U.S. Capitol
Occasional Picture September 2009

U.S. Capitol

© 2009 Marina Rundell

 

MEDICARE AND MEDICAID

Have you heard of these twins?
Have you met them?
Are they identical? fraternal?

Their cousins,
“Pre-Existing Diseases,”
“That’s Not Covered,”
“Sorry, You’re Out of Luck,”
are at the mercy of Uncle Legal Tender Profit,
yes, that’s really his name,
and he’s in love
with Miss Private Health Insurance.

Didn’t they change their name
because this was obvious?

The family switched their surname to “Morallycared”
when in actuality it was
“High-Deductible-Costly-Premium-No-End-In-Sight-Increased-Co-Pay-Pharmaceutically-Owned.”
Too much of a tongue twister
like a list of side effects.

Only the twins have continued on
when they dropped their last name.

© 2009 Marina Rundell

Why Health Care Reform is Critical for the U.S. Economy

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Some of the Dharma
Great book for personal growth: Teachings of the Buddha edited by Jack Kornfield. Quote below from the book.

NO-SELF

"The instructed disciple of the Noble Ones does not regard material shape as self, or self as having material shape, or material shape as being in the self, or the self as being in material shape. Nor does he regard feeling, perception, the impulses, or consciousness in any of these ways. He comprehends each of these aggregates as it really is, that it is impermanent, suffering, not-self, compounded, woeful. He does not approach them, grasp after them or determine 'Self for me' ['my self']--and this for a long time conduces to his welfare and happiness."

"The instructed disciple of the Noble Ones beholds of material shape, feeling, perception, the impulses, or consciousness: 'This is not mine, this am I not, this is not my self.' So that when the material shape, feeling, perception, the impulses, or consciousness change and become otherwise there arise not from him grief, sorrow, suffering, lamentation, and despair."

adapted from the Samyutta Nikaya, translated by L. Feer.

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Worth your time to read: Buddha by Karen Armstrong. Glossary at end of quotes.

Buddha

"...in Axial Age India, knowledge had no significance unless it was found to be transformative. A dhamma was an imperative to action, and the doctrine of anatta was not an abstract philosophical proposition but required Buddhists to behave as though the ego did not exist. The ethical effects of this are far-reaching. Not only does the idea of 'self' lead to unskillful thoughts about 'me and mine' and inspire our selfish cravings; egotism can arguably be described as the source of all evil: an excessive attachment to the self can lead to envy or hatred of rivals, conceit, megalomania, pride, cruelty, and, when the self feels threatened, to violence and the destruction of others. Western people often regard the Buddha's doctrine of anatta as nihilistic and depressing, but at their best all the great world religions formed during the Axial Age seek to curb the voracious, frightened ego that does so much harm. The Buddha, however, was more radical. His teaching of anatta did not seek to annihilate the self. He simply denied that the self had ever existed. It was a mistake to think of it as a constant reality. Any such misconception was a symptom of that ignorance which kept us bound to the cycle of suffering."

"Anatta, like any Buddhist teaching, was not a philosophical doctrine but was primarily pragmatic. Once a disciple had acquired, through yoga and mindfulness, a 'direct' knowledge of anatta, he would be delivered from the pains and perils of egotism, which would become a logical impossibility. In the Axial countries, we have seen that people felt suddenly alone and lost in the world, in exile from Eden and the sacred dimension that gives life meaning and value. Much of their pain sprang from insecurity in a world of heightened individualism in the new market economy. The Buddha tried to make his bhikkhus see that they did not have a 'self' that needed to be defended, inflated, flattered, cajoled and enhanced at the expense of others. Once a monk had become practiced in the discipline of mindfulness, he would see how ephemeral what we call the 'self' really was. He would no longer introject his ego into these passing mental states and identify with them. He would learn to regard his desires, fears and cravings as remote phenomena that had little to do with him. Once he had attained this dispassion and equanimity, the Buddha explained to the five bhikkhus at the end of his Second Sermon, he would find that he was ripe for enlightenment. 'His greed fades away, and once his cravings disappear, he experiences the release of his heart.' He had achieved and could utter the same triumphant cry as the Buddha himself, when he had attained enlightenment. 'The holy life has been lived out to its conclusion! What had to be done has been accomplished; there is nothing else to do!"

"And indeed, it was when they heard the Buddha explaining anatta that all five bhikkhus attained their full enlightenment and became Arahants. The texts tell us that this teaching filled their hearts with joy. This might seem strange: why should they be so happy to hear that the self that we all cherish does not exist? The Buddha knew that anatta could be frightening. An outsider, hearing the doctrine for the first time, might panic, thinking: 'I am going to be annihilated and destroyed; I will no longer exist!' But the Pali texts show that people accepted anatta with enormous relief and delight, as the five bhikkhus did, and this, as it were, 'proved' that it was true. When peopled lived as though the ego did not exist, they found that they were happier. They experienced the same kind of enlargement of being as came from a practice of the 'immeasurables,' which were designed to dethrone the self from the center of our private universe and put other beings in its place. Egotism is constricting; when we see things only from a selfish point of view, our vision is limited. To live beyond the reach of greed, hatred, and the fears that come with an acute anxiety about our status and survival is liberating. Anatta may sound bleak when proposed as an abstract idea, but when it was lived out it transformed people's lives. By living as though they had no self, people found that they had conquered their egotism and felt a great deal better. By understanding anatta with the 'direct knowledge' of a yogin, they found that they had crossed over into a richer, fuller, existence. Anatta must, therefore, tell us something true about the human condition, even though we cannot prove empirically that the self does not exist."

"We see the way the Buddha preached to lay people in his famous sermon to the Kalamans, a people who lived on the northernmost fringe of the Ganges basin and who had once run a tribal republic, but were now subject to Kosala. Gradually, they were being drawn into the new urban civilization and were finding the experience unsettling and undermining. When the Buddha passed through their town of Kesaputta, they sent a delegation to ask his advice. One ascetic, one teacher after another had descended upon them, they explained; but each monk and brahmin expounded his own doctrines and reviled everybody else's. Not only did these dhammas contradict one another, they were also alien, coming as they did from the sophisticated mainstream culture. 'Which of these teachers was right and which wrong?' they asked. The Buddha replied that he could see why the Kalamans were so confused. As always, he entered completely into their position. He did not add to their confusion by reeling off his own Dhamma, and giving them one more doctrine to contend with, but held an impromptu tutorial (reminiscent of the question-and-answer techniques of such other Axial sages as Socrates and Confucius) to help the Kalamans work things out for themselves. He started by telling them that one of the reasons for their bewilderment was that they were expecting other people to tell them the answer, but when they looked into their own hearts, they would find that in fact they knew what was right already."

"'Come, Kalamans,' he said, 'do not be satisfied with hearsay or taking truth on trust.' People must make up their own minds on questions of morality. Was greed, for example, good or bad? 'Bad, Lord,' the Kalamans replied. Had they noticed that when somebody is consumed by desire and determined to get what he wants, that he is likely to kill, steal or lie? Yes, the Kalamans had observed this. And did not this type of behavior make the selfish person unpopular and, therefore, unhappy? And what about hatred, or clinging to what were obviously delusions instead of trying to see things as they really were? Did not these emotions all lead to pain and suffering? Step by step, he asked the Kalamans to draw upon their own experience and perceive the effect of the 'three fires' of greed, hatred and ignorance. By the end of their discussion, the Kalamans found that in fact they had known the Buddha's Dhamma already. 'That is why I told you not to rely on any teacher,' the Buddha concluded. 'When you know in yourselves that these things are 'helpful' (kusala) and those 'unhelpful' (akusala), then you should practice this ethic and stick to it, whatever anybody else tells you.'"

"He had also convinced the Kalamans that while they should avoid, greed, hatred and delusion, it would also obviously be beneficial to practice the opposite virtues: 'non-greed, non-hatred and non-delusion.' If they cultivated benevolence, kindness and generosity, and tried to acquire a sound understanding of life, they would find that they were happier people. If there was another life to come (the Buddha did not impose the doctrine of reincarnation upon the Kalamans, who might not have been familiar with it), then this good kamma might get them reborn as gods in heaven next time. If there was no other world, then this considerate and genial lifestyle might encourage others to behave in like manner toward themselves. At the very least, they would know that they had behaved well--and that was always a comfort."

"The Buddha was, therefore, teaching monks and lay folk alike a compassionate offensive to mitigate the egotism that prevailed in the aggressive new society and that debarred human beings from the sacred dimension of life."

Definitions shown in the book's Glossary:

Anatta: "No-Soul"; the doctrine that denies the existence of a constant, stable and discrete personality.

Arahant: An "Accomplished One," who has attained Nibbana.

Bhikku: An "almsman," a mendicant monk who begs for his daily food; the feminine form is bhikkuni: nun.

Buddha: An Enlightened or Awakened person.

Dhamma: Originally, the natural condition of things, their essence, the fundamental law of their existence, then: religious truth, the doctrines and practices that make up a particular religious system. Sanskrit: dharma.

Nibbana: "Extinction; blowing out": the extinction of self which brings enlightenment and liberation from pain (dukkha). Sanskrit: Nirvana.

Pali: The North Indian dialect used in the most important collection of Buddhist scriptures.

Sangha: Originally a tribal assembly, an ancient governing body in the old republics of North India; later a sect professing the dhamma of a particular teacher; finally, the Buddhist Order of Bhikkhus.

Yogin: A practitioner of yoga.

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