Aug 28, 2012


Contemplation and meditation on death and impermanence are regarded as very important in Buddhism for two reasons :
(1) it is only by recognising how precious and how short life is that we are most likely to make it meaningful and to live it fully and
(2) by understanding the death process and familiarizing ourself with it, we can remove fear at the time of death and ensure a good rebirth.

Because the way in which we live our lives and our state of mind at death directly influence our future lives, it is said that the aim or mark of a spiritual practitioner is to have no fear or regrets at the time of death. People who practice to the best of their abilities will die, it is said, in a state of great bliss. The mediocre practitioner will die happily. Even the initial practitioner will have neither fear nor dread at the time of death. So one should aim at achieving at least the smallest of these results. There are two common meditations on death in the Tibetan tradition.

The first looks at the certainty and imminence of death and what will be of benefit at the time of death, in order to motivate us to make the best use of our lives. The second is a simulation or rehearsal of the actual death process, which familiarizes us with death and takes away the fear of the unknown, thus allowing us to die skilfully.

Traditionally, in Buddhist countries, one is also encouraged to go to a cemetery or burial ground to contemplate on death and become familiar with this inevitable event. The first of these meditations is known as the nine-round death meditation, in which we contemplate the three roots, the nine reasonings, and the three convictions, as described below:

1. There is no possible way to escape death. No-one ever has, not even Jesus, Buddha, etc. Of the current world population of over 5 billion people, almost none will be alive in 100 years time.
2. Life has a definite, inflexible limit and each moment brings us closer to the finality of this life. We are dying from the moment we are born.
3. Death comes in a moment and its time is unexpected. All that separates us from the next life is one breath. Conviction: To practise the spiritual path and ripen our inner potential by cultivating positive mental qualities and abandoning disturbing mental qualities.

4. The duration of our lifespan is uncertain. The young can die before the old, the healthy before the sick, etc.
5. There are many causes and circumstances that lead to death, but few that favour the sustenance of life. Even things that sustain life can kill us, for example food, motor vehicles, property.
6. The weakness and fragility of one's physical body contribute to life's uncertainty. The body can be easily destroyed by disease or accident, for example cancer, AIDS, vehicle accidents, other disasters. Conviction: To ripen our inner potential now, without delay.

C. THE ONLY THING THAT CAN HELP US AT THE TIME OF DEATH IS OUR MENTAL/SPIRITUAL DEVELOPMENT (because all that goes on to the next life is our mind with its karmic (positive or negative) imprints.)

7. Worldly possessions such as wealth, position, money can't help
8. Relatives and friends can neither prevent death nor go with us.
9. Even our own precious body is of no help to us.

We have to leave it behind like a shell, an empty husk, an overcoat. Conviction: To ripen our inner potential purely, without staining our efforts with attachment to worldly concerns. The second meditation simulates or rehearses the actual death process. Knowledge of this process is particularly important because advanced practitioners can engage in a series of yogas that are modeled on death, intermediate state (Tibetan: bar-do) and rebirth until they gain such control over them that they are no longer subject to ordinary uncontrolled death and rebirth. It is therefore essential for the practitioner to know the stages of death and the mind-body relationship behind them. The description of this is based on a presentation of the winds, or currents of energy, that serve as foundations for various levels of consciousness, and the channels in which they flow. Upon the serial collapse of the ability of these winds to serve as bases of consciousness, the internal and external events of death unfold. Through the power of meditation, the yogi makes the coarse winds dissolve into the very subtle life-bearing wind at the heart. This yoga mirrors the process that occurs at death and involves concentration on the psychic channels and the channel-centres (chakras) inside the body. At the channel-centres there are white and red drops, upon which physical and mental health are based. The white is predominant at the top of the head and the red at the solar plexus. These drops have their origin in a white and red drop at the heart centre, and this drop is the size of a small pea and has a white top and red bottom. It is called the indestructible drop, since it lasts until death. The very subtle life-bearing wind dwells inside it and, at death, all winds ultimately dissolve into it, whereupon the clear light vision of death dawns. The physiology of death revolves around changes in the winds, channels and drops.

Psychologically, due to the fact that consciousnesses of varying grossness and subtlety depend on the winds, like a rider on a horse, their dissolving or loss of ability to serve as bases of consciousness induces radical changes in conscious experience. Death begins with the sequential dissolution of the winds associated with the four elements (earth, water, fire and air). "Earth" refers to the hard factors of the body such as bone, and the dissolution of the wind associated with it means that that wind is no longer capable of serving as a mount or basis for consciousness. As a consequence of its dissolution, the capacity of the wind associated with "water" (the fluid factors of the body) to act as a mount for consciousness becomes more manifest. The ceasing of this capacity in one element and its greater manifestation in another is called "dissolution" - it is not, therefore, a case of gross earth dissolving into water. Simultaneously with the dissolution of the earth element, four other factors dissolve (see Chart 1), accompanied by external signs (generally visible to others) and an internal sign (the inner experience of the dying person). The same is repeated in serial order for the other three elements (see Charts 2-4), with corresponding external and internal signs.

CHART 1: FIRST CYCLE OF SIMULTANEOUS DISSOLUTION Factor dissolving External sign Internal sign earth element body becomes very thin, limbs loose; sense that body is sinking under the earth aggregate of forms limbs become smaller, body becomes weak and powerless basic mirror-like wisdom (our ordinary consciousness that clearly perceives many objects simultaneously) sight becomes unclear and dark appearance of mirages eye sense one cannot open or close eyes colours and shapes lustre of body diminishes; one's strength is consumed .

CHART 2: SECOND CYCLE OF SIMULTANEOUS DISSOLUTION Factor dissolving External sign Internal sign water element saliva, sweat, urine, blood and regenerative fluid dry greatly aggregate of feelings (pleasure, pain and neutrality) body consciousness can no longer experience the three types of feelings that accompany sense consciousnesses basic wisdom of equality (our ordinary consciousness mindful of pleasure, pain and neutral feelings as feelings) one is no longer mindful of the feelings accompanying the mental consciousness appearance of smoke ear sense one no longer hears external or internal sounds sounds 'ur' sound in ears no longer arises .

CHART 3: THIRD CYCLE OF SIMULTANEOUS DISSOLUTION Factor dissolving External sign Internal sign fire element one cannot digest food or drink aggregate of discrimination one is no longer mindful of affairs of close persons basic wisdom of analysis (our ordinary consciousness mindful of the individual names, purposes and so forth of close persons) one can no longer remember the names of close persons appearance of fireflies or sparks within smoke nose sense inhalation weak, exhalation strong and lengthy odours one cannot smell .

CHART 4: FOURTH CYCLE OF SIMULTANEOUS DISSOLUTION Factor dissolving External sign Internal sign wind element the ten winds move to heart; inhalation and exhalation ceases aggregate of compositional factors one cannot perform physical actions basic wisdom of achieving activities (our ordinary consciousness mindful of external activities, purposes and so forth) one is no longer mindful of external worldly activities, purposes and so forth appearance of a sputtering butter-lamp about to go out tongue sense tongue becomes thick and short; root of tongue becomes blue tastes one cannot experience tastes body sense and tangible objects one cannot experience smoothness or roughness .

CHART 5: FIFTH TO EIGHTH CYCLES OF DISSOLUTION Factor dissolving Cause of appearance Internal sign FIFTH CYCLE eighty conceptions winds in right and left channels above heart enter central channel at top of head at first, burning butter-lamp; then,clear vacuity filled with white light SIXTH CYCLE mind of white appearance winds in right and left channels below heart enter central channel at base of spine very clear vacuity filled with red light SEVENTH CYCLE mind of red increase upper and lower winds gather at heart; then winds enter drop at heart at first, vacuity filled with thick darkness; then as if swooning unconsciously EIGHTH CYCLE mind of black near-attainment all winds dissolve into the very subtle life-bearing wind in the indestructible drop at the heart very clear vacuity free of the white, red and black appearances - the mind of clearlight of death

(The above charts are taken from "Death, Intermediate State and Rebirth in Tibetan Buddhism" by Lati Rinbochay and Jeffrey Hopkins)

Upon the inception of the fifth cycle the mind begins to dissolve, in the sense that coarser types cease and subtler minds become manifest. First, conceptuality ceases, dissolving into a mind of white appearance. This subtler mind, to which only a vacuity filled by white light appears, is free from coarse conceptuality. It, in turn, dissolves into a heightened mind of red appearance, which then dissolves into a mind of black appearance. At this point all that appears is a vacuity filled by blackness, during which the person eventually becomes unconscious. In time this is cleared away, leaving a totally clear emptiness (the mind of clear light) free from the white, red and black appearances (see Chart 5).

This is the final vision of death. This description of the various internal visions correlates closely with the literature on the near-death experience. People who have had a near-death experience often describe moving from darkness (for example a black tunnel) towards a brilliant, peaceful, loving light. A comprehensive study comparing death and near-death experiences of Tibetans and Euro-Americans has shown many similarities between the two (Carr, 1993). Care must be taken though in such comparisons because the near-death experience is not actual death, that is, the consciousness permanently leaving the body. Since the outer breath ceased some time before (in the fourth cycle), from this point of view the point of actual death is related not to the cessation of the outer breath but to the appearance of the mind of clear light. A person can remain in this state of lucid vacuity for up to three days, after which (if the body has not been ravaged by illness) the external sign of drops of red or white liquid emerging from the nose and sexual organ occur, indicating the departure of consciousness.

Other signs of the consciousness leaving the body are
1) when all heat has left the area of the heart centre (in the centre of the chest),
2) the body starts to smell or decompose,
3) a subtle awareness that the consciousness has left and the body has become like 'an empty shell',
4) a slumping of the body in a practitioner who has been sitting in meditation after the stopping of the breath. Buddhists generally prefer that the body not be removed for disposal before one or more of these signs occur, because until then the consciousness is still in the body and any violent handling of it may disturb the end processes of death.

A Buddhist monk or nun or friend should ideally be called in before the body is moved in order for the appropriate prayers and procedures to be carried out. When the clear light vision ceases, the consciousness leaves the body and passes through the other seven stages of dissolution (black near-attainment, red increase etc.) in reverse order. As soon as this reverse process begins the person is reborn into an intermediate state between lives, with a subtle body that can go instantly wherever it likes, move through solid objects etc., in its journey to the next place of rebirth.

The intermediate state can last from a moment to seven days, depending on whether or not a suitable birthplace is found. If one is not found the being undergoes a "small death", experiencing the eight signs of death as previously described (but very briefly). He/she then again experiences the eight signs of the reverse process and is reborn in a second intermediate state. This can happen for a total of seven births in the intermediate state (making a total of forty-nine days) during which a place of rebirth must be found.

The "small death" that occurs between intermediate states or just prior to taking rebirth is compared to experiencing the eight signs (from the mirage-like vision to the clear light) when going into deep sleep or when coming out of a dream. Similarly also, when entering a dream or when awakening from sleep the eight signs of the reverse process are experienced.

These states of increasing subtlety during death and of increasing grossness during rebirth are also experienced in fainting and orgasm as well as before and after sleeping and dreaming, although not in complete form. It is this great subtlety and clarity of the mind during the death process that makes it so valuable to use for advanced meditation practices, and why such emphasis is put on it in Buddhism. Advanced practitioners will often stay in the clear light meditation for several days after the breathing has stopped, engaging in these advanced meditations, and can achieve liberation at this time.

The Buddhist view is that each living being has a continuity or stream of consciousness that moves from one life to the next. Each being has had countless previous lives and will continue to be reborn again and again without control unless he/she develops his/her mind to the point where, like the yogis mentioned above, he/she gains control over this process.

When the stream of consciousness or mind moves from one life to the next it brings with it the karmic imprints or potentialities from previous lives. Karma literally means "action", and all of the actions of body, speech and mind leave an imprint on the mind-stream. These karmas can be negative, positive or neutral, depending on the action. They can ripen at any time in the future, whenever conditions are suitable. These karmic seeds or imprints are never lost. At the time of death (clear light stage) the consciousness (very subtle mind) leaves the body and the person takes the body of an intermediate state being.

They are in the form that they will take in their next life (some texts say the previous life), but in a subtle rather than a gross form. As mentioned previously, it can take up to forty-nine days to find a suitable place of rebirth. This rebirth is propelled by karma and is uncontrolled. In effect the karma of the intermediate state being matches that of its future parents.

The intermediate state being has the illusory appearance of its future parents copulating. It is drawn to this place by the force of attraction to its parent of the opposite sex, and it is this desire that causes the consciousness of the intermediate state being to enter the fertilized ovum. This happens at or near the time of conception and the new life has begun.

One will not necessarily be reborn as a human being. Buddhists describe six realms of existence that one can be reborn into, these being the hell realms, the preta (hungry ghost) realm, the animal realm, the human realm, the jealous god (asura) realm and the god (sura) realms. One's experience in these situations can range from intense suffering in the hell realms to unimaginable pleasures in the god realms.

But all of these levels of existence are regarded as unsatisfactory by the spiritual practitioner because no matter how high one goes within this cyclic existence, one may one day fall down again to the lower realms of existence. So the aim of the spiritual practitioner is to develop his/her mind to the extent where a stop is put to this uncontrolled rebirth, as mentioned previously. The practitioner realises that all six levels of existence are ultimately in the nature of suffering, so wishes to be free of them forever. The state of mind at the time of death is regarded as extremely important, because this plays a vital part in the situation one is reborn into. This is one reason why suicide is regarded in Buddhism as very unfortunate, because the state of mind of the person who commits suicide is usually depressed and negative and is likely to throw them into a lower rebirth. Also, it doesn't end the suffering, it just postpones it to another life. When considering the spiritual care of the dying, it can be helpful to divide people into several different categories, because the category they are in will determine the most useful approach to use.

These categories are:
1) whether the person is conscious or unconscious, and
2) whether they have a religious belief or not. In terms of the first category, if the person is conscious they can do the practices themselves or someone can assist them, but if they are unconscious someone has to do the practices for them.

For the second category, if a person has specific religious beliefs, these can be utilised to help them. If they do not, they still need to be encouraged to have positive/virtuous thoughts at the time of death, such as reminding them of positive things they have done during their life. For a spiritual practitioner, it is helpful to encourage them to have thoughts such as love, compassion, remembering their spiritual teacher. It is beneficial also to have an image in the room of Jesus, Mary, Buddha, or some other spiritual figure that may have meaning for the dying person. It may be helpful for those who are with the dying person to say some prayers, recite mantras etc. - this could be silent or aloud, whatever seems most appropriate. However, one needs to be very sensitive to the needs of the dying person. The most important thing is to keep the mind of the person happy and calm. Nothing should be done (including certain spiritual practices) if this causes the person to be annoyed or irritated.

There is a common conception that it is good to read "The Tibetan Book of the Dead" to the dying person, but if he/she is not familiar with the particular deities and practices contained in it, then this is not likely to prove very beneficial. Because the death process is so important, it is best not to disturb the dying person with noise or shows of emotion. Expressing attachment and clinging to the dying person can disturb the mind and therefore the death process, so it is more helpful to mentally let the person go, to encourage them to move on to the next life without fear. It is important not to deny death or to push it away, just to be with the dying person as fully and openly as possible, trying to have an open and deep sharing of the person's fear, pain, joy, love, etc.

As mentioned previously, when a person is dying, their mind becomes much more subtle, and they are more open to receiving mental messages from those people close to them. So silent communication and prayer can be very helpful. It is not necessary to talk much. The dying person can be encouraged to let go into the light, into God's love etc. (again, this can be verbal or mental). It can be very helpful to encourage the dying person to use breathing meditation - to let go of the thoughts and concentrate on the movement of the breath.

This can be helpful for developing calmness, for pain control, for acceptance, for removing fear. It can help the dying person to get in touch with their inner stillness and peace and come to terms with their death. This breathing technique can be especially useful when combined with a mantra, prayer, or affirmation (i.e. half on the in-breath, half on the out-breath).

One of the Tibetan lamas, Sogyal Rinpoche, says that for up to about twenty-one days after a person dies they are more connected to the previous life than to the next one. So for this period in particular the loved ones can be encouraged to continue their (silent) communication with the deceased person - to say their good-byes, finish any unfinished business, reassure the dead person, encourage them to let go of their old life and to move on to the next one. It can be reassuring even just to talk to the dead person and at some level to know that they are probably receiving your message. The mind of the deceased person at this stage can still be subtle and receptive.

For the more adept practitioners there is also the method of transference of consciousness at the time of death (Tibetan: po-wa). With training, at the time of death, the practitioner can project his mind upwards from his heart centre through his crown directly to one of the Buddha pure realms, or at least to a higher rebirth. Someone who has perfected this training can also assist others at the time of death to project their mind to a good rebirth. It is believed that if the consciousness leaves the body of the dead person through the crown or from a higher part of the body, it is likely to result in a good type of rebirth. Conversely, if the consciousness leaves from a lower part of the body this is likely to result in rebirth in one of the lower realms. For this reason, when a person dies it is believed that the first part of the body that should be touched is the crown. The crown is located about eight finger widths (of the person being measured) back from the (original) hairline. To rub or tap this area or gently pull the crown hair after a person dies is regarded as very beneficial and may well help the person to obtain a higher rebirth. Their are special blessed pills (po-wa pills) that can be placed on the crown after death which also facilitates this process. Once the consciousness has left the body (which, as mentioned earlier, can take up to three days) it doesn't matter how the body is disposed of or handled (including the carrying out of a post-mortem examination) because in effect it has just become an empty shell. However, if the body is disposed of before the consciousness has left, this will obviously be very disturbing for the person who is going through the final stages of psychological dissolution.

This raises the question of whether or not it is advisable to donate one's organs after dying. The usual answer given by the Tibetan lamas to this question is that if the wish to donate one's organs is done with the motivation of compassion, then any disturbance to the death process that this causes is far outweighed by the positive karma that one is creating by this act of giving. It is another way in which one can die with a positive and compassionate mind.

A Tibetan tradition which is becoming more popular in the West is to get part of the remains of the deceased (e.g. ashes, hair, nails) blessed and then put into statues, tsa-tsas (Buddha images made of clay or plaster) or stupas (reliquary monuments representing the Buddha's body, speech and mind). These stupas for instance could be kept in the person's home, larger ones could be erected in a memorial garden. Making offerings to these or circumambulating them and so on is regarded as highly meritorious, both for the person who has died and for the loved ones. There are also rituals for caring for the dead, for guiding the dead person through the intermediate state into a good rebirth. Such a ritual is "The Tibetan Book of the Dead", more correctly titled "Liberation Through Hearing in the Bardo". (revised January 1995)

REFERENCES Carr, Christopher Death and Near-Death: A Comparison of Tibetan and Euro-American Experiences, Journal of Transpersonal Psychology, 1993, Vol 25, No 1 pp 59-110 Fremantle, Francesca and Chogyam Trungpa
The Tibetan Book of the Dead: The Great Liberation Through Hearing in the Bardo, Shambhala, Boulder and London, 1975 (or the excellent new translation by Robert A.F. Thurman, Aquarian Press, London,1994)
Kapleau, Philip The Wheel of Life and Death, Doubleday, New York, 1989 Rinbochay, Lati and Jeffrey Hopkins
Death, Intermediate State and Rebirth in Tibetan Buddhism, Rider & Co, London, 1979 Levine, Stephen
 Healing Into Life and Death, Anchor Press/Doubleday, New York, 1987 Levine, Stephen Who Dies, Anchor Press/Doubleday, New York, 1982 Mackenzie, Vicki
Reincarnation: The Boy Lama, Bloomsbury, London, 1988 Mackenzie, Vicki
Reborn in the West: The Reincarnation Masters, Bloomsbury, London, 1995 Mullin, Glenn H.
 Death and Dying: The Tibetan Tradition, Arkana, London, 1986
Sogyal Rinpoche, The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying, Rider, London, 1992

Apr 8, 2012

Harvard article on Happiness

Another paper from Harvard happiness expert Daniel Gilbert (author of the bestseller Stumbling on Happiness) spells out 8 ways we can spend our money to increase happiness:

(1) "Buy more experiences and fewer material goods."

This means more amusement parks and vacations. Fewer cars and new TV's:

Asked which of the two purchases made them happier, fully 57% of respondents reported that they had derived greater happiness from their experiential purchase, while only 34% reported greater happiness from their material purchase.

Source: "If Money Doesn't Make You Happy Then You Probably Aren't Spending It Right" from Journal of Consumer Psychology

Why? We quickly take material goods for granted. Research shows this happens more slowly with experiences. Also, we anticipate and remember experiences more, savoring them for longer and squeezing more enjoyment from them.

(2) "Use their money to benefit others rather than themselves"

Yup, giving is better than receiving:

Dunn, Aknin, and Norton (2008) asked a nationally representative sample of Americans to rate their happiness and to report how much money they spent in a typical month on (1) bills and expenses, (2) gifts for themselves, (3) gifts for others, and (4) donations to charity. The first two categories were summed to create a personalspending composite, and the latter two categories were summed to create a prosocial spending composite. Although personal spending was unrelated to happiness, people who devoted more money to prosocial spending were happier, even after controlling for their income.


Researchers approached individuals on the University of British Columbia (UBC) campus, handed them a $5 or $20 bill, and then randomly assigned them to spend the money on themselves or on others by the end of the day. When participants were contacted that evening, individuals who had been assigned to spend their windfall on others were happier than those who had been assigned to spend the money on themselves.


The benefits of prosocial spending appear to be cross- cultural. Over 600 students attending universities in Canada and in the East African nation of Uganda were randomly assigned to reflect on a time they had spent money on themselves or on others (Aknin et al., 2010). Participants felt significantly happier when they reflected on a time they had spent money on others, and this effect emerged consistently across these vastly different cultural contexts—even though the specific ways in which participants spent their money varied dramatically between cultures.

Why? Giving improves social relationships and our relationships are key to happiness. Giving makes us feel the relationships will continue, which bolsters well-being.

(3) "Buy many small pleasures rather than fewer large ones"

When it comes to happiness, frequency beats intensity:

Indeed, across many different domains, happiness is more strongly associated with the frequency than the intensity of people’s positive affective experiences (Diener, Sandvik, & Pavot, 1991). For example, no one finds it surprising that people who have sex are happier than people who don’t (Blanchflower & Oswald, 2004), but some do find it surprising that the optimal number of sexual partners to have in a twelve-month period is one. Why would people who have one partner be happier than people who have many? One reason is that multiple partners are occasionally thrilling, but regular partners are regularly enjoyable. A bi-weekly ride on a merry-go-round may be better than an annual ride on a roller coaster.

Why? One reason is that we're less likely to adapt and take for granted all these little things regularly affecting us than we are the one, big rare event:

One reason why small frequent pleasures beat infrequent large ones is that we are less likely to adapt to the former. The more easily people can understand and explain an event, the quicker they adapt to it (Wilson & Gilbert, 2008), and thus anything that makes a pleasurable event more difficult to understand and explain will delay adaptation. These variables include novelty (we’ve never experienced the event before), surprise (we didn’t expect it to happen), uncertainty (we’re not entirely sure what the event is), and variability (the event keeps changing). Each of these variables makes an event harder to understand and as a result we pay more attention to it and adapt more slowly.

(4) "Eschew extended warranties and other forms of overpriced insurance"

Research shows we deal with bad events much more effectively than we think. Often we buy insurance to make us feel better, not because we couldn't actually afford to replace the item.

Warranties are acknowledged to be a poor investment:

With price tags reaching as high as 50% of a product’s original cost, extended warranties sold by retailers and manufacturers provide huge benefits to the seller and are widely acknowledged to be bad bets for the buyer (Berner, 2004; Chen, Kalra, & Sun, 2009).

(5) "Delay consumption"

Anticipating pleasure can sometimes be more enjoyable than the event itself. By delaying good things we increase happiness:

But there is a second reason why consume now, pay later is a bad idea: it eliminates anticipation, and anticipation is a source of free happiness. The person who buys a cookie and eats it right away may get X units of pleasure from it, but the person who saves the cookie until later gets X units of pleasure when it is eventually eaten plus all the additional pleasure of looking forward to the event. Research shows that people can reap substantial enjoyment from anticipating an upcoming event even if the event itself is not entirely enjoyable. Examining three different vacations ranging from a trip to Europe to a bicycle trip through California, Mitchell et al (1997) found that people viewed the vacation in a more positive light before the experience than during the experience, suggesting that anticipation may sometimes provide more pleasure than consumption simply because it is unsullied by reality. Not surprisingly, then, people who devote time to anticipating enjoyable experiences report being happier in general (Bryant, 2003).

(6) "Consider how peripheral features of their purchases may affect their day-to-day lives"

The farther things are in the future, the more abstractly we view them. Buying a summer cottage seems great -- because at a distance we don't think about repairs, a leaky roof, and mosquitoes.

We do better when we consider how our purchases will affect our future use of time and our day-to-day lives:

Thus, in thinking about how to spend our money, it is worthwhile to consider how purchases will affect the ways in which we spend our time. For example, consider the choice between a small, well-kept cottage and a larger ―fixer upper‖ that have similar prices. The bigger home may seem like a better deal, but if the fixer upper requires trading Saturday afternoons with friends for Saturday afternoons with plumbers, it may not be such a good deal after all.

(7) "Beware of comparison shopping"

Looking at lots of different options can mislead us as to the importance of various features. We end up thinking small differences may have a big impact when the truth is that most of the options will end up having no difference in our enjoyment of the item six months from now:

From this perspective, comparison shopping may focus consumers’ attention on differences between available options, leading them to overestimate the hedonic impact of selecting a more versus less desirable option. To the extent that the process of comparison shopping focuses attention on hedonically irrelevant attributes, comparison shopping may even lead people to choose a less desirable option over a more desirable option.

(8) "Pay close attention to the happiness of others."

You're not the unique snowflake you think you are. Popular things are often popular for a reason and we do ourselves a disservice by ignoring what brings others pleasure because, very likely, we may enjoy it too:

Research suggests that the best way to predict how much we will enjoy an experience is to see how much someone else enjoyed it. In one study, Gilbert, Killingsworth, Eyre, and Wilson (2009) asked women to predict how much they would enjoy a speed date with a particular man. Some of the women were shown the man’s photograph and autobiography, while others were shown only a rating of how much a previous women had enjoyed a speed date with the same man a few minutes earlier. Although the vast majority of the participants expected that those who were shown the photograph and autobiography would make more accurate predictions than those who were shown the rating, precisely the opposite was the case. Indeed, relative to seeing the photograph and autobiography, seeing the rating reduced inaccuracy by about 50%.

Apr 1, 2012

TEDxNewy 2011 - Peter Saul - Dying in 21st century Australia, a new expe...

Dr. Peter Saul is a Senior Intensive Care specialist in the adult and paediatric ICU at John Hunter Hospital, and Director of Intensive Care at Newcastle Private Hospital in Australia. After spending time as the Head of Discipline for Medical Ethics at Newcastle University, he is now a leading adviser to the State and Federal health departments.

Jan 20, 2012

Vattaka Jataka: The Baby Quail (Jat 35)

While he was on tour through Magadha, Buddha told this story about the extinguishing of a forest fire.

One day, Buddha went on his morning round for alms through a hamlet in Magadha. After finishing his meal, he went out again accompanied by a large group of bhikkhus. Some monks walked ahead of Buddha, and some walked behind him. While they were on their way, a great forest fire broke out, raging fiercely and spreading rapidly, until the jungle was a roaring wall of flames and smoke.

Those monks who had not yet made attainments were terrified with the fear of death. "Let us set a counter fire so the jungle fire cannot reach us over the ground we have burned," they cried, and immediately started to kindle a fire.

"What are you doing?" asked the other monks. "You are blind to the sun rising in front of your eyes. Here you are, journeying along with Buddha who is without equal, but still you cry, 'Let us make a counter fire!' You do not know the might of a Buddha! Come with us to the Teacher."

All the monks gathered around Buddha who had halted as soon as he had seen the flames. The blaze whirled and roared as if to devour them. Suddenly, however, when the fire was exactly sixteen lengths from the spot where Buddha stood, the flames went out like a torch plunged into water, extinguished and completely harmless.

The monks burst into praises of Buddha, "Oh, how great are the virtues of the Teacher! Even fire can not singe the spot where Buddha stands!"

"It is no present power of mine," Buddha told them, "that makes the fire go out as soon as it reaches this spot. It is the power of a former Act of Truth of mine. No fire will ever burn this spot during the whole of this world age. This is one of the miracles which will last until the end of this era."

The Elder Ananda then folded a robe in fourths and laid it down for Buddha to sit on. After he had taken his seat, the monks bowed to him and seated themselves respectfully around him. "Only the present is known to us, Sir. The past is hidden," they said. "Please make it clear to us." At their request, the Buddha told this story of the past.

Long, long ago in this very spot the Bodhisatta was reborn as a quail. Every day, his parents fed him with food which they brought in their beaks, since he was still was confined to the nest and unable to forage on his own. The baby quail did not even have the strength yet to stand on his feet to walk about, much less to spread his wings and fly.

One day, a great jungle fire broke out. (At that time also, this area of Magadha was ravaged by fire every year in the dry season.) As the flames swept through the grass and the forest, birds and animals fled for their lives. The air was filled with the shrieking of adult birds flying away from their nests. The parents of this young bird were as frightened as the others and abandoned their helpless offspring to his fate. Lying there in the nest, the little quail stretched his neck to see what was happening. When he saw the flames coming toward him, he thought to himself, "My parents, fearing death, have fled to save themselves, leaving me here completely alone. I am without protector or helper. Had I the power to take to my wings, I too would fly to safety. If I could use my legs, I would run away. What can I do?"

"In this world," he thought further, "there exists the Power of Goodness and the Power of Truth. There are beings who, having realized all the Perfections in previous lives, have attained enlightenment beneath the Bodhi tree. They have become Buddhas, filled with truth, compassion, mercy, and patience. There is power in the attributes they have won. Although I am very young and very weak, I can grasp one truth that is the single principle in Nature. As I call to mind the Buddhas of the past and the power of their attributes, let me perform an Act of Truth."

The little quail concentrated his mind by recalling the power of the Buddhas long since passed away and declared, "With wings that cannot fly and legs that cannot yet walk, forsaken by my parents, here I lie. By this truth and by the faith that is in me, I call on you, O dreadful Fire, to turn back, harming neither me nor any of the other birds!"

At that instant, the fire retreated sixteen lengths and went out like a torch plunged in water, leaving a circle thirty-two lengths in diameter around the baby quail perfectly unscathed.

From that time on, that very spot has escaped being touched by fire, and so it will continue to be throughout this entire era. When his life ended, the quail who had performed this Act of Truth, passed away to fare according to his deserts.

"Thus monks," said the Master, "it is not my present power but the efficacy of that Act of Truth performed by me as a young quail, that has made the flames spare this spot in the jungle."

At the end of his lesson Buddha preached the Truths. Some of the monks who heard attained the First path, some the Second, some the Third, and some became Arahats. Then Buddha showed the connection and identified the Birth by saying, "My present parents were the parents of those days, and I myself the little quail who became king of the quails."
(Source: Jataka tales)

Peace among heavy rain

It was a heavy downpour under a huge tentage sat the largest Jade Buddha in the world.

Bros n Sis please do pay homage to this unique symbol of Buddha. Trust me, it has immense vibration to reach your inner consciousness. Soon after I felt this, the announcer read an email dated 19 Jan 2012 (see below) from Bodhaya, Lama Zopa extolling the immeasurable merits to pay homage to this Jade Buddha. Sadhu x 3
"I want to emphasize the importance of so many people, I think it seems millions of people, who have seen the statue and have therefore have had strong imprints placed in their minds for enlightenment. As much as possible remember this and to REJOICE, this is such a wonderful achievement!!! Please remember the benefits to sentient beings in what you are doing with the tour, by people even merely seeing the Jade Buddha, ultimately brings them extensive benefit." - Lama Zopa Ripoche

Largest Jade Buddha in the World in Singapore

Weighing 4 tons which was carved from a solid gem-quality nephrite jade of 20 tons discovered in Canada. This jade buddha, estimated to worth US$5 million, went on the world tour and after Singapore, will be kept in Australia.

Jan 19, 2012

Upasika Kee : The Practice in Brief March 17, 1954

Those who practice the Dhamma should train themselves to understand in the following stages:
The training that is easy to learn, gives immediate results, and is suitable for every time, every place, for people of every age and either sex, is to study in the school of this body — a fathom long, a cubit wide, and a span thick — with its perceiving mind in charge. This body has many things, ranging from the crude to the subtle, that are well worth knowing.
The steps of the training:
1. To begin with, know that the body is composed of various physical properties, the major ones being the properties of earth, water, fire, and wind; the minor ones being the aspects that adhere to the major ones: things like color, smell, shape, etc.
These properties are unstable (inconstant), stressful, and unclean. If you look into them deeply, you will see that there's no substance to them at all. They are simply impersonal conditions, with nothing worth calling "me" or "mine." When you can clearly perceive the body in these terms, you will be able to let go of any clinging or attachment to it as an entity, your self, someone else, this or that.
2. The second step is to deal with mental phenomena (feelings, perceptions, thought-formations, and consciousness). Focus on keeping track of the truth that these are characterized by arising, persisting, and then disbanding. In other words, their nature is to arise and disband, arise and disband, repeatedly. When you investigate to see this truth, you will be able to let go of your attachments to mental phenomena as entities, as your self, someone else, this or that.
3. Training on the level of practice doesn't simply mean studying, listening, or reading. You have to practice so as to see clearly with your own mind in the following steps:
a. Start out by brushing aside all external concerns and turn to look inside at your own mind until you can know in what ways it is clear or murky, calm or unsettled. The way to do this is to have mindfulness and self-awareness in charge as you keep aware of the body and mind until you've trained the mind to stay firmly in a state of normalcy, i.e., neutrality.
b. Once the mind can stay in a state of normalcy, you will see mental formations or preoccupations in their natural state of arising and disbanding. The mind will be empty, neutral, and still — neither pleased nor displeased — and will see physical and mental phenomena as they arise and disband naturally, of their own accord.
c. When the knowledge that there is no self to any of these things becomes thoroughly clear, you will meet with something that lies further inside, beyond all suffering and stress, free from the cycles of change — deathless — free from birth as well as death, since all things that take birth must by nature age, grow ill, and die.
d. When you see this truth clearly, the mind will be empty, not holding onto anything. It won't even assume itself to be a mind or anything at all. In other words, it won't latch onto itself as being anything of any sort. All that remains is a pure condition of Dhamma.
e. Those who see this pure condition of Dhamma in full clarity are bound to grow disenchanted with the repeated sufferings of life. When they know the truth of the world and the Dhamma throughout, they will see the results clearly, right in the present, that there exists that which lies beyond all suffering. They will know this without having to ask or take it on faith from anyone, for the Dhamma is paccattam, i.e., something really to be known for oneself. Those who have seen this truth within themselves will attest to it always.
(Source; Acess to Insight)