Miscellany and Trivia

We might never see this again

Thought you'd enjoy this!
It's one you want your Children and Grandchildren to read.
They won't believe this happened, but it DID.
Harry & Bess
(This seems unreal.)

Harry Truman was a different kind of President. He probably made as many or more important decisions regarding the history of the USA as any of the other 42 Presidents preceding him. However, a measure of his greatness may rest on what he did after he left the White House.

The only asset he had when he died was the house he lived in, which was in Independence Missouri. His wife had inherited the house from her mother and father and other than their years in the White House, they lived their entire lives there.

When he retired from office in 1952 his income was a U.S. Army pension reported to have been $13,507.72 a year.  Congress, noting that he was paying for his stamps and personally licking them, granted him an 'allowance' and, later, a retroactive pension of $25,000 per year.

Read more: We might never see this again

The Poignance of the Buddha's Life


Preethi Ritambhari -- India

The purpose of this article is not so much to look at the teachings of the Buddha, as to use the example of his life as an allegory into the discovery of the Buddha within him. In so doing, we might find intimations in our lives of similar awakenings. The inner life of each one of us begins at the same point.

The soul at its inception into the womb is already aware of the purpose of its birth. As the soul is encased in a body and imbued with mind, it brings impressions from previous births into the current life. These impressions cloud the inner intelligence as the infant is born into the outer world. At his birth, astrologers predict that Prince Siddhartha will set out to do great things, perhaps even leaving the kingdom for the greater good. The parents fearing this forbid those who are sick, suffering, and dying to seek the company of the Prince.

Siddhartha is a quiet, but healthy and vigorous boy. The most poignant incident of his childhood is of him contesting the claim of his brother, Suddhodhana, upon a dove the latter shot with an arrow. Siddhartha picks up the wounded bird and seeks to heal it while his brother Suddhodhana claims the bird for himself. Refusing to give up the bird, Siddhartha suggests they go to the king for counsel; and proclaims while there that the one who gives life has a greater claim to it than the one who takes it away.

Read more: The Poignance of the Buddha's Life

A Buddhist Life of Study, Meditation, and Compassionate Service

Sunita Maithreya – India

A truly Buddhist life is an expression of the “Buddhi” and includes mindfulness, true knowledge, meditation, service, and compassion to all life.

When asked to explain the Path in simple words, the Buddha said, “Abstain from all unwholesome deeds perform wholesome ones, purify your mind.” Further, when asked what is “wholesome” and what is “unwholesome,” the Buddha offered a universal definition:  Any action that harms others, that disturbs their peace and harmony, is a sinful action; an unwholesome action.  Any action that helps others, that contributes to their peace and harmony, is a pious action; a wholesome action.

The Buddha also taught us the Four Noble Truths:

First Truth -- In every person’s life misery is greater than happiness

Second Truth -- All misery arises from the hunger and thirst for life

Third Truth -- Each person, without help of priest or scripture, can by their own efforts put an end to the “craving” which causes misery

Fourth Truth -- The Way or the Noble Eightfold Path: Right Belief, Right Thought, Right Speech, Right Action, Right Means of Livelihood, Right Energy, Right Contemplation, and Right Realization, leads to the ending of misery

In his book, The Art of Living: Vipassana Meditation As Taught by Shri S.N.Goenka, William Hart says, “The Noble Eightfold Path can be divided into three stages of training, sila, samadhi and panna.  Sila is moral practice, abstention from all unwholesome actions of body and speech.  Samadhi is the practice of concentration, developing the ability to consciously direct and control one’s own mental processes. Panna is wisdom, the development of purifying insight into one’s own nature.”

Returning to sila, we learn that three parts of the Noble Eightfold Path fall within the training of sila.  These are Right Speech, Right Action, and Right Means of Livelihood.

Hart says that Right Speech would imply abstinence from telling lies, carrying tales that see friends at odds, backbiting and slander, speaking harsh words that disturb others and have no beneficial effect, and idle gossip, meaningless chatter that wastes one’s own time and the time of others.  The Buddha extolled the virtues of Right Speech.

Right Action is summarized by the pansil of Buddhism. The Buddha is said to have spoken thus: “Laying aside the rod and sword he is careful to harm none, full of kindness, seeking the good of all living creatures. Free of stealth, he himself lives like a pure being.” The pansil may seem like a religious precept alone to some, but some of the practical aspects we are asked to abstain from are killing, theft, sexual misconduct, false speech, and intoxicants.

Read more: A Buddhist Life of Study, Meditation, and Compassionate Service

Anecdote Shirley MacLaine – American film and theater actress, dancer, activist and author

After developing an intense interest in paranormal phenomena, Shirley MacLaine produced several bestselling books on psychic experiences, alternate dimensions, and the past lives which she claimed to have led. Not surprisingly, MacLaine had several scoffing skeptics, chief among them Yves Montand. "Shirley MacLaine," he once remarked. "Who does she think she isn't!?"

Anecdote Mohandas Gandhi – Political and ideological leader of India (1869 – 1948)

While boarding a moving train one day, one of Mohandas Gandhi's shoes slipped off and fell upon the track. As he was unable to retrieve it, Gandhi - to the astonishment of his fellow travelers - calmly removed his other shoe and threw it down the track to where the first had landed. "The poor man who finds the shoe lying on the track," Gandhi explained, "will now have a pair he can use."

Anecdote John Paul II – Pope of the Roman Catholic Church (1920 – 2005)

As told by Neal Ascherson, journalist.

I was standing next to him [during one of his trips to Poland] and he was moving along the fence--people, lots of mothers, children, pushing over the fence. And there was one little girl about six. She was quite a weight, and a young mother sort of holding her up and the Pope stopped and--he looked her straight in the eye--and he said, "Where is Poland?" The little girl was completely baffled by the question. She sort of looked at him, giggled slightly, and then he put out his finger and he touched her. And he said "Poland is here."

Anecdote Charlie Chaplin – English comic actor, film director and composer (1889-1977)

Charlie Chaplin was visited on his deathbed by a priest. "May the Lord have mercy on your soul," the man declared. "Why not?" Chaplin quickly replied. "After all, it belongs to him."

The Relationship between Humor and Zen

One of the main functions of humor in Zen is in trying to allow one to understand the absurdity in attempting to classify reality into categories. Thus, the boundaries formed between logical issues are broken down, revealing the frustration that Zen has with logic and reasoning.

An example of this can be seen in a Zen anecdote about a Zen master who lay dying. His monks are all gathered around his deathbed, and the senior monk leans over and asks the master for any final words of wisdom for his monks. The old master weakly says, "Tell them Truth is like a river." The senior monk relays this message on to the other monks. The youngest monk in the group is confused, and asks, "What does he mean that Truth is like a river?" The senior monk relays this question to the master, and the master replies, "O.K., Truth is not like a river."

We see here a serious message wrapped up in a humorous package. The absurdity of classifying things into little boxes is revealed here: Truth is and is not like a river; it transcends classification.

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