If You Have Ever Wondered Why There are So Many Failed Government Programs…

Like Head Start for example. $166 billion wasted on a program that is demonstrably no help seems like a dismal failure, but it continues to exist, because it sounds good and gets votes. The reason why there are so many seemingly failed government programs, is because those programs that are still around are “successful” in the sense that they bought votes for their political proponents. It is like evolutionary biology. Programs that buy votes for politicians “survive”, because politicians who support those programs get voted into office. Programs that don’t buy votes for politicians don’t survive, because there is no one in office to support them.

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It’s Been a While…

I happened upon a discussion novice discussion of meditation on a blog today, and realized it would be beneficial to clear up the difference between Sati and Vipassana.

Briefly, Sati is mindfulness or awareness. On the other hand, Vipassana means insight, specifically insight into the three characteristics of all conditioned objects. Sati is a prerequisite for Vipassana.

If you are looking to calm your mind, then you want to do a Samatha (tranquility) practice. This is especially true if your goal is more focus. Samatha practice promotes Samadhi (concentration) which is what you want for clear thinking and focus. Sati does generally also lead to some level of Samadhi.

Unlike Samatha, what I would call a true Vipassana practice is actually very agitating and has a tendency to destabilize the mind. Some level of Samadhi is also a prerequisite for Vipassana.

Again, Sati is very beneficial, but different from (actually a component of) Vipassana. Many folks (including a lot of teachers) think they are doing Vipassana, when they are actually doing Sati. As a result, they think Vipassana is beneficial but no big deal, and thus they miss out on its potential, which is why it is important to make the distinction. Vipassana is actually a mind-blowing upheaval in perception compared with Sati.

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Speaking of death

More science catching up with Buddism: How thinking about death can lead to a good life.

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Science validates the power of attention

“We don’t become better at things we do – we become better at things we pay attention to while we’re doing them.


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Happiness: The Experiencing Self vs. the Remembering Self

Science continues to catch up with Buddhism:

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Jerks in Traffic

Like many folks, driving in traffic tries my patience. One strategy often bandied about in Buddhist circles for dealing with one’s impatience in traffic is to consider that the person who just pulled out in front of you, for example, might have done that because they have some medical emergency and are in a rush to get to the hospital. This thought elicits compassion.

A problem with that perspective is that it’s usually factually incorrect. 9,999 times out of 10,000 the person pulled out in front of you, not because they had some emergency, but because they just didn’t care how their behavior affected you.

A better strategy, I think, is to work toward cultivating metta for even those who cause problems for us.

From Majjhima Nikaya 21 – Parable of the Saw

“Monks, even if bandits were to savagely sever you, limb by limb, with a double-handled saw, even then, whoever of you harbors ill will at heart would not be upholding my Teaching. Monks, even in such a situation you should train yourselves thus: ‘Neither shall our minds be affected by this, nor for this matter shall we give vent to evil words, but we shall remain full of concern and pity, with a mind of love, and we shall not give in to hatred. On the contrary, we shall live projecting thoughts of universal love to those very persons, making them as well as the whole world the object of our thoughts of universal love — thoughts that have grown great, exalted and measureless. We shall dwell radiating these thoughts which are void of hostility and ill will.’ It is in this way, monks, that you should train yourselves.

“Monks, if you should keep this instruction on the Parable of the Saw constantly in mind, do you see any mode of speech, subtle or gross, that you could not endure?”

“No, venerable sir.”

“Therefore, monks, you should keep this instruction on the Parable of the Saw constantly in mind. That will conduce to your well-being and happiness for long indeed.”

The point here, I think, is not that we should allow others to do us harm, but rather, cultivation of metta/lovingfriendliness accrues to our own benefit, even in (especially in) trying circumstances.

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I Just Finished the Majjhima Nikaya

On to the Samyutta Nikaya…

By popular demand, here is an excellent lecture series on the Majjhima Nikaya by one of the most popular translators.


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