Miscellany and Trivia

Anecdote about learning

A university professor went to visit a famous Zen master. While the master quietly served tea, the professor talked about wanting to learn Zen. The master poured the visitor's cup to the brim, and then kept pouring. The professor watched the overflowing cup until he could no longer restrain himself. "It's overfill! No more will go in!" the professor blurted. "You are like this cup," said the master.

Anecdote Lauritz Melchior – Danish and later American opera singer (1890 – 1973)

Gift from Heaven

"When I was a struggling musical student," the famed heroic tenor Lauritz Melchior once recalled, "living in a small pension in Munich, I was sitting in the garden one day, learning the words of a new opera. As I sang the words, 'Come to me, my love, on the wings of light,' there was a flutter, a flash of white, and there sitting at my feet, was a beautiful little creature who had dropped right out of the blue.
"It was Maria Hacker, a diminutive Bavarian actress. Stunting for a movie thriller, she had jumped from an airplane and landed, parachute and all, practically in my arms. And that was She. I thought that she came to me from heaven. I still think so..."
[They were married between 1925 and Hacker's death in 1963.]

Anecdote Louis XIV – King of France and of Navarre, also known as the Sun King (1638—1715)

Louis XIV once solicited Nicolas Boileau's opinion of several poems which he had composed. Though hardly impressed with the king's poetry, Boileau, an honest man to a fault, was in a tight spot. What to say...? "Sire, nothing is impossible for Your Majesty," Boileau ventured tactfully. "Your Majesty has set out to write bad verses - and has succeeded!"

Anecdote Angela Merkel – Current Chancellor of Germany

A popular anecdote is of when the Chancellor of Germany Angela Merkel met Vladimir Putin, Putin brought Koni, Putin’s female black Labrador Retriever, to their meetings. On 21 January 2007, the two leaders met at Bocharov Ruchei, the President's summer residence in Sochi and at the beginning of their meeting Koni wandered into the room, leading Putin to ask Merkel, who was afraid of dogs, "The dog does not bother you, does it? It's a friendly dog and I'm sure it will behave itself." Merkel responded in Russian, a language in which she is fluent, "It doesn't eat journalists, after all." Koni then proceeded to sniff the German Chancellor, and sat at her feet. Merkel was reported to have shown "apparent discomfort", but the two quickly became friends.

Anecdote Edward Kennedy – United States Senator from Massachusetts and member of the Democratic Party (1932—2009)

Joseph Califano, the former Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare, tells a story about Ted Kennedy’s sense of humor: “In the Carter Administration, Senator Kennedy was proposing a nationalization of health insurance. We were proposing a lesser bill that would simply mandate employer coverage and when I announced our bill to the Administration, and then the next day Kennedy announced his, and I went on television…and said ‘Senator Kennedy’s bill has about as much chance of passing as putting an elephant through a keyhole.’ The next morning when I arrived in my office, there was a huge board with a keyhole cut in the middle of it and a baby stuffed elephant hanging from a string, swinging back and forth, and a note on the top: ‘Joe-it looks like it fits.’

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

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