Thursday, April 30, 2015

SPIRITUALITY & HEALTH: INTERVIEW with PETA'S INGRID NEWKIRK

THE REAL SUFFERING of that FREE-RANGE CHICKEN

Spiritual people tend to think they're compassionate and caring, and I think they are. But there seems to be a disconnect about the suffering of animals. How do you connect people so that when they stick their fork into free-range chicken, they feel the suffering behind each bite?

I understand the disconnect because I grew up eating animals. I think most people who think they're eating "humane" meat have obvious compassion, but I urge them to think more deeply about the fact that you can't trust the label. Truly humane meat is soy meat. It's tempeh meat. It's lentil loaf. It's things that are made without stealing from animals and killing animals. Humane meat is falsely labeled. It's less cruel, or slightly less cruel meat. That's the accurate label - with the emphasis on slightly.

Most compassionate people couldn't watch the slaughter process, which isn't even covered by that label. Most couldn't bear to see inside a pig transport truck, where, in winter, the pigs are frozen to the sides because they have flesh like ours. If there's rain coming through, or sleet, or snow, their skin actually gets stuck to the interior metal, and they have to be peeled off when they reach their destination. Most people couldn't even bear the stench which animals like chickens have to live in on farms that bear the label "humane meat."

I appeal to the compassion in people who have gone so far as to think they're doing something good, when really, they're still contributing to an absolutely needless and horrific torture, torment, mutilation, and fear in animals who have every bit as much feeling as we do.

So part of it is allowing them to connect with the suffering that's probably going on, and really looking deeply at that - and that's hard.

It's always about empathy isn't it? It's to put yourself in another's place. There were times when a white person couldn't imagine putting themselves in a black person's place, or a man couldn't imagine thinking that a woman's feelings really mattered. Now is the time for us to put ourselves in the place of these other individuals who have emotions and feelings, just like ours. They're the same.

In war, often we try to train the troops to consider the enemy subhuman to make it easier to kill. Maybe in some ways, we're sort of doing the same thing with animals.

Oh, precisely. Absolutely. If we thought of them as like us, how could we possibly stick a fork in them and chew on their flesh, and steal the milk for their babies?

Tell me more about the film "Cowspiracy."

Well, Cowspiracy is fabulous, because it does what we have been doing for years, only in movie form. We have offered to pay for meals at banquets for environmental groups if they would go vegetarian. We have pushed the United Nations' report showing that all forms of transportation put together don't equal the harm to the environment caused by animal agriculture. We chased Al Gore around when he came out with his wonderful film, "Inconvenient Truth," to say, "Al, we understand your family produces Angus Beef, but we cannot avoid the inconvenient truth that going vegan is the most important thing you can do for the planet." We used to have a billboard saying, "Al, too chicken to go vegan?" Or vegetarian. Of course, he is now vegan, like Bill Clinton.

Cowspiracy actually goes and sits down with the heads of environmental groups and with local governments that are working on water conservation, for example, and says, what about animal agriculture? They all skirt the issue. They all avoid the question. They say, "Our donors or our customers aren't ready for that." Well, if they're not ready for that, then maybe when the floodwaters rise, and the storms increase, and they can't talk to their grandchildren because they can't fly anywhere . . . Cowspiracy is great, and we are arranging showing of it in various places.

I have the beginning of this quote where somebody said, "Why should I worry about future generations? What have they done for me?"

Friday, April 24, 2015

EMOTIONS: WHAT THEY ARE by PONLOP RINPOCHE

What is our most powerful experience as human beings? I think it is our experience as emotion. Emotions create great joy and intense suffering for ourselves and others; they are a powerful source of energy and very difficult to tame. This teaching by The Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche exemplifies the practical genius of the Tibetan Buddhist system.

Whatever our condition in life - whether we are young or old, wealthy or impoverished, educated or illiterate, we are all touched by the same emotions that bring happiness one moment and suffering the next. Though we all wish to be happy and pursue that state daily, instead of feeling content, we may feel that we have missed the boat once again; in fact, we can practically see it sailing off without us.

We might ask ourselves why, when we aim only for happiness, we often end up so far from our target. What is it that interferes with our aspirations and intentions?

The Buddha taught four profound truths about suffering. First, suffering in life is inevitable. Second, that suffering has specific causes; it is not random. Third, there can genuinely be an end to suffering; we can go beyond it. Fourth, the transcendence of suffering also has specific causes. Generating those causes is what we call "the path."

It is known as the path that leads beyond suffering, the path to liberation, the way to enlightenment, and so forth. In other words, just as suffering has causes, so too does transcendence; it is not random.

Being on this path means that we are willing to work with our minds, and we are willing to be uncomfortable at times in the process.

When we are looking for the causes of our suffering, the Buddha teaches us to look first at the mind as the source of our experience and the means for understanding it.

The first step, mindful gap, refers to the practice of distancing ourselves from whatever emotion may be rising. While remaining mindful and aware, we feel the emotion and hold still, without reacting.

We can then view the emotion and the experiencer of the emotion as being separate. We feel that there is a gap between the two. It is this gap, attended by mindfulness that provides the ground or psychological space for working with our emotions. When we are able to create a "safe" distance, we can see the emotion more clearly without becoming overwhelmed by it.

The second step, letting go, refers to the methods by which we physically and mentally release emotional energy. While there are several approaches to this, including physical exercise, working with the breath, and relaxation techniques, the primary method is letting go through awareness. The very fact of being aware is already a process of letting go. If we have properly applied the first method of mindful gap, then at this level, we begin to let go of our fixation or grasping onto the emotion itself.

As we learn these two steps, we develop our capacity to relinquish the emotions, to transform them, and finally to recognize their ultimate nature of wisdom.

Emotions do not arise haphazardly or randomly, without causes or conditions. They do NOT arise suddenly out of nowhere, as we often think. When we perceive an emotion as arising abruptly or unexpectedly, it is because we do not see its causes and conditions, which can evolve from subtle habitual tendencies, or karmic seeds, that have lain dormant in our minds like "sleeper cells." When they become activated, the emotion "suddenly" appears.

The Buddha, in the Abhidharma teachings, called these dormant tendencies "small growers" or "subtle expanders," which means that they start from very subtle causes and conditions and then grow into something very large. At the moment we perform any action, whether it is positive or negative; that action makes an imprint in our mindstream. That imprint is like a seed; it carries the potential to ripen and yield a result. - By Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche

Friday, April 17, 2015

EXCERPT FROM THE BOOK "THE SHAMBHALA PRINCIPLE"

Even in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition of remaining for years in solitary retreat, it is the mental comfort of extending love and compassion to all beings that allows powerful meditators to grow from training the mind. This notion of sharing frightens the coward but invigorates the warrior. If we don't orient our day toward spiritual growth, the speed of our life takes over, fueled by habitual patterns. Some habitual patterns are a source of inspiration; others just a drain on our energy. We want to infuse our day with good habits, such as using patience instead of anger.

When students asked the Buddha, "How should I practice?" the Buddha answered, "bring virtue to whatever you are doing. When you sew, make garments with the thought of compassion. When you cook, make the food with patience. When you play music, offer it with generosity. Let whatever you are doing become your meditation, and your path will deepen." These days we call this kind of activity "meditation in action."

One of the recommended ways to bring meditation into action is wholeheartedly embracing the path of virtue. How do we determine what is virtuous?

We look at the result. Being mindful, feeling compassion, and exercising patience lead to pleasure and lightness of mind. Being angry, jealous, or proud leads to pain because it constricts the mind and makes our consciousness thicker. We take charge of our life by knowing which qualities we want to embrace.

There will always be hardened hearts and mental anomalies - depression, anxiety, and fear - just as there will always be behavioral anomalies and environmental anomalies. From the perspective of bravery, these conditions are not the norm, and when they arise, they should be treated with compassion and concern. That's how a fearful mind becomes a joyful mind. In order to be brave, we must trust that underneath it all, there is sanity and openness.

As I've said before, aggression is the result of selfishness and fear, which shrink our perspective. Aggression surfaces at the point where we appear to make short-term gains, but we weaken our chances of survival in the long run, for as aggression consumes us, our perspective continues to shrink; we become rigid and lose our flexibility. Our hearts harden. It becomes more difficult for us to make rational or conscious decisions, and we are hardly able to adapt because our view is  so narrow that we can see only one possible solution to a problem - aggression. Aggression is not a sign of strength, but of fear, failure, and weakness. It means that all other possible avenues - compassion, kindness, and bravery - have failed.

Thus, it is dangerous to equate the survival of the fittest with the survival of the aggressive. As complicated and diverse as the world is, one of humanity's essential qualities is strength, and someone who has realized the nature of his or her true mind has the strength to be forceful when necessary - and also compassionate, loving, and kind. Compassion is the long-term solution that has a positive influence on our society and our economy. It stabilizes our lives and the lives of others. If our energy were simply aggressive, it would be too myopic and weak to have gotten us this far.

Yet at this intersection of the rise of technology and science, the fall of ethical standards, and economic and ecological instability, there is a danger even with the concerted efforts of individuals and organizations to make the world a better place - that the habit of aggression will become stronger than the habit of compassion. Particularly since the Industrial Revolution, we have had greater means to oppose nature, taking advantage of the environment for our own gain. Through this greed and discontent we are consuming our planet and the natural resources it provides. The end result is personal, social, and environmental deforestation.

Many of us are passionately involved in responding to this crisis because we know that Mother Nature has been at the survival game longer than we have and has more patience. If we do not create harmony among ourselves and the environment, if Darwin's theory is correct, eventually the elements will beat us.

When I would ask my father if enlightenment is possible, he would say, "Yes, because we have enlightened genes." In this time of chaos, if we can choose compassion instead of aggression, we will regain our connection to nature, and humanity could be here for many eons into the future, having created a society that works in partnership with the earth - by embracing our own enlightened qualities. In Shambhala, goodness is not only communication between humans; it is also communication with the elements and all living beings.

Defaulting to insecurity and aggression, not fully believing in our own compassion, is the opposite of bravery. If this cowardly state of mind begins to consume humanity, it is unlikely that we will create harmony with our environment and survive. - By Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche

WE LOVE OUR PETS & DEWEY: THE SMALL-TOWN CAT

We definitely love our adorable pets. Cats and dogs make excellent companions for just about anyone who's dedicated to taking proper care of these comfort creatures. Properly taking care of pets is a time-consuming responsibility and as the pets get older, veterinarian bills will pile up. Therefore, it is wise to set aside money before pets get too old.

Not only are companion animals treasured, but a very high percentage of citizens in industrialized countries - as high as 99% in some polls - identify their companion animals as family members.

Mark Twain wrote an autobiography from a dog's perspective. In his 1904 book "A Dog's Tale," Twain wrote: "My father was a St. Bernard, my mother was a collie, but I am a Presbyterian. I was the same as a member of the family."

Photographs from the late 1800s show fewer cats and dogs in the yard and more in the living room. Felines curl up on sofas, and canines slumber next to baby cribs. Pets even moved into the presidential mansion.

Abraham Lincoln is known to have been an inveterate cat lover. One story relates that in the 1860's, he spotted 3 kittens in a military tent who had apparently lost their mother. Before leaving the campsite, he instructed that they were to be well taken care of, and he continued to inquire about their welfare on an almost daily basis.

Abraham Lincoln reportedly fed Tabby, the first White House cat, under the table - with official cutlery. "If the gold fork was good enough for former president James Buchanon," he told his objecting wife, "I think it is good enough for Tabby."

Of the millions of creatures on earth, only cats and dogs have become our true family members. They sleep in our beds; they play with our children; they love and they are loved. How does it come about that two members of completely unrelated species can feel such deep affection for each other? There is nothing quite like it in the natural world.
______________________________________________________________________

DEWEY: The Small-Town Library Cat Who Touched The World

I just read the book "Dewey: The Small-Town Library Cat who Touched The World." Cat lovers - and anyone who likes animals - will find a treasure of good reading in this book. "Dewey" is more than a book about a lovable cat - although that would be enough. "Dewey" is a metaphor for the meaning of life itself: a book about the beauty and power of compassion. It is a book about saving a precious kitten's life, and how this cat named Dewey influenced so many people's lives in a positive way.

Contained in this book is an understated wisdom, a strong sense of compassion, and pet enthusiasts can easily relate to the author's love for Dewey. Here is a quote from this charming book: "Find your place. Be happy with what you have. Treat everyone well. Live a good life. It isn't about material things; it's about love. And you can never anticipate love. I learned those things from Dewey of course."


Dewey was cared for by the library staff when he was found in the library's drop box when the temperature outside was minus 15 degrees, and not any warmer inside the drop box.

Dewey's picture was later featured in magazines, newspapers, books, and newsletters from Minneapolis, Minnesota, to Jerusalem, Israel. Dewey became a celebrity! From that nearly-frozen precious kitten left in a library drop box to one of the world's most famous cats - beloved Dewey was a true star.

"Dewey" showcases the wonderful, meaningful exchange of good karma between a cat and his human guardians. The book is a reminder of our own mortality. When we leave this world, what have we done to make it a better place. Every sentient being wants to be happy, and every sentient being cherishes his or her life. Not only did the Spencer library staff save Dewey's life but they let him roam the library as he pleased.

The 17th Gyalwang Karmapa wrote in his book "The Heart is Noble": "The fact that you have affection for your family members or pets is due to the compassion and love that already lie within you. Even your wish to tend the garden outside your window is an expression of love and caring.

As you allow compassion to fill your heart and come to the forefront of your life, everything you encounter can become a condition for compassion to increase. Compassion can permeate your smallest gestures. And whenever the opportunity arises to act to benefit others in larger ways, you will be fully ready to do so - because compassion prepares you with a sense of responsibility for others' happiness and an urgent wish to act to accomplish it."

Page 31 of "Dewey: The Small-Town Library Cat" states:

"He was so comfortable in the library and he had no problem falling asleep in public places. He preferred laps, of course, but if they weren't available he would curl up in a box. The cards for the catalog came in small boxes about the size of a pair of baby shoes. Dewey liked to cram all four feet inside, sit down, and let his sides ooze over the edge. If the box was a little bigger, he buried his head and tail in the bottom. The only thing you could see was a big blob of back fur sticking out of the top. He looked like a muffin.

Dewey loved drawers, and he developed a habit of popping out of them when you least expected. If you were shelving books, he'd jump onto the cart and demand a trip around the library.

For decades the library had hosted a special Story Hour every week for local elementary and middle school special education classes. Before Dewey, the kids were poorly behaved. But Dewey changed that. As they got to know him, the children learned that if they were too noisy or erratic, Dewey left. They would do anything to keep Dewey with them, and after a few months, they became so calm you couldn't believe it was the same group of kids."

EXCERPTS FROM the SEQUEL BOOK: "DEWEY'S NINE LIVES":

As the months went on, and "Dewey" topped the national best-seller lists, the letters became more frequent. After a year, I had received more than 3,000 letters, e-mails, and packages, almost all from people who had never heard of Dewey before reading the book.

I knew he had left a legacy, because Dewey had changed me. He had changed members of the library staff. He had changed Crystal the disabled girl, and the homeless man, and the children who came each week for Story Hour, many of whom brought their own children to see him in his later years.

I knew how important he was because people kept telling me their Dewey stories, confiding in me in a way. In the end, he touched more than the town of Spencer. But it was those of us who knew him and loved him and heard his story that he changed. His legacy would live with us.

I thought that was it. I really did. And then something happened. I wrote a book about Dewey, and people around the world responded. I was not prepared for the passionate response. So many of the people who attended my book events didn't just like Dewey, and didn't just enjoy the book. They LOVED them both. They felt touched by the story. And they felt changed.

Dewey's story began quietly, on a brutally cold weekend in January 1988. The temperature was minus 15 degrees, the kind of cold that burns your lungs and peels the skin from your face (or at least it feels that way).

But despite the deep freeze, someone shoved into the book return slot, a tiny homeless kitten. I entered the story when I opened the book return box and found a tiny kitten inside. When he looked up longingly into my eyes, my heart stopped. He was so cute . . . and so in need. I cradled him in my hands until he stopped shivering, then gave him a warm bath in the library sink.

One of the many regular visitors I recognized but never knew was a woman named Yvonne Barry. She liked magazines, and she always checked out books. Beyond that, I knew only one thing about her: She loved Dewey. I could see that in the smile on her face every time he approached her. 

After Dewey arrived, visits to the library increased dramatically. I'm not sure he brought people through the door for their first visit, but I think he convinced them to come back. Yvonne, for instance, didn't visit the library until Dewey was 4 or 5 months old. She had read an article about him in the Spencer Daily Reporter shortly after his rescue, but it wasn't until summer that she decided to stop in. By then, Dewey was half grown. With his bushy tail, brilliant copper fur, and magnificent ruff, he already looked like the pampered, patrolling King of the Library. Which he was. Cool, confident Dewey was completely at ease in his surroundings. The first time Yvonne saw him, he was strutting around as if he owned the place. What a beautiful cat, she thought.

Everyone thought she had a unique relationship with Dewey. I don't know how many times someone whispered to me in strictest confidence, "Don't tell anybody, because they'll be jealous, but Dewey and I have something special." I'd smile and nod and wait for someone else to say the exact same thing. Dewey was so generous with his affection, you see, that everyone felt the connection.

People wrote about their own pet experiences and what the book Dewey meant to them. There were people who had never known Dewey, the strangers who were so touched by his story, they felt compelled to write to me. "I've never written to an author before but I was so moved by Dewey's story . . . " Or, "Dewey was an angel, thank you for sharing him with the world."

" I simply wanted thank you for putting into such eloquent words what many of us who have loved a cat, or any animal, feel every day. They are our family, and we love them just as deeply and miss them just as desperately when they are gone."

"Words cannot express how much the book Dewey meant to me . . . We adopted a stray cat at our church many years ago: 'Church Cat'! She was pregnant and when her babies came, members adopted them. Then a collection of funds got her to the vet to be spayed. She lived in the church until we had major renovations and I took her home."

"I had a cat for 21 years . . . He shouldn't have survived . . . yet he did survive to bring so many hours of joy to my life for so many years. And to this day, you can sometimes feel his wet nose touch your leg as he still waits for my spirit to join him."

Dewey was a fortunate cat. He not only survived the sub-freezing library drop box, but also fell into the arms of a staff that loved him. - from "Dewey's Nine Lives"

_____________________________________________________________________

CAT PEOPLE

Michael Korda wrote in Cat People:
"There's no question that conversations with a cat are therapeutic - after all, a cat doesn't argue, answer back, or tell you that you're dead wrong, while a human voice, in the right tone, preferably soothing and praising, is something most cats appear to enjoy listening to in moderation. Also, you can whisper your deepest secrets to a cat in the absolute confidence that they're not going to be passed on to anyone, which is more than you can say of humans, including your best friends. Cats probably hear more good gossip than anybody, including gossip columnists, which might explain the self-satisfied expression and general air of superiority that most cats affect."
______________________________________________________________________

CATS NEED MORE ADOPTIONS

For many, cats and kittens can be an almost endless source of fascination. It's not uncommon for people to spend hours watching cute cat videos on the Internet and sharing cat photos online.

Unfortunately, it seems this online fascination with cats is not translating into real-life adoptions. Every year, an estimated 8 million pets enter U.S. shelters, and approximately 4 million of them are euthanized because there are not enough homes.

A recent PertSmart Charities survey of people's perceptions of cats found that the negative opinions some people have of cats are hurting their image.

 For instance, when asked about the personality and behavioral traits of cats, respondents overwhelmingly described cats as curious, stubborn, moody and aloof. Dogs, on the other hand, were described in much more positive terms, such as friendly, loyal, protective and loving. It's thought perceptions such as these are making it more difficult for cats to be adopted into permanent homes.

Fortunately, there are indications that some people are taking steps to end these misperceptions once and for all. Sixty-six percent of respondents said that too many people have negative impressions of cats and 56 percent said that the stereotypes about cats simply aren't true. Additionally, half of the respondents believed that more people would have a pet cat if the stereotypes around cats were removed. The survey also found that cat lovers may be uniquely positioned to help cats the most - you may let people know about this blog posting, for instance.

Research shows that by sharing more about their cat online, particularly through social media, cat owners can help to overcome the negative stereotypes surrounding cats and show them in a positive light. The PetSmart Charities cat perception survey was fielded via Toluna Analytics to 1,022 U.S.-based respondents during the period from Feb. 11-14, 2015. It has a +/-3 percent margin of error. To learn more, visit:
www.petsmartcharities.org
____________________________________________________________________

UNDERSTANDING CATS: CATS are TRULY AFFECTIONATE !

Cats are truly affectionate beings, but they are emotionally reserved compared to dogs. Compared to dogs, cats are rather shy, quiet beings. Cats are not capable of barking and you'll never see a cat with his head poking outside of a speeding car window. Dogs have facial muscles that give the appearance of smiling whereas cats lack these muscles, giving them a more serious demeanor. Who has not seen a happy, smiling dog, eagerly wagging his tail?

If a cat is unsure about you, she will study you from a distance to determine if you are friend or foe. Cats are much smaller than adult humans, and they need to know that you are safe to approach. And approach they will! For instance, house cats know when you are in a peaceful mood and they will sit on your lap.

Cats love to be petted, but make sure you stroke their fur in the direction that it grows or else your furry companion will scurry away. Cats spend considerable time licking and grooming their fur so it doesn't get matted, clumped or dirty. There are practical reasons for well- groomed fur, including better insulation. Besides, who wants to look like they just crawled out of a dumpster?

Affectionate touch is actually quite powerful. It is a very honest form of communication that is direct, simple, primal and reassuring. It feels good physically while it nourishes the soul of the person doing the petting and the animal being petted. And it's fun to pet dogs and cats! In fact, a child, monkey or puppy may not thrive, and may even die without this loving touch.

Imagine the Akashic Records, or a similar, extremely accurate cosmic record, of all the negative and positive actions that you have ever performed. Near the very top of these positive actions would be caring for your pets: demonstrating love and compassion. Now imagine that you saved, cared for and spent your time and money on abandoned animals that otherwise had no hope of a decent life. The positive karmic rewards that you would incur from these compassionate acts would be a huge dividend in your karmic bank account.

Conversely, injuring and neglecting animals would incur a huge negative karmic debt that must be paid in full. The author of this blog has been rescuing animals - frogs, toads, lizards, birds, cats, dogs, etc. - since he was 5 years old. As a child, I didn't know anything about karma, but I did know that it felt good, it felt right, to protect animals, and these positive ideals have persisted throughout my life. I do not regret a single minute that I spent with my cats and dogs!

Now, there are hundreds of ways to accumulate good karma. Being kind to animals is one way to express concern for these beings, while it fattens a person's positive karmic account.

Of course, there are people who don't give a hoot about karma, or animals, but these people cannot be absolutely certain that karma does not exist. These people cannot prove that karma is a myth.

Some people don’t like cats or they aren’t familiar with them. These people will probably inform you that cats don’t show affection. They may praise how dogs show affection but refer to cats as snobby or aloof. But cats are not dogs - they are two different species with different ways of showing affection.
Individual cats have their own preferred ways of showing affection and there are many ways your particular cat may display affection. Here are some common ways they show their love:

Why do Cats Rub Up Against Your Leg When They Greet You?

Cats are truly affectionate beings and they are always happy to greet their kind and caring guardian. First, he or she will brush against your leg. He starts by pressing the top of his head or side of his face against you. Then he'll rub his flank alongside you and sometimes twist his tail around your leg.

Now, if you reach down and stroke the cat, he will respond by pushing the side of his mouth against your hand or nudging upward with the top of his head. This feline ritual has meaning: basically the cat is implementing a scent exchange between you and him. There are special scent glands on a cat's temples and at the gape of their mouth. Perhaps the cat is saying to other cats: "This human is mine, so stay away!”

Why do Cats like being Petted?


Cats consider their human guardians to be a "mother cat." Kittens are repeatedly licked by their mothers during their earliest days and human stroking has much the same feel on fur as feline licking. Since humans continue this petting routine long after the kittens have grown up, adult cats are emotionally still kittens in many ways. We enjoy caring for pets as if they were our surrogate children!

Why Does a Cat Roll over to Lie on His Back When He Sees You?

When you enter a room where your cat was fast asleep and you greet her with a few words, she will respond by rolling over on her back or side, stretch out her legs and perhaps gently twitch her tail. Yawning is commonly part of this feline ritual. While this routine is performed, she is staring at you, checking your mood. This is a cat's way of offering you a friendly greeting. It is cat language for: "I trust you enough to offer you my vulnerable belly."

It is very unlikely that any cat would demonstrate this behavior to a stranger. This exposed underside ritual makes a cat too vulnerable, so it is reserved for trusted family members. Now, a more active cat will adopt a different routine: He or she will brush against your leg to show affection. But a sleepy feline prefers the lying down, exposed belly roll.

When a feline does this belly roll, do not assume that he wants you to rub his belly. Should you attempt to rub his exposed belly, an irritated swipe of the paw will meet your hand. The cat's underside is a sensitive area, and just by displaying this area to you the cat is showing considerable trust.

Why Does a Cat Knead His Front Paws on Your Lap?

All cats owners have had their cat jump on their lap. After a short while, the cat starts to press down, first with one paw, and then with the other, alternating paws in a rhythmic motion. The rhythm is deliberately slow until eventually the prick of feline claws is felt. At that moment, the owner either shoos the cat away or gently picks him up and places him on the floor.

What does this feline paw ritual mean? The answer is to watch baby kittens feeding at their mother's nipples. Their tiny paws are seen to knead away at their mother's belly, the same basic motion the adult cat displays on his owner's lap. A kitten's rhythmic paw motions stimulate the flow of milk to the nipples and the kitten's saliva dripping is in anticipation of a meal of mother's milk.

Basically, adult cats will mimic a kitten's behavior since they consider a human guardian to be a sort of pseudo - mother cat. Adult cats will often revert to their kittenhood, purring contently while they go through the motions of stimulating milk on their owner's lap.

From a cat's perspective, this kneading ritual is a warm, loving moment. For an adult cat who considers her human companion to be a maternal being, it is unsettling to be placed on the floor or shooed away. Any decent mother cat would not behave in such a way!

Why do Cats Purr?

One of life's simple pleasures is a purring cat, happy to be with us, in complete trust and harmony.
Cats usually purr to indicate: "All is well, and I'm feeling fine." Now, cats purr when they are content, but they have been known to purr when they are injured and/or in pain. More commonly, a purring cat means that he or she is in a friendly, social mood.

Kittens purr to let the mother cat know that all is well and the milk supply is appreciated. A mother cat will purr to signal that she is also content and relaxed. When approaching her kittens, the purring mother assures them that everything is okay, that she is not an enemy.

How Sociable are Cats?

Cats are often described as solitary, selfish creatures who prefer their own company to that of other cats. This is an exaggerated stereotype perpetuated by people who have never spent time properly relating to cats. Also, there are endless excuses to find faults with any animal or human being. While cats and dogs are not perfect creatures, neither are humans perfect. Because cats are rather solitary beings does not make them "bad," or deserving of contempt.

Cats are not pack animals. They can be perfectly content living alone or with minimal feline contact. As far as a social life, cats can take it or leave it. A single cat living in a house with a caring family is very content not to have a feline companion. It is easier to attain a peaceful accord by starting with littermates, or two kittens near in age than introducing a new cat into the household.

Now, feral cats will live alone, but once a kind human cares for them, and has them spayed or neutered, then this once - wild creature can surprise you with their affection. Cats can socialize well with other felines if they have enough room to roam. The same can be said for humans: What person wants to live in an over-crowded tenement?

Consider a house cat living with a human family. These felines are socializing well every day, living with humans, even sleeping on human beds! However, some cats do not appreciate a new cat's adoption into "their" family, and adding more cats can become very problematic. The point is that cats are wonderful companions for humans - if they are properly cared for. - by Scott Palczak
______________________________________________________________________

TREE HOUSE HUMANE SOCIETY: CAT BEHAVIOUR


http://www.treehouseanimals.org/site/PageServer?pagename=caring_ccg_changing_cat_behavior&gclid=Cj0KEQjw2sO3BRD49-zdzfb8iLwBEiQAFZgZfL7WPWut5CYN6cPqysx26lhERJhWxavL0g_8GgPCbAwaAhMt8P8HAQ
______________________________________________________________________

Cats and dogs are similar in several ways:

1.) They both enjoy living with kind and caring human companions.
2.) Dogs and cats will sleep on beds with their human guardians.
3.) Both cats and dogs enjoy being petted and pampered.
4.) Recreation: Cats find pleasure in quiet time, while dogs love to chase other canines around dog parks.
5.) Dogs and cats love outdoor walks.

Consider too, that some people prefer a quiet pet such as a cat. Felines don't bark in the middle of the night and they enjoy quiet time with their human companions. This is not to imply that dogs are inferior companions. Most younger dogs thrive on a certain amount of excitement and stimulation, such as poking their heads out of speeding cars windows, and chasing other dogs around dog parks. Cats, however, find car rides too stressful, and they'd much prefer a good cat nap.
____________________________________________________________________

Walking Cats on a Leash


Some cats will consent to walks with a leash. Accustom your cat to an H-shaped harness (not a collar) by leaving it near her sleeping area. Then attach the harness to her and let her wear it for a few hours. When your cat seems accustomed to the harness, attach a short leash to it and let her walk around the house while under supervision, so the harness doesn't get tangled. Your cat is now ready for a stroll around the yard or even a short walk around the block. Keep alert for dogs!
_____________________________________________________________________

Why do Cats Groom their Fur?

Obviously, licking fur removes dust and dirt, but it also helps keep the fur smooth so it provides better insulation. A ruffled, matted coat is a poor insulator, which can be hazardous for a cat outside in cold weather. Cats can also easily overheat in summer, and since they don't have sweat glands throughout their body like humans do, they cannot use sweating as a method of cooling. Panting can help, but it is not enough. Therefore, cats repeatedly lick their fur, depositing as much saliva as possible on it. When the saliva evaporates, it cools in a manner similar to evaporating human sweat.

Anyone who doubts that humans release considerable sweat should sleep under a plastic covering at night. In the morning that plastic covering will be covered with moisture.
____________________________________________________________________

A DOG'S TALE

Below is an excerpt from Mark Twain's book "A Dog's Tale":


Other times I lay on the floor in the mistress’s work-room and slept, she gently using me for a foot-stool, knowing it pleased me, for it was a caress; other times I spent an hour in the nursery, and got well tousled and made happy; other times I watched by the crib there, when the baby was asleep and the nurse out for a few minutes on the baby’s affairs; other times I romped and raced through the grounds and the garden with Sadie till we were tired out, then slumbered on the grass in the shade of a tree while she read her book; other times I went visiting among the neighbor dogs— for there were some most pleasant ones not far away, and one very handsome and courteous and graceful one, a curly-haired Irish setter by the name of Robin Adair, who was a Presbyterian like me, and belonged to the Scotch minister.

The servants in our house were all kind to me and were fond of me, and so, as you see, mine was a pleasant life. There could not be a happier dog that I was, nor a gratefuller one. I will say this for myself, for it is only the truth: I tried in all ways to do well and right, and honor my mother’s memory and her teachings, and earn the happiness that had come to me, as best I could. - by Mark Twain
_____________________________________________________________________

WHY WE HAVE PETS: SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN MIND ARTICLE

On my 10th birthday, I got a puppy. I was shocked - I had wanted a dog for as long as I could remember - and so overwhelmed with happiness that I burst into tears. For the next 14 years, Happy, a beagle, charmed everyone he met. And when he passed, all of us who knew him mourned, as we would for any loved one.

More than half of American households have a pet - that is, an animal kept primarily for companionship. And despite the fact that these housemates may bear furs, fins, scales or feathers, people often view their animals as family members. In 2014 we spent an estimated $58 billion on our animal companions and untold hours caring for them.

"It's all about human psychology, " says anthrozoologist Pauleen Bennet of La Trobe University in Australia. "Pets help us fill our need for social connectedness."

Although motivations for pet ownership may very as much as a golden retriever and a goldfish, scientists are finding that some common threads tie humans to their household animals. Some of our attraction to animals may be subconscious, driven by biological and social forces that we do not fully acknowledge.

In addition, the emotional bond between pets and their owners can bring varied benefits, from lowered stress to novel adventures.

INBORN ATTRACTION ?

Part of our attraction to animal companionship is innate. In 2013 psychologist Vanessa LoBue of Rutgers University and her colleagues revealed that toddlers one to three years old spent more time interacting with live animals - whether fish, hamsters, snakes, spiders or geckos - than they do with inanimate toys when given a choice between the two.

Most people profess to wanting pets for companionship. In a study published in 2014 Massachusetts General Hospital veterinarian Lori Palley and her colleagues used functional magnetic resonance imaging to measure brain activity in 14 mothers while they were looking at pictures of their children or their dogs or at pictures of other people's children or unfamiliar dogs.

The researchers found that the brain activation patters evoked by images of the women's own children and dogs were very similar and that those patterns were distinct from those elicited by unknown children and canines, suggesting that maternal feelings may extend to animals. Pets may thus help fill a human need to nurture other living beings.

Yet pets are much more than human substitutes. Many people with no obvious social deficits reap varied psychological benefits from owning a pet. In 2012 Professor Bennett presented preliminary findings from a student, psychologist Jordan Schaan, then at Monash University in Australia, who had interviewed 37 dogs owners who were personally and professionally successful and had an above-average connection to their animals. (The subjects were educated, affluent and had fulfilling romantic partnerships, for instance.)

Among the benefits of dog ownership that these individuals reported were amusement - the animals' antics made their owners laugh - and a sense of meaning from having responsibility for the welfare of another living thing, and an entrée into new experiences or relationships: a puppy can be a great way to meet neighbors.

People felt they could derive unconditional love and forgiveness from their dogs, whereas human beings seemed more likely to disappoint one another. "There's something about animals that's very genuine and honest," Bennett says. "We miss that in our human interactions."

More than half of cat owners described themselves as fond of both cats and dogs. But more than half of dog owners said they preferred only canines.

Most researchers agree that the attachment between juvenile and adult dogs and their owners closely resembles the bond that exists between mothers and very young children.
_________________________________________________________________

DOG WALKING: A HAIR - RAISING EXPERIENCE

I recently had a hair - raising experience as I was strolling along a nature trail near Sedona, Arizona. Hearing loud voices and barking, I turned around and saw two dogs engaged in a rather fierce dogfight. Without hesitation, I ran towards the canine commotion, ordering them to stop.

This canine confrontation could have been avoided if both dog guardians had their dogs on leashes. The ramifications of such a scenario, if it had esculated, could have been trips to the veterinarian, doctor bills for bitten human hands, and possible law suits. Indeed, it would have distressed me to witness a nice, quiet dog walk turn into a major dogfighting fracas.

Now, I realize that dogs love to roam free without a leash, but our society has rules and regulations that are meant to protect people and animals. Using a leash can make the difference between a nice stroll and a nightmare. - by Scott Palczak (5/2016)_____________________________________________________________________

MAKE the JUMP FROM GOOD PET PARENT to GREAT

Having a dog or cat as a family member is not a right, but a responsibility to be undertaken with love, understanding and commitment. It also requires us to be ready to care for the animal its entire lifetime.

Animals require daily care and companionship. There is a financial component, a need to have time to feed, exercise and groom our furry or feathered companion. If people can meet these obligations, then some lucky animal is going to get not just a good guardian, but a great one.

We know there is a special bond between a pet and his or her guardian. This relationship, which can last for many years, is often an important part of the pet parent's life. Many of us consider our loved pets as members of the family; albeit furry members.

What elevates us from being a good pet parent to a great pet parent? Here are some considerations: Good pet parents provide a safe, loving environment for their dog or cat from the beginning. Whether that's providing them with a quiet room in the house, a comfy bed in the basement or a pillow on the couch, making your pet feel welcome at home is essential. Great, and even good pet parents, should be tolerant of their pet's misdeeds. Animals will make mistakes and excessive scolding only increases the problem.

Great parents think not only about how to make their pet feel welcome at home but how to help their pets find a way back home if they ever become lost. This means in addition to the animal wearing ID tags on their collar, the pet is microchipped and that the microchip is registered with the national database.

When an animal is adopted from the Humane Society of Sedona, the animal has already been microchipped. This gives the new adopter added protection in the event the pet becomes lost.

Another distinction of being a great pet parent is providing socialization for the pet. No matter the personality or how much time they will spend around other animals, every pet needs to interact with other dogs, cats and people. This socialization helps them practice training skills and learn new behaviors.

Assume that you enroll your dog "Binky" in Good Manners training class. Your main reason for this is to give Binky an opportunity to improve his social skills around other dogs. When at home, he lives up to the German shepherd reputation as guard dog, and responds accordingly to anyone who walks on "his" street. During class, he accepts the other dogs around him, without the "territorial" attitude. It proves to be a valuable experience for both of you. Positive reinforcement and consistency are important in training your dog and will help him retain new skills for life.

As a good pet parent, we understand the importance of not only providing a safe home, but also a chance to exercise our pet's mind and body by exploring their environment. Exercising keeps your pet in top physical condition. It also helps them emotionally and mentally and prevents them from showing unwanted behaviors due to boredom.

Great parents realize in addition to keeping their pet fit, both physically and mentally, good health stems from proper nutrition, serving the best - quality food for your budget. Sometimes, good pet parents keep their pet's food bowl full at all times. The problem is that dogs and cats often eat more than they need if food is constantly available. Great parents will follow the suggestion on the pet food label, or recommendations from their veterinarian. Feeding your pet at the table can lead to bad manners, and perhaps giving the animal food that could make them sick.

Just like parenting a child, becoming a great pet parent won't happen immediately. It will take time and plenty of effort on the human's part. It will require dedication, but the rewards of a loving, relationship between you and your pet will be worth it. - adapted/modified from article in Sedona Red Rock News (5/2016)

__________________________________________________________________

WebMD: Cat care website:
http://pets.webmd.com/cats/

WebMD: Dog care website: http://pets.webmd.com/dogs/
__________________________________________________________________

ENERGY TIMES: How to Soothe Your Stressed Pets
http://www.energytimes.com/pages/features/0715/pets.html

POSITIVELY: The Future of Dog Training - by Victoria Stilwell
https://positively.com/dog-behavior/

OSCAR - WINNER CHRISTOPHER WALKEN: Advocates Adopting Shelter Cats
http://www.kltv.com/story/32571791/oscar-winner-christopher-walken-advocates-adopting-shelter-cats
__________________________________________________________________

LAMA ZOPA RINPOCHE: ADVICE on HELPING ANIMALS
http://scottsbuddhistiveg.blogspot.com/2015_09_01_archive.html

KILLING is BAD KARMA: EASTERN VS. WESTERN VIEWS of ANIMALS
http://www.scottsbuddhisttveg.blogspot.com/2015/03/this-essay-wasoriginally-posted-on.html
__________________________________________________________________

ELLEN DEGENERES on PETS & ANIMALS: GOOD HOUSEKEEPING (Oct. 2011)

GH: So tell us, what makes you laugh these days?

ED: My animals. I have three kitties: George, Chairman, and Charlie. And then two dogs, Mabel and Wolf. They make me laugh. They make me calm. They fill me with awe. I'm in awe for instance, when my dogs know exactly when it's time to go and get in the car. Even though they speak their own language, they still understand us. I'm in awe of these little tiny moments all the time. Like the other day, we showed a video on the show of a cat and a dolphin interacting. I mean, it was insane! The cat was on the edge of a pier, and a dolphin came up out of the water, and they started nuzzling each other! Amazing!

We can stop and appreciate these things, or we can sit and worry about what's going to happen to us two weeks from now. I'd rather focus on the amazing things that are happening right in front of us. Animals help us do that.

I also feel good because I saved my animals (DeGeneres is a big supporter of animal charities like the Gentle Barn (gentlebarn.org), a sanctuary for abused animals in California, and the Humane Society of the United States (humanesociety.org). So I know I'm giving them security and comfort, and that they're safe. I do wish I knew the stories of who they were before I got them. But to rescue animals or to just have animals in your life, they give you so much more than you give them.
__________________________________________________________________

Thursday, April 9, 2015

AMMA SRI KARUNAMAYI'S VISIT to PASADENA: APRIL 3, 2015

Amma Sri Karunamayi is one of India's greatest living saints. I've been visiting Amma every year for 15 years, and April 3, 2015 was the first time I saw her give a lengthy and heartfelt discourse denouncing violence against women. She also lamented human trafficking, and missing girls.

Human trafficking is a form of modern-day slavery where trafficking victims are exploited for commercial sex purposes by means of force, fraud or coercion, according to the U.S. Department of State. One reason human trafficking is prevalent in the United States is related to our 1.7 million teenage runaways. Many of these teens end up in hands of a trafficker (a pimp), who gives promises such as shelter, protection, etc.

Amma passionately desires real change in the world regarding these issues. She said that if a woman becomes president of the United States, much more attention will be given to these issues.

Amma also mentioned that meat eating contributes to aggressive behavior and she recommends a vegetarian diet. A vegetarian, sattvic diet is meant to include food and eating habits that are "pure, essential, natural, vital, energy-containing, clean, conscious, true, honest, wise". Sattvic diet is a regimen that places emphasis on seasonal foods, fruits, dairy products, nuts, seeds, oils, ripe vegetables, legumes, whole grains, and non-meat based proteins. Some Sattvic diet suggestions, such as its relative emphasis on dairy products, is controversial.
________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Paramahansa Yogananda wrote in his "Autobiography of a Yogi " about how Mahatma Gandhi had concern and compassion for cows.

At ten-thirty we were called to the ashram porch for lunch with Gandhi and the satyagrahis. Today the menu included brown rice, a new selection of vegetables, and cardamon seeds.

Noon found me strolling about the ashram grounds, on to the grazing land of a few imperturbable cows. The protection of cows is a passion with Gandhi. "The cow to me means the entire sub-human world, extending man's sympathies beyond his own species," the Mahatma explained. "Man through the cow is enjoined to realize his identity with all that lives. Why the ancient rishis selected the cow for apotheosis is obvious to me. The cow in India was the best comparison; she was the giver of plenty. Not only did she give milk, but she also made agriculture possible. The cow is a poem of pity; one reads pity in the gentle animal. She is the second mother to millions of mankind. Protection of the cow means protection of the whole dumb creation of God. The appeal of the lower order of creation is all the more forceful because it is speechless."

Certain daily rituals are enjoined on the Orthodox Hindu. One is Bhuta Yajna, an offering of food to the animal kingdom. This ceremony symbolizes man's realization of his obligations to less evolved forms of creation - instinctively tied to body identification (a delusion that afflicts man also) but lacking the liberating quality of reason peculiar to humanity.
- from "Autobiography of a Yogi"
____________________________________________________________________________

Amma's biography states that during her 10 years of deep meditation, poisonous snakes such as cobras would crawl over her, and tigers and deer would sit near her. These were WILD tigers and NOT defanged cobras! She said during the homa that she was not afraid of these animals and the jungle is safer than our society! Amma also said in her biography that she does not like to walk on grass because it hurts the grass!

Paramahansa Yogananda in his "Autobiography of a Yogi" wrote: "Master as far as I know, was never at close quarters with a leopard or tiger. But a deadly cobra once confronted him, only to be conquered by his love.

We were seated outdoors near the ashram. A cobra appeared nearby, a four-foot length of sheer terror. Its hood was angrily expanded as it raced toward us. Master gave a welcoming chuckle, as though to a child. I was filled with consternation to see Sri Yukteswar engage in a rhythmical clapping of hands. He was entertaining the dread visitor! The serpent's frightful hood gradually contracted; the snake slithered between Sri Yukteswarji's feet and disappeared into the bushes."

After her heartfelt discourse, Amma blessed probably 400 or more people individually. Each person writes on an index card what he or she needs and hands their card to Amma. Amma is always happy to see her "divine children" as she calls her followers. She is like a spiritual mother to her infants who need nurturing.

As usual, the festive and wonderfully sublime homa was charged with positive energy, as 300 people chanted and worshipped Ganesha, Shiva, Saraswati, and Lakshmi. Even small dogs seem to enjoy homas, and I think to myself, "You lucky dogs!" These homas are stashed in my memory as some of the most positive experiences in my life.
___________________________________________________________________________

MEANINGS of HOMAS & ABHISHEKAMS

A homa or fire offering is a sacred ceremony in which the gods and goddesses are offered oblations through the medium of fire, according to Vedic spiritual injunctions, while special mantras are recited. A homa is performed during specific auspicious occasions for the benefit of the entire world as well as the participants.

Sri Karunamayi has stated that homas and abhishekams "purify the earth's atmosphere, uplift the community, and contribute to the individual."

An abhishekam is a ceremony of ablutions and symbolic offerings that include milk, honey, ghee and other items. The ablutions symbolize spiritual purification, and each of the offerings represent fulfilment on every level. Throughout the abhishekam, specific mantras are chanted to invoke blessings that uplift, protect and spiritually benefit us.
____________________________________________________________________________

I'll admit: I'm a glutton for homas, pujas, and Tibetan rituals and I will seek out blessings from any saint or rinpoche, as often as possible. I have plenty of time for mundane activities: working, shopping, reading newspapers, watching TV, but how often can I spend time with a great saint?

But homas are not merely a spectator sport, although simply witnessing one is good karma. During a homa I concentrate on chanting mantras and quietly mumbling prayers. Amma's devotees inform us that the benefits of chanting mantras during a homa are multiplied thousands of times. Therefore, I try to maximize the time spent at a homa.

Now, my faith in homas and Amma's teachings are based on my perception that Amma is  a great mahatma (great soul). Thousands of people who have spent time with her also share my convictions. Rather than be endlessly - or needlessly - critical of Sri Karunamayi, I've chosen to observe her kindness in action and I found that she walks the talk: her teachings are who she truly is.

Humanity is spread along a spectrum of knowledge, wisdom and awareness. Self-knowledge, divine awareness, utter humility and unconditional love elevate the mahatmas above ordinary people. Mindfulness, pity, guilt, and repentance elevate ordinary people above the demonic.

Ordinary people perform actions from a sense of duty and expectation of some return. But the mahatmas perform actions with total freedom. There is no good or bad associated with any action; action performed without any expectation or self-gratification is the key to freedom. This is also action from a true experience of freedom and total awareness.

I often wonder how many lifetimes I've spent visiting the great mahatmas and rinpoches. Who knows how many lives these great souls have influenced? Who knows how diminished our sordid planet would be without their presence? - by Scott Palczak
___________________________________________________________________________

QUOTES by PARAMAHANSA YOGANANDA

Paramahansa Yogananda wrote in his "Autobiography of a Yogi": "India, materially poor for the last two centuries, yet has an inexhaustible fund of divine wealth; spiritual 'skyscrapers' may occasionally be encountered by the wayside."

"Solitude is necessary to become established in the Self, but masters then return to the world to serve it. Even saints who engage in no outward work bestow, through their thoughts and vibrations, more precious benefits on the world than can be given by the most strenuous humanitarian activities of unenlightened men. The great ones, each in his own way strive selflessly to inspire and uplift their fellows." - by Paramahansa Yogananda
_____________________________________________________________________________

QUOTES by SWAMI MUKTANANDA

Swami Muktananda stated: "The saints of all countries have revealed the same truth - that God is everywhere. They have become one with God. All they see is God, not individuals, sects, countries, parties, and cults - not even East or West. They experience the Truth in everyone and teach others to do the same. Everywhere they see equality. They have surmounted body-consciousness. They have risen beyond the man-made limitations of religious groups. Everything they do is for the benefit of all people."

"The Bhagavad Gita says one is one's own best friend and one's own worst enemy. Our own thoughts and desires are responsible for the ugliness around us or the heaven around us."

"The Guru has done his work if he has awakened your inner Shakti, but that does not mean there is no need for self-effort. Self-effort and the Guru's grace are like two wings of a bird: The bird needs both to fly."
__________________________________________________________________________

BIOGRAPHY EXCERPT from SRI KARUNAMAYI'S WEBSITE

Austerities in the Sacred Penusila Forest

As she grew into a young woman, Amma felt an inner urge to begin spending more and more time in the family worship room, immersed in prayer and meditation. As she was now a first-year college student, she was forced to make time for meditation by reducing the time she spent sleeping. As her meditations deepened and intensified, she also began reducing her intake of food. These meditation sessions grew in length until one day Amma locked herself inside a room of the house and remained there in meditation for a month.

Though her family members were perplexed, they did not dare to disturb her, having witnessed the profundity of her meditations before. When she finally emerged, she seemed like a different person to her family members. Though she still showed the same sweet affection to which they were accustomed, her demeanor now expressed a more impersonal, universal love. Determined to fulfill the sacred purpose of her life, Amma gently told her mother that it was time for her to go into seclusion in the sacred Penusila Forest, to meditate there in solitude. Always respectful of her daughter’s divine nature, and trusting completely in God, Amma’s mother did not try to stop her from going.

In the year 1980, at the tender age of 21, Amma left the comfort and security of her parents’ home and traveled by foot to the remote and sacred Penusila Forest, where a number of India’s ancient sages had meditated for many hundreds of years. There, she was free to live according to principles established by India’s ancient Vedic sages. Rising at 2:30 in the morning, Amma would bathe with cold water from a pure river. Wearing only a simple cotton sari, she would go to one of the forest’s many sacred groves and remain there, absorbed in meditation for hours, days, or even weeks at a time.

Local villagers who spotted her sometimes mistook her for a statue, as they could not even detect the movement of breath in her perfectly still form. Some of the more mischievous ones would toss small pebbles on her, just to see if she was really alive or just a corpse! Others, feeling that only an incarnation of the Divine Mother could sit for so long in deep meditation, would leave small offerings of fruit before her. Whether she emerged from her meditations to find stones or fruit in front of her, Amma always maintained a state of perfect equanimity and gave her blessings to all, regardless of how they treated her.

Amma never felt that these meditations were done for her own sake, as she was following the example of India’s ancient Vedic sages, who meditated for hundreds of years in order to discover the best teachings for all of mankind. Through Amma’s austerities, she determined which of the Vedic teachings and practices would be of greatest benefit to people living in this difficult modern age. After performing such intense tapasya for over 10 years, Amma decided that it was time to share her knowledge with all those who thirsted for true spirituality, wherever they may live in the world.



Wednesday, April 1, 2015

THE HEART is NOBLE: KARMAPA'S WRITINGS on VEGETARIANISM, FEMINISM, ENVIRONMENT, COMPASSION

THE HEART is NOBLE
The 17th Karmapa challenges us to practice an engaged Buddhism with a global community based on compassion, love, and justice. Below are some of his writings on vegetarianism, environmentalism and compassion.

Editors' Introduction to "The Heart is Noble": Even as the Karmapa calls on us to build the world we want to inhabit, he consistently reminds us that renovation work actually starts within. He traces the very real problems we see in the world - including rampant consumerism, religious intolerance, world hunger, oppression of women, and the degredation of the environment - to destructive emotions and habitual attitudes such as greed, anger, and selfishness. In this way, he points out that real social transformation is only possible when it includes personal transformation.

We may come to this book wanting to learn how to change the world, but we soon come to see that the change begins with ourselves - our attitudes, aspirations, and our emotional responses to the problems we wish to address. While the Karmapa strongly affirms the value of our wish to work for a greater collective good, he gently but consistently shifts us away from a purely outward orientation. In order to be most effective in our work in the world, we need to be willing to look within.
_______________________________________________________________

Excerpts from The Heart Is Noble: Changing the World from the Inside Out by The Karmapa, Ogyen Trinley Dorje

As we look for ways to enact our vision of a more compassionate society, one area crying out for attention is our treatment of our natural environment. Protecting the environment that we all rely on for survival is an immediate way to care for all beings.

We have seen that the global culture of consumerism that has been so devastating to our planet stems from an emotional force that creeps into human hearts - the force of greed. In that and other ways, human attitudes and feelings are causing large-scale destruction of our physical environment. Therefore our efforts to protect the environment are best effected by making changes to our attitudes and feeling.

In recent years, we have gained a great deal of information about the impact of our actions on the environment. We humans beings have tremendous intelligence, but it is clear that there remains a big gap between the brain and the heart.

There are ways of thinking about the earth that go beyond just acquiring knowledge, and actually lead us to feel deeply for our physical environment. A sense of wonder and appreciation of the earth's beauty is a helpful place to start in developing strong feelings about the environment. I found great affinities between the study of the environment and Buddhism. Each helped deepen my understanding of the other; each enlivened my feeling for the other.

I have noticed that sometimes people speak of our planet as a thing. This attitude will not lead to the feelings of closeness and affection that would move us to take care of the earth. As we know, the earth is not a dead rock floating in space. It is a living system, in itself as a whole and in each and every part. I do not see the earth as an inanimate object - a lump of stone. I think of it as being alive. Sitting on the earth, I feel that I am resting on my mother's lap. It is thanks to her that everything exists. In this way, we could easily think of the earth as a goddess - a living, breathing, and constantly living goddess.

Compassion is central to environmental protection because it moves us to act to cherish and care for others. Caring for the environment is an important way to care for all beings that depend on it for their existence. Compassion involves more than simply knowing about a difficult situation.

VEGETARIANISM from the HEART

Even witnessing pain directly does not necessarily prompt a reaction of compassion. I observed this for myself once while watching a documentary in which animals were being hung upside down to be slaughtered. As their throats were cut, blood spurted out and their legs jerked in terror and pain. It was extremely hard to watch - unbearable, really. But as the butchers sawed through the animals' necks to deprive them of life, the men were laughing and joking.

They could obviously see the animals' painful movements and hear their cries - the suffering was visible and audible - but they did not seem to recognize that these were signs of terrible pain. And even if the butchers did see that they were inflicting pain, the animals' suffering didn't amount to anything. They treated it as if they were watching a show.

In fact, some people even kill animals as a form of recreation. Hunting is considered a sport in some cultures, isn't it? Some people seem to believe it is courageous to kill animals. Unfortunately, nowadays we have developed the wrong kind of fearlessness - fearlessness in harming others. At some point, this "courage" in harming others is bound to turn on us. As people become habituated to taking the lives of animals with no thought for the pain they are causing, in the end it becomes easy to harm and kill humans. Even the pain of our fellow human beings can cease to catch our attention.

The real courage that comes from compassion is very far from this. When compassion is present, we do not overlook others' pain. Rather, there is a sense of urgency to end that pain, as if a fire has just been lit underneath you. When you have such compassion, as soon as you see suffering, you wish to jump up and act to end it at once. You have no fear and no hesitation in taking on the suffering of other people, animals, and even the planet itself. This is what I would call the right kind of fearlessness. This is the fearlessness of true heroes.

The fact that you have affection for your family members or pets is due to the compassion and love that is already within you. Even your wish to tend the garden outside your window is an example of love and caring.

KARMAPA on REASONS for VEGETARIANISM

Vegetarianism involves many ethical issues, but it is also an issue of environmental protection. Our reliance on meat is a major cause of climate change, deforestation, and pollution. There is no shortage of facts to demonstrate this to us. Roughly 20 percent of the world's greenhouse gas emissions are caused by animals raised for human consumption. The methane gas emitted by livestock contributes more to climate change than does carbon dioxide.

As vegetarians, we would also make far more efficient use of what our planet offers us. Vast quantities of feed, water, land, fuel, and other resources are required to sustain livestock - far more than what is needed to produce a vegetarian diet. Studies indicate that the land needed to produce food for one meat-eater could support 20 vegetarians. This demonstrates how much smaller our ecological footprint could be just by giving up meat.

When I came to India six or seven years ago, I stopped eating meat. This happened after I watched a documentary about the meat industry. Seeing the images of animals being slaughtered made it simply unbearable for me to continue eating their flesh. Of course, I had contemplated becoming vegetarian before that, but it was only after seeing this documentary that I was moved to act.

Apart from the desire for the flavor, most people have no real reason to keep eating meat.

Now compare that reason to all the reasons why one should not eat meat - the ethical reasons, the health reasons, the environmental reasons. These authentic reasons outweigh all others.

At our annual Kagyu Monlam gathering in Bodh Gaya, India, I said that the best way to protect life was to give up meat. Being vegetarian is a supreme act of saving lives, I reminded them. But I spoke very directly, and made a heartfelt appeal.

To my great surprise, between 60 and 70 percent of those listening took a vow that from that day onward, they would stop eating meat of any kind. Some of those who did so were old Tibetan lamas with a long lifetime of eating meat. I have met them since, and they have told me they were moved to break the habit then and there, once and for all.

Word of this speech - and I think maybe also recordings of it - reached Tibet. After that, we heard that meat sales dropped noticeably in the area around Lhasa, the capital of Tibet. The word also spread to my monasteries and even into the villages. Since then, many monks, nuns, and lay people have stopped eating the meat that was always considered integral to the Tibetan diet.

As I mentioned earlier, studies show that a single acre of land could feed one meat-eater or 20 vegetarians. This tells us that if we are serious about ending world hunger, I think this fact deserves very serious consideration.

We know a lot about the physical effects of adrenaline, stress, and fear, and we can imagine the sheer terror and panic in the slaughterhouse as animals smell the blood of those who were killed before them. When you eat meat, you injest not only the chemical substances that animals are full of, but also the emotional and physical stress that animals experience throughout their lives and at the moment of their slaughter. That stress is also part of your meat.

When we think seriously about the impact our food practices have on our body, on the environment, and on the animals themselves, it is clear that logic supports abstaining from meat.

Towards the end of his book "The Heart is Noble," the Karmapa stated: "I will make prayers that many good things will come from our meeting through this book. I will pray not only for our encounter to contribute to the well-being of all beings of this world, but so that our shared prayers for goodness reach even the stars."

 - by the 17th Gyalwang Karmapa (Ogyen Trinley Dorje)
______________________________________________________________

THE PARTICULAR SUFFERINGS of WOMEN

Even with all the social progress we have had, it seems that in many parts of the world, women are still not fully treated as human beings. The violence committed against women suggests they are not seen as people, but as objects. Although gender constructs are mere concepts, we can see that they can be terribly powerful forces that shape our experiences and affect how we treat others.

Women's rights have to do with respecting the value of human life and freedom. This respectful awareness is not something that can be legislated or created by economic strategies. The problem goes beyond legislation or social policy. The solution must be rooted much more deeply within us, and the change has to take place at a much deeper level - the level of our attitudes.

- by the 17th Karmapa
______________________________________________________________

MISUNDERSTANDINGS about COMPASSION

Compassion is a powerful tool in our work to protect the environment.
We need compassion because it connects us personally to the issue, and sustains us over the long haul. Some people misunderstand this point, and say they don't want to feel compassion. They assume compassion will add to their own suffering, because they think it involves personally feeling the pain they see around them. This may happen especially when people contemplate the widespread destruction of our wildlife and the environment as a whole. "This is too much," they may say. "I have enough problems of my own. I can't take on any more."

This reflects a misunderstanding of the nature of compassion. Compassion is what we feel when we focus on the person or animal who is suffering, not what we feel when we focus only on the suffering. What is the object of your compassion? It is the being who is suffering. If you take an animal or person as the object of your compassion, you will not be overwhelmed by their suffering. If your attention is not directed primarily at the suffering, you can focus on them, and on what you can do for them.

Imagine if something you value and treasure were to fall into a fire. You would not focus on the heat and the flames that were consuming it. Keenly feeling the object's value and wanting to protect it, you would focus on the object, and immediately use whatever you found at hand to try to save it from the fire. You would not agonize over how hot the fire was, or how sad the situation was, or sit there contemplating whether you really had the right tool. Nor would you focus on yourself. Your concern to safeguard the object would prevent you from indulging in any self-interested thoughts. You would just take in the information that you needed in order to resolve the situation, and act.

The point is to care so keenly for others that you give rise to courage and determination to relieve them of their suffering. That is compassion. Another misunderstanding is that compassion is something you now lack, so you need to go out and get it from somewhere. When we are talking about compassion, we are not talking about something that is foreign to us, needing to be imported. Rather, compassion is inherent in every person, as an integral part of us throughout the day, every day.

The fact that you have affection for your family members or pets is due to the compassion and love that already lie within you. Even your wish to tend the garden outside your window is an expression of love and caring. Compassion is not something new that you need to acquire and plant. It is a question only of nurturing the seeds you already have.

TRANSFERING CARE to OTHERS

Confusion can arise due to certain similarities between compassion and attachment. Both involve a kind of caring, although in other ways they are radically different. Attachment is aimed at our own interests, and involves caring about ourselves. Compassion is aimed at others' interests, and has to do with caring for others.

This similarity is something we can make use of in our spiritual lives. Here is a simple example: Let's say you have three pieces of fruit. If you eat them all yourself and do not share any with others, that is attachment or desire. It involves caring only for oneself. However, if you eat one and give the remaining two to others to enjoy, it can become compassion. Attachment or desire will have been transformed into caring for others. In this way, compassion is a sort of transfer of yourself to others.

It is true that we all have a certain measure of desire, or attachment, but we also have the ability to transform this into compassion. However, as an extreme form of attachment, the greed we were discussing earlier poses a serious obstacle to our cultivation of compassion. I hope it is clear by now how important it is for us to break the spell of greed that we have fallen under — and guard against its recurrence once the spell is broken.

To that end, we can actively heighten our awareness of our fundamental dependence on others and on the environment. As we recognize more and more clearly how deeply interdependent we all are on one another, our sense of closeness to others and to the earth can likewise deepen. A profound awareness of interdependence weakens our sense of separation and difference, and can ultimately eliminate it. This provides a powerful support for our efforts to transform attachment's caring about self into compassion's caring for the world. - by the 17th Gyalwang Karmapa (Ogyen Trinley Dorje)