Friday, July 31, 2015


To prepare, to encourage preventive actions and ongoing maintenance, and most of all to nurture and support empathy for all and encourage practice, here is a great short video that only scratches the surface :

"Obama’s Racial Blind Spot"

An outstanding, frightening and sad article which hopefully can lead to change in a skillful and appropriate direction - therefore I simply quote it as is:


"The nuclear deal with Iran’s fanatical anti-Jewish regime will fuel racism on a global scale.

Barack Obama’s election to the presidency represented to many Americans this country’s final triumph over racism. Reversing the record of slavery and institutionalized discrimination, his victory was hailed as a redemptive moment for America and potentially for humankind. How grotesque that the president should now douse that hope by fueling racism on a global scale.

The Iranian regime is currently the world’s leading exponent of anti-Jewish racism. Comparisons to Nazi Germany are always a last resort, since even with all the evidence before us it is hard to fathom the evil the Nazis perpetrated. Yet Iran’s frank genocidal ambition dwarfs its predecessor’s. Whereas Adolf Hitler and Reinhard Heydrich had to plot the “Final Solution” in secrecy, using euphemisms for their intended annihilation of the Jews of Europe, Iran’s Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei tweets that Israel “has no cure but to be annihilated.” Iran’s leaders, relishing how small Israel is, call it a “one bomb state,” and until the time arrives to deliver that bomb, they sponsor anti-Israel terrorism through Hamas, Islamic Jihad and other militias.

President Obama takes some forms of racism seriously. Without waiting for a judgment to be rendered, he leaped to the defense of my Harvard colleague Henry Louis “Skip” Gates Jr., who in 2009 was involved in a confrontation with Cambridge police investigating a reported break-in at his house. In the disputed shooting of Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Fla., in 2012, the president identified with the victim of the alleged racism to the point of saying the 17-year-old “could have been my son.”
 Yet when it comes to the world’s most widespread and ideologically driven racism, President Obama seems to have a blind spot, initiating a nuclear deal with the fanatical anti-Jewish regime in Tehran, despite what he calls Iran’s “bad behavior.” The euphemism this time is his, not that of the perpetrators, and it camouflages their intentions even if they won’t.

Perhaps Mr. Obama is oblivious to what the scholar Robert Wistrich (who died in May) called “the longest hatred” because it has been so much a part of his world as he moved through life. Muslim Indonesia, where he lived from age 6 to 10, trails only Pakistan and Iran in its hostility to Jews. An animus against Jews and Israel was a hallmark of the Rev. Jeremiah Wright’s church in Chicago that Mr. Obama attended for two decades. And before he ran for office, Mr. Obama carried the standard of the international left that invented the stigma of Zionism-as-imperialism. As a presidential candidate, Mr. Obama felt obliged to repudiate his pastor (who had famously cursed America from the pulpit), and muted his far-left credentials. Mr. Obama was voted into office by an electorate enamored of the idea that he would oppose all forms of racism. He has not met that expectation.

Some Jewish critics of Mr. Obama may be tempted to put his derelictions in a line of neglect by other presidents, but there is a difference. Thus one may argue that President Roosevelt should have bombed the approach routes to Auschwitz or allowed the Jewish-refugee ship St. Louis to dock in the U.S. during World War II, but those were at worst sins of omission. In sharpest contrast, President Obama’s nuclear agreement with Iran is an act of commission. This is the first time the U.S. will have deliberately entered into a pact with a country committed to annihilating another people—a pact that doesn’t even require formal repudiation of the country’s genocidal aims.

As a Jew I know that the appeal to history is about as effective as the child’s threat of punishment against the bully the child cannot hope to defeat. Nonetheless, Jews do “write” history, thanks to the outsize evils marshaled against them. Because the most repressive and aggressive regimes continue to organize against the Jews, the Jewish people have become the “true north” of toleration and concern for human rights. Those who defend the Jews are necessarily on the side of peace and brotherhood, those who attack them invariably on the side of evil. Depending on the outcome of the Iran deal, this outreach to an anti-Jewish regime may one day rival the blot of slavery on the American record. Israel will strive to protect its citizens, but Mr. Obama has increased the odds against them.

What of American Jews in all this? It is sometimes mistakenly assumed that those who are passionately for Israel are therefore less for America. It is just the opposite: Anti-Jewish aggression is always aimed at the self-accountable way of life that the Jews represent. “Death to the Jews!” is a call to arms against Western liberal democracies; that is why in Iran the cry is often accompanied by “Death to America!”
Americans intent on stopping Iran are not against the president but in favor of the hope he once embodied for an end to racism. They hope for respectful treatment of blacks and Jews alike. They believe that America stands for humanity’s better nature."

Ms. Wisse, a former professor of Yiddish and comparative literature at Harvard, is the author of “Jews and Power” (Schocken, 2007) and “No Joke: Making Jewish Humor” (Princeton, 2013). 

To further clarify Iranian plans for Israel, here is an interesting review of a semi-official publication:  

Thursday, July 30, 2015

72 Labors Brought Us This Food

A Zen meal verse begins, “72 labors brought us this food…” 

Myriad beings in myriad realms serve life by enabling us to have food nourishment. Worms and insects of all sorts, bacteria, fungi and other beings, enable plants to convert sunlight, water, minerals and other “inanimates” into fruits, vegetables, grains, tubers and leaves, all of which give their life so we can eat and feed other animals whose products we use. There are myriad farmers nurturing these and providing them to us, along with truckers, grocers and others. There are producers of tractors, myriad implements, irrigators, trucks and other technologies which are used to farm, as well as those who mine and process the metal and hydrocarbon energy sources which these depend on. Our practice is to acknowledge and appreciate all of these as our each bite, chew and swallow practice which makes possible life and activity.

Failing to appreciate this interdependent interbeing that we are, believing self-centered judging and ideologies, we separate from our life and hinder this that we are, causing suffering and harm. The question in our practice life is, how to skillfully and appropriately take care of problems when they arise?

Living in California means facing the ongoing drought and doing our part in the water we use, adjusting the use of toilets and shower, and many other things.

Recently I was sent this interesting op-ed which begins:

“The worst thing about California’s drought is the suffering it has caused ordinary people. In many places, drinking wells have dried up. The crisis is so severe that the state has restricted water use.

The second-worst thing about the drought is how farmers are bearing most of the blame. We hear one figure over and over: Agriculture consumes 80% of California’s water.

That statistic makes farmers like me look like gluttons—and it suggests that if we were to reduce our reliance on water just a little, then our state’s predicament would vanish like a puddle on a hot day.

Except that it’s not true. Farmers don’t use 80% of California’s water…”

 The farmer's perspective was different from my own - it showed another world and taught me. The information and suggestions of the article can and should shed further light on our circumstances, ongoing plans and actions, as well as enhance our appreciation for the practice of all beings. Though the article included the author's anger and particular political positions, hopefully those will not hinder joint efforts by all Californians for skillful action.

For the full article see:

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Differences and Sameness - An Arab in a Jewish state, Christian in a predominantly Muslim Arab world— recognizing multilayered identity as an asset

Peace appears one step at a time. What follows is an interview and an embedded video.

"When George Deek uses the word “we” in a conversation, it is not entirely clear whether he means “we Palestinians,” or rather “we Israelis,” or perhaps “we Westerners,” or even “we Arabs.”'

For the interview article see:

For the video see:

Monday, July 27, 2015


A Dharma Talk

Will the Iran "deal" enhance peace - or have we given up on peace and are looking for something else? What of the accusations that Obama and Kerry are using anti-Semitism to sell their Iran deal?

These are some of the questions being raised by commentators from various political and ideological perspectives. What is so?

Here are several quotes from and links to interesting articles. The most sad and frightening, if true, is the last one.

"What’s most troubling about the White House’s Jew-baiting campaign is that it appears to be a deliberate attempt to turn the debate about the Iran deal into a debate about the influence of rich, powerful Jews with suspect loyalties to their home country. The fact is, the Iran deal isn’t bad because Israel says so, but because it’s bad for America. Another sad fact is that when you ally your country with an obscurantist, anti-Semitic, criminal regime, you’re bound to adopt some of their tactics."

An interesting proposal:

"This accord will strengthen a contemptible regime. And so I propose—futilely, I know—that now, in the aftermath of the accord, America proceed to weaken it. The conclusion of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action should be accompanied by a resumption of our hostility to the Iranian regime and its various forces. Diplomats like to say that you talk with your enemies. They are right. And we have talked with them. But they are still our enemies. This is the hour not for a fresh start but for a renovation of principle. We need to restore democratization to its pride of place among the priorities of our foreign policy and oppress the theocrats in Tehran everywhere with expressions, in word and in deed, of our implacable hostility to their war on their own people. We need to support the dissidents in any way we can, not least so that they do not feel abandoned and alone, and tiresomely demand the release of Mir-Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi from the house arrest in which they have been sealed since the crackdown in 2009. (And how in good conscience could we have proceeded with the negotiations while the American journalist Jason Rezaian was a captive in an Iranian jail? Many years ago, when I studied the Dreyfus affair, I learned that there are times when an injustice to only one man deserves to bring things to a halt.) We need to despise the regime loudly and regularly, and damage its international position as fiercely and imaginatively as we can, for its desire to exterminate Israel. We need to arm the enemies of Iran in Syria and Iraq, and for many reasons. (In Syria, we have so far prepared 60 fighters: America is back!) We need to explore, with diplomatic daring, an American-sponsored alliance between Israel and the Sunni states, which are now experiencing an unprecedented convergence of interests.

But we will do none of this. We will instead persist in letting the fire spread and letting time tell, which we call realism. Wanting not to fight wars, we refuse to join struggles. Sometimes, I guess, history really is a rut."

The rest of this article:

And here is a very different evaluation on the same website, which posits "the summary is that the administration has both specific facts and longer-term historic patterns on its side in recommending the deal."

Here is another defense of the Iran agreement by a former US  Under-Secretary of  State:

Here are a different set of facts:

"fairly unambiguous conclusions: that the Western delegates crossed all of the red lines that they drew themselves and conceded most of what was termed critical at the outset; and that the Iranians have achieved almost all of their goals."

Here is a review and synopsis of an Iranian plan: 

There are some areas in which the Iran agreement  might actually bump into law and legal authority:

"Even if Congress doesn’t vote to bar President Obama from lifting sanctions on Iran, the president still wouldn’t be able to deliver fully on the deal’s unprecedented sanctions-lifting commitments. They were promised regardless of any future Iranian aggression in the region, sponsorship of terrorist acts or other misconduct.

Some of the U.S. statutes allow the president to lift certain sanctions on Iran. But many of the most important sanctions—including sanctions against Iran’s central bank—cannot be waived unless the president certifies that Iran has stopped its ballistic-missile program, ceased money-laundering and no longer sponsors international terrorism. He certainly can’t do that now, and nothing in the deal forces Iran to take either step. The Security Council’s blessing of the nuclear agreement has no bearing on these U.S. sanctions.
The administration faces another serious problem because the deal requires the removal of state and local Iran-related sanctions. That would have been all right if Mr. Obama had pursued a treaty with Iran, which would have bound the states, but his executive-agreement approach cannot pre-empt the authority of the states."

 For the full article see:

All sorts of interesting clauses and side deals keep appearing in public awareness such as the following suspicion that the deal "requires" the US to help protect the Iranian nuclear facilities against cyber and military attacks:

And here is a counter to some of Kerry's claims:

And here is another voice that examines the Iran deal from the perspective of the Democratic party:

The following is a sad and frightening conclusion from an article, which if true make Obama and Kerry  out to be short-sighted and possibly dangerous leaders:

"Yet when even a famous Iranian “moderate” like the former President Hashemi Rafsanjani has said—as he did in 2001, contemplating a nuclear exchange—that “the use of even one nuclear bomb inside Israel will destroy everything. However, it will only harm the Islamic world. It is not irrational to contemplate such an eventuality,” how can deterrence work?

The brutal truth is that the actual alternatives before us are not Mr. Obama’s deal or war. They are conventional war now or nuclear war later. John Kerry recently declared that Israel would be making a “huge mistake” to take military action against Iran. But Mr. Kerry, as usual, is spectacularly wrong. Israel would not be making a mistake at all, let alone a huge one. On the contrary, it would actually be sparing itself—and the rest of the world—a nuclear conflagration in the not too distant future."

For the article which comes to these conclusions see:

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Islamic State

This is a most interesting explorations of the Islamic State movement - starting with a review of recent books.

"Although the movement has changed its name seven times and has had four leaders, it continues to treat Zarqawi as its founder, and to propagate most of his original beliefs and techniques of terror. The New York Times refers to it as “the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL.” Zarqawi also called it “Army of the Levant,” “Monotheism and Jihad,” “al-Qaeda in Iraq,” and “Mujihadeen Shura Council.” (A movement known for its marketing has rarely cared about consistent branding.) I will simplify the many changes of name and leadership by referring to it throughout as “ISIS,” although it has of course evolved during its fifteen years of existence.

The problem, however, lies not in chronicling the successes of the movement, but in explaining how something so improbable became possible. The explanations so often given for its rise—the anger of Sunni communities, the logistical support provided by other states and groups, the movement’s social media campaigns, its leadership, its tactics, its governance, its revenue streams, and its ability to attract tens of thousands of foreign fighters—fall far short of a convincing theory of the movement’s success."

For the full article see:

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Improving US Governance

"A robust federalism, Mr. Freedman says, would give us more liberty, more democracy and a more competent government. In short, let New York and Texas pursue their very different business models as they like. Citizens would have more choices, and over time government competence would increase—because we would find out which policies work and because state governments, unlike the national one, must fear that residents will respond to idiotic policies by voting with their feet.

Mr. Freedman illustrates these advantages with telling and often hilarious examples. In 2013, he reports, the federal government spent $118 million to promote “recreational boating safety.” So vital is this program “that it comes under the purview of the Department of Homeland Security—and so rationally administered that landlocked Nebraska gets more money for recreational boating safety than Hawaii.”

The above is from a review of A Less Perfect Union by Adam Freedman. The rest of this interesting review and exploration of alternative forms of government is here:

Your Life.....

Your Life is the Whole Universe

by Elihu Genmyo Smith

Your life is the whole universe.

Our practice opportunity now is embodying this.

You are the boundless universe, this endless dimension life, this not-two – whether we recognize this or not. Unfortunately, self-centeredness leads us to miss this, even to deny this with actions, words, thoughts and reactions. This is called dualistic delusion. Please look closely at what is so for you – what are the consequences of your beliefs? This flower here now is the whole universe.

There is no you except “including” this universe – and ongoing practice nurtures awakening to this. Yes, we can and must be this awakening right now.

You are not “you” inside a container of skin and bones, inside emotions, thoughts and so forth; you are not “you” going about in a separate universe. And if you believe otherwise, if you believe that life is “you” going about in a separate universe, what are the consequences of that for you?

There is no you without the universe as is right now. Of course, provisionally there is no problem with all sorts of dualistic statements, beliefs and behaviors as long as we remember their provisional nature. There are consequences of using them as anything more than provisional.

Our life is ongoing Bodhisattvic Vows and Bodhisattvic effort - nurturing and supporting all we encounter in awakening as this universe moment now....

For the rest of this piece, see articles here:

July 2015 Sesshin Dharma Talks

Opening Remarks  5/16/15
See This, Hear This   7/17/15
Pilgrimaging   7/18/15
Closing Remarks   7/19/15

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

"If addiction is a brain disease, addicts are mad, sick and defective; if addiction is a failure of will, users are bad, immoral and weak."

The following review of  The Biology of Desire explores important aspects regarding addiction - which in its many forms from self-addiction onward we all face in coping with the stress and dissatisfaction of impermanence.

Here are some major points:

"All of Mr. Lewis’s case studies end well or at least optimistically. At the heart of the recoveries are new, more constructive habits, identities and relationships—and, in the brains of the subjects, the sculpting of new synaptic patterns. As Mr. Lewis shows, the physiology behind the addiction process can be intentionally engaged by addicts to put them on the path to recovery. By exploiting the neuroplastic capacities of the brain, individuals can develop strategies for self-control.

It may well be, as Mr. Lewis says, that addiction is a form of normal habit formation. But isn’t it more like a normal process gone awry? When outcomes are so dire, how is this not a pathological state? Mr. Lewis is deeply humane in his regard for people trapped in compulsive habits, so much so that he seems reluctant to impose any rules on their behavior and ends up treating them more like patients than he might like to admit. He is big on the so-called Vancouver model in which addicts are guided to safer drug-using methods and gently encouraged to get themselves together. But he de-emphasizes the importance of behavioral shaping through external incentives and sanctions, which are at the core of drug treatments that divert addicts from the criminal-justice system."

For the full review see:

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

"Seeing God Through My Patients"

 A moving story of a patient's strength and joy in the midst of working with life-threatening illness, debilitation and fear. Highlighted as well is how the doctor takes it, especially seeing some his own assumptions. Interesting also are the varied comments, some  hostile and, to me, quite surprising.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Authors hoping that their "novel will help focus U.S. strategy on deterring war."

Does preparing for war deter war? Or does it arouse potential opponents and lead to war?

What deters war? Not preparing for war does not seem to prevent war, nor do treaties and international bodies such as the UN, NATO or European Union  prevent war - witness the invasions of Georgia and Ukraine by Russia or the current wars in Africa, Syria and Iraq, to name just a few.

“Ghost Fleet” portrays Beijing paralyzing the U.S. military by inserting malware into chips manufactured in China for use in American warships and planes. When the Chinese activate the chips to cripple U.S. fighters, planes from the 1970s are redeployed because they don’t have Chinese chips.

Just as the Pentagon turned to Detroit to build armaments for World War II, in the novel Silicon Valley returns to its defense-industry roots to win the cyberwar. Among the characters is a high-tech billionaire who launches himself into orbit to reclaim the international space station after it is seized by Russians and used by the Chinese to destroy U.S. satellites. The hacking group Anonymous helps by defeating a Chinese cyberattack on the U.S. electrical grid.

The novel includes almost 400 endnotes with citations showing even the most far-fetched technologies in the book are based on reality."

From a review in:

The online comment section is especially interesting.

Confederate Battle Flag and a way to national healing

"The indelibly tainted battle flag came down in South Carolina, but in context, other Confederate monuments can help teach history for all Americans....." 

 The following is from a very interesting article about the South, the Confederate battle flag and how to use this time as a way forward for compassion and connectedness:

"in the 1940's opponents of the emerging civil-rights movement raised the old banner for a new battle.

Soon, former Confederate states incorporated it into their state flags, and militant white supremacist groups like the Ku Klux Klan began deploying it as a symbol of resistance to integration and voting rights. The worst proponents of white supremacy displayed that emblem while committing unspeakable violence against African-Americans and white supporters of civil rights. They still do: Witness Charleston. Symbols matter. They say at a glimpse what words cannot, encapsulating beliefs and aspirations, prejudices and fears. Having no intrinsic value, they take meaning from the way we use them, changing over time along with our actions."

 For further exploration of a healing strategy for the nation in these matters and racial conflicts, see: