into a inter-religious dialogue with all the other religious movements. This will be a challenge for those Westerners who come out of another tradition and found their home within Eastern Buddhist traditions.

This post is part of Zen: from China to cyberspace free booklet. You can download for free the whole book here.

Toward a Science of Consciousness 2011 Brain, Mind and Reality: we received this from Abi Behar-Montefiore from the Center for Consciousness Studies (Arizona), and gladly share it:

Toward a Science of Consciousness 2011 Brain, Mind and Reality
May 2-8, 2011 Aula Magna Hall Stockholm University, Stockholm, Sweden
http://consciousness.arizona. edu/ TSC2011AnnouncCALLforABSTRACTS .htm

Toward a Science of Consciousness is an interdisciplinary conference emphasizing broad and rigorous approaches to the study of conscious awareness. Topical areas include neuroscience, philosophy, psychology, biology, quantum physics, meditation and altered states, machine consciousness, culture and experiential phenomenology. Held annually since 1994, the conference is organized by the Center for Consciousness Studies at the University of Arizona, and alternates yearly between Tucson, Arizona and various locations around the world. Toward a Science of Consciousness 2011 will be held at Stockholm University, Aula Magna Hall, Stockholm, Sweden, May 2-8, 2011.

Nine recent developments related to the understanding of consciousness will be addressed: 1) Electromagnetic fields and massively coherent neuronal activities correlate with consciousness in the brain
2) Transcranial therapies aimed at brain fields and neuronal targets promise utility in various mental disorders
3) Neuronal activities: What sy! stems, l evels and collective functions are critical for consciousness: axonal firings, avalanches and ignitions, dendritic synchrony, macroscopic fields, complexity, intraneuronal processes? Will mapping the brain explain consciousness?
4) Anesthetic gases selectively erase consciousness and block coherent gamma synchrony EEG acting in a distributed array of dendritic proteins
5) Warm temperature biological quantum coherence and ballistic conduction in microtubules have rejuvenated quantum approaches to consciousness
6) Physics and cosmology are approaching the nature of reality, time and the place of consciousness in the universe
7) Libet backward time referral of subjective experience is now observed in mainstream neuroscience, perhaps accounted for by quantum physics
8) Surprising end-of-life coherent brain activity suggests a physiological correlate for so-called near death experiences
9) Eastern philosophy and secular spirituality accommodate quantum physics and cosmology

Speakers (preliminary list)
Anirban Bandyopadhyay
Dick Bierman
Moran Cerf
Lakhmir Chawla
Deepak Chopra
Nicholas Franks
Stuart Hameroff
Germund Hesslow
Anthony Hudetz
Tarja Kallio-Tamminen
Menas Kafatos
Johnjoe MacFadden
Rafi Malach
David McCormick
Leonard Mlodinow
Sue Pockett
Paavo Pylkkanen
Allan Snyder
Jack Tuszynski
W. Jamie Tyler
Pim Von Lommel
Eric Wasserman
and others

Special Pre-Conference Workshop
Deepak Chopra Vedic approaches to consciousness
Monday May 2, 2011

Sessions, Themes and Speakers

1) Brain fields and coherence: Evidence and theory suggest brain electromagnetic fields and large scale coherent potentials, ignitions and avalanches correlate with consciousness and feedback on neuronal activities, bolst! ering lo ngstanding electromagnetic field theories of consciousness.

David McCormick, Yale, Brain electric field feedback Johnjoe McFadden, Surrey, Electromagnetic field theory of consciousness Sue Pockett, Auckland, E-M field theory of consciousness

2) Transcranial therapy of mental states: New therapeutic modalities based on brain stimulation aimed at conscious mental disorders include transcranial electric and magnetic fields and ultrasound vibrations. Mechanisms and utility in relation to consciousness and memory will be discussed.

Allan Snyder, Sydney, Transcranial Electric fields for memory enhancement W. Jamie Tyler, Arizona State, Transcranial ultrasound for mental disorders Eric Wasserman, NIH, Transcranial magnetic stimulation for depression

3) Neuronal computation and brain simulation: What syste! ms, levels and specific brain activities are critical for consciousness: axonal firings, dendritic synchrony, macroscopic fields, complexity, intraneuronal processes, quantum states? Will mapping the brain explain consciousness?

Germund Hesslow, Lund, Complex spike timing Rafi Malach, Weizmann Institute, Neuronal ignitions

4) Anesthesia and consciousness: Anesthetic gases selectively erase consciousness and block high frequency gamma synchrony EEG while sparing non-conscious brain functions, acting by weak quantum forces in a distributed array of post-synaptic proteins

Nicholas Franks, Imperial College London, Anesthetic sites of action Stuart Hameroff, Arizona, Hydrophobic quantum pockets in dendritic proteins Anthony Hudetz, MC Wisconsin, Anesthetics and gamma synchrony

5) Quantum biol! ogy: The role of quantum physics in consciousness has been d iscounted by the assumption that the biological brain is too warm and wet. But quantum coherence, entanglement and ballistic conductance have now been recognized in warm photosynthesis, DNA and microtubules.

Anirban Bandyopadhyay, Tsukuba, Ballistic conductance in microtubules Jack Tuszynski, Alberta, Microtubule information processing capabilities

6) Consciousness, reality and the universe: Does the conscious observer collapse the wave function? Is consciousness an emergent property of complex computation, or irreducible and intrinsically related to spacetime geometry? How did the universe arise from nothingness? What is entanglement?

Menas Kafatos, Chapman University, The holographic universe Leonard Mlodinow, CalTech, Grand design (with Stephen Hawking) Paavo Pylkkanen, Helsinki, Bohm and the quantum universe

7) Time, precognition and consciousness: The Libet experiments and parapsychology have long suggested backward time referral of subjective conscious experience of hundreds of milliseconds in the brain. Now such effects are seen in mainstream neuroscience. Can they be explained through quantum physics?

Dick Bierman, Amsterdam, Pre-sentiment Moran Cerf, NYU/UCLA, Pre-cognition in human brain neurons?

9) End-of-life brain activity: Recent clinical studies report a surge of coherent, high frequency EEG at the time of human death, when neuronal metabolic supplies are depleted. Historically, nearly all civilizations have reported so-called near death experiences with remarkably consistent phenomenology. Have brain monitors captured the correlate of near death experiences?

Lakhmir Chawla, Georg! e Washington, End-of-life brain activity Pim von Lom! mel, Arn hem, Near death experiences

9) Eastern philosophy, quantum physics and cosmology. Buddhism and Vedanta have much in common with quantum physics and cosmology. Is consciousness inherent in the universe?

Deepak Chopra, Chopra Center, Vedic approach to consciousness Tarja Kallio-Tamminen, Helsinki, Quantum physics and Eastern philosophy

In addition to Keynote and Plenary talks, the conference will feature Pre-Conference Workshops, Concurrent Talks, Poster Sessions, Art/Tech Demos, Social Events and Side Trips in the Stockholm tradition.

*Special Pre-Conference Workshop* Deepak Chopra – Vedic approaches to consciousness Monday May 2, 2011

TSC Stockholm 2011 Conference Abstract System will be available via the CCS website after September 20. A! ll Abstracts must be submitted via the online system. Accepted abstracts will be included in the conference program book and posted online.

Schedule of Deadlines:
Abstracts Due November 15
Decisions December 20
Registration January 5
Final Edits February 15

Pre-Conference Workshop Proposals: Proposals (500 words or less) should be sent to: center@email.arizona.edu no later than October 25 (notifications by November 15) Workshops will be held in 4 hour sessions on Sunday May 1 and Monday May 2

Organizing Committee
Stuart Hameroff (University of Arizona)
Paavo Pylkkanen (University of Helsinki)
Christer Perfjell (Perfjell Wellness Center, Mind Event SA)
Deepak Chopra (Chopra Center)
Adrian Parker (University of Gothenburg)
Hans Liljenstrom (Stockholm University, Agora for Biosystems)
Annekatrine Puhle (University of Gothenburg)
Abi Behar-Montefiore (University of Arizona)

Happiness by example

September 28, 2010

Live happily, and people will follow your example.

The following contribution about responsible parenting to raise happiness is © 2010 by Christine Carter, Ph.D. who kindly agreed to have her article posted on AmAreWay.

I recently read happiness blogger Gretchen Rubin’s interview with Laura Vanderkam, author of the new book 168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think.  I was particularly struck by this statement by Vanderkam: “I wish people wouldn’t say ‘I don’t have time to do X, Y or Z.’ Instead, we should say ‘I won’t do X, Y or Z because it’s not a priority.’”

This got me wondering: When I elect to work late, am I sending the message to my kids that they’re less of a priority to me than my job? I won’t spend time with you tonight, honey, because, frankly, my work is more important.

Sometimes our work has to be more important. We don’t want to starve, right?  But other times, well, it’s not so clear—our choices might be guided less by necessity than by a lack of discipline or perhaps, yes, misplaced priorities.

I know the whole quality vs. quantity time thing is a working-parent cliché.  But this debate persists in my mind —is a wee bit of “quality time” good enough?—a decade after it began for me.  How much work is too much?  Is it vain to think that more time with me is better? How much time do my kids really need at home with me—and would some of this time be better spent in a dance class or playing soccer or just running around in the yard while I type away on my laptop?  How does this change as kids get older? I just had lunch with a mom who quit work for the first time since she had children – because she felt her teenagers needed more time with her.  Isn’t that when they are supposed to be more independent?

When I was in graduate school—and had an infant and toddler—I was deeply reassured by Ellen Galinsky’s 1999 book Ask the Children: The Breakthrough Study that Reveals How to Succeed at Work and Parenting.  The vast majority of kids in her study, third through twelfth graders, didn’t wish for more time with their working parents.  Instead, about a third of them wished that their parents, particularly their mothers, would be less tired and stressed by work.

As I reread the study now, several other findings strike me as still-very-useful for parents grappling with how much time to spend with their children, whether or not they are working outside of the home.

(1) Don’t rush kids. Children are far more likely to say their parents make them “feel important and loved” if their time with them is calm and unhurried.  (Dang. This isn’t my strength.)

(2) Quantity matters. The fact that most kids don’t wish for more time with their parents means that most parents are already getting this right.  But let’s not kid ourselves: “Children who spend more time with their mothers and fathers on workdays and nonworkdays grade their parents higher, feel their parents are more successful at managing work and family responsibilities, and see their parents as putting their families first,” writes Galinsky.

(3) Focus is the most important thing. I’ll just let Galinsky say it: “When children feel that their mothers and fathers can focus on them, they are much more likely to feel that their parents manage their work and family responsibilities successfully and put their families before their work, and they give their parents much higher marks for all of the parenting skills we examined.  Although very few children believe that their parents have trouble paying attention to them, those who do see their mothers and their fathers in an extremely negative light.”

This focus thing—which I see as being present—is the bull’s eye, the sweet spot of parenting.  Sure, kids need time to just hang around with us while we check our email or cook dinner and they read or do their homework.  But they also need us to focus on them a little bit each day, to be totally present with them.  Dan Siegel, MD and author of Mindsight, explains why:

When parents and children align their focus on each other, there is a neurobiological process…that is activated.  This process, which mediates a sense of well-being, joy and elation, is at the heart of emotional attunement when one person feels “felt” and understood by the other person.  This form of contingent communication is at the heart of developing secure attachments.  It begins in infancy and continues throughout the life span.

This presence, this focus, is what really matters.  It does require a quantity of time to be present.  And this presence makes for very high quality time.

Easier said than done.  But this is the heart of mindful parenting, and it allows us to stop judging ourselves.  When we parent mindfully, we are simply taking in what is in the here and now, without judgment.  We are aware of our own moods, and those of our children.  We cease our relentless planning and our relentless doing.

This means, for me, that I need to stop multi-tasking with my kids.  I am always doing something; actually, usually I’m both doing AND planning for the next thing.  Which means I’m not focused.  There is the egregious not-present, as when during our family dinner I’m checking something else off my list: I wolf my food down, then bring a stack of mail to open while my slow-eating-children finish.

There is also the subtle-not-focused: When walking the kids back from the park, I keep telling them to pipe down so that I can hear my own thoughts.  I want the space to worry about whatever I’m working out in my head, without the bickering masses bugging me.  If I were focused and present, I’d use the time for a moment of play, or at the very least, a moment of mindfulness.

This all brings me back to the very important idea of how happiness is related to the “non-instrumental” activities in our lives, those things we do for no reason other than our own enjoyment.  I’ve blogged before about how a life without “non-instrumental” activities is a life full of anxiety and devoid of joy.  Turns out that parenting is the same: When our parenting is all instrumental—just accomplishing what needs to get done—we risk not just our own but our children’s happiness.

What do you need to do to be able to focus on your children more easily?  What times of the day does this come without effort? (For me, it is bedtime.  I love to read with my children.)  What small, turtle-step towards change can you make toward parenting more mindfully?

Key Reference:

Galinsky, Ellen, 1999.  Ask the Children: The Breakthrough Study That Reveals How to Succeed at Work and Parenting (New York: Quill)

© 2010 Christine Carter, Ph.D. who kindly agreed to have her article posted on AmAreWay. Christine Carter, Ph.D., is a sociologist and happiness expert at UC Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center best known for her science-based parenting advice. She is the author of Raising Happiness: 10 Simple Steps for More Joyful Kids and Happier Parents and she teaches an online parenting class for a global audience.

You can follow her Greater Good blog at www.GreaterGoodParents.com, and learn more about her parenting classes by going to www.raisinghappiness.com.

This is the introductory video to the seminar Madhyamaka & Methodology: A Symposium on Buddhist Theory and Method:

Full recordings and additional information can be found on http://www.smith.edu/buddhism/event-mmsymp.php

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