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The “Lama” effect in the United States: How Buddhism has become the fourth largest religion in America

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Dar Cho

By Prachi Mishra

The followers of Buddhism in the United States have gone up by a whopping 170 per cent, according to an American Religious Identity Survey conducted between 1999 and 2000.

Teaching centers and various communities or Sanghs are springing up at such a tremendous rate that Buddhism has now become the fourth largest religion in America.

Officially, Buddhism arrived in the West in the year 1893, during the World Parliament of Religions, along with the early Asian immigrants. There were a total of 12 speakers representing Buddhism at the Parliament, out of which Sri Lankan Buddhist teacher, Anagarika Dharmapala, and Japanese Buddhist leader, Soyen Shaku, were the two speakers who encouraged people to take-up the art of Buddhism.

Many of Shaku’s students have done their bit to spread Buddhism in the US by publishing a great deal of Buddhist literature and establishing various Buddhist societies and meditation centers.

The progression of the Buddhists continued in the States with the migration of Asians, who arrived in search of work and a better life. The American troops who returned from Japan after the Second World War also brought a speck of Buddhism to America. Then, the return of the soldiers after the Korean War in the 1950s and the Vietnam War in the 1960s, resulted in an increased awareness of Buddhism in the US. These soldiers were deeply fascinated by the skills of their opponents, especially their training in martial arts.

Soka Gakkai, which came to the United States in the 1960s, is a Japanese missionary movement that expanded the Buddhist religion in the American society. It emphasized on the inner transformation and development of the character of an individual. It focused primarily on chanting and did not teach any other meditative rituals, unlike other sects of Buddhism.

Buddhism did not enjoy the privileged status initially during its inception in the US. When the missionaries and the travelers returned to their country and related their accounts of the encounter with Buddhism in the East to the natives, the religion did not receive a hearty acceptance. It was seen as a negative religion since it rejected the idea of God and emphasized on the total annihilation of the self. It arrived in America at a time when the country was itself going through a religious crisis, which was caused by increasing scientific skepticism. The crisis was also a result of the growing materialism caused by the industrial revolution.

At that time, Buddhism was seen in a new light, as it was considered to bridge the chasm between the scientific and rational thinking, and religion. Today, Buddhism is perceived as “a way of life, a philosophy rather than a religion.” It offers an essence of spirituality, peace and harmony in today’s chaotic world. It is not bound by any culture, or ethnicity, but is universal, overarching all religious, cultural or ethnic divides. It prioritizes the development of mind, rather than focusing on  external way of living. Most importantly unlike what Christianity did to the Orient, Buddhism does not aim at converting the religion of the masses. It, in fact, adds to the existing belief systems and practices of people and does not force anyone to give up their religion.

Other than all of these aforementioned factors, Americans are also fascinated towards Buddhism due to its practice of meditation.

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Why Violence In USA – No Basic Flaw

Any incident in the USA whether big or small gets worldwide publicity almost instantaneously, just like the current George Floyd issue

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The USA
Even after President Trump condemned the George Floyd incident, USA continues to burn. Pixabay

BY N.S.Venkataraman

Any incident in USA , particularly adverse incident, whether big or small, gets world wide publicity almost instantaneously. This is mainly due to the fact that USA is recognized as a rich country with super power status and known for significant advancement in variety of fields. Such news is followed by debates and discussions in the world media, with some pledged critics stating with glee that such adverse incidents clearly show that USA is a troubled society. Is that really so ?

Why shoot out incidents ?

In the recent years, many shoot outs have taken place in USA in universities, malls and other public places, when number of innocent lives have been lost. Shoot outs have been carried out by individuals for one reason or other and even due to psychic problems of individuals . These individuals hail from all background including young and old persons, white or black persons and there is no uniformity in the background, that point to any particular cause or reason. The detailed investigation that follow such shoot outs do not seem to explain the reasons adequately well with clarity .

It is generally said that the liberal gun policy and the prevailing gun culture in USA is the primary reason for such shoot outs and violence. Most of the Americans possess guns and rarely anyone amongst them indulge in such practices. If the violent prone person would not have a gun, he can use a knife or any other weapon. Are the causes for the violence as simple as gun culture ?

No evidence of widespread black-white conflict :

Now, the case of George Floyd, a black man who died after a white officer pressed his knee into his neck has caused widespread anger across the country. Obviously, the white police officer is a cruel person and should be punished severely. Even while President Trump has condemned the incident, protestors burned businesses in Minneapollis. They smashed police cars and windows in Atlanta, broke into police headquarters in Portland and chanted curses at Donald Trump outside the White House.

Protest USA
This sad incident should not be misinterpreted as result of conflict of interest between the white and black citizens in USA. Pixabay

This sad incident should not be misinterpreted as result of conflict of interest between the white and black citizens in USA. While some protestors turned violent, there have been number of other protestors who conducted themselves peacefully and with dignity , holding placards and demanding justice for George Floyd. Of these protestors, many of them are white , brown or black Americans. Certainly, there is no racial conflict issue involved in the George Floyd murder but only the stupidity of a violent prone police officer was seen.

Is media playing responsible role?

While the sad incident happened, the media in USA played what seem to be a negative role by prominently showing the photograph of the crying George Floyd being attacked by the white police officer, which has whipped up passion and disgust all over USA causing widespread unrest. It is not the case that media should remain silent without revealing such bad news but the case is that media should be aware of the consequence of highlighting such negative photographs that could lead to greater violence and unrest. In USA, media claims that it has the liberty and right to show , speak or criticise any event as per the prejudices and priorities of the editors and journalists.

Can one say that the freedom of media is being abused and freedom without responsibility can only lead to violence, just as the George Floyd incident show. Many seem to think that the media sensationalise such violence issue, without counselling peace and harmony and discuss the causes in dispassionate and constructive manner. Such positive approach of media could have prevented the violence that followed George Floyd murder.

A tolerant country :

George Floyd incident has created an impression all over the world that USA is a country under the boil. This certainly is not so. There are many civilized and sane voices in USA who rarely get adequate coverage in the media and their civilized thoughts are not adequately publicized for the benefit of the country.

Today, one cannot but deny the fact that U S A is the most tolerant country in the world. People from countries with various background seek migration to USA and think that they would be privileged to get US citizenship. This is mainly due to their confidence that they would get fair deal in USA and the law would protect t their interests.

The USA
Any attempt to describe USA as a country under boil after the George Floyd issue is a mischievous and motivated attempt to discredit USA. Pixabay

Today, USA is essentially described as a migrant country with people visiting USA as students , job seekers or immigrants and most of them seeking to stay in USA life long by getting citizenship. Any attempt to describe USA as a country under boil after the George Floyd issue is a mischievous and motivated attempt to discredit USA. This is very unfair.

Violence everywhere in the world :

Animals try to over power other creatures for self protection and for their feed. Therefore, violence is an essential part of animal’s life. In the case of human beings ( who are supposed to have sixth sense, which animals do not have) ,violence and anger seem to be there in the mindset , which are revealed due to reasons such as prejudices , hatred etc. This is a common trend all over the world including USA. It calls for enormous efforts amongst individuals living anywhere in the world to silence the feelings of anger and violence in the mindset and this is what religions are supposed to aid individuals in achieving such state of mind.

Also Read: What Will Be The Future of Malls and Film Theatres In Post-Pandemic World

Like any other country, in USA too, it requires leaders and scholars advocating peace and harmony as way of life and they should get prominent place to mould the society. It is the duty of the media to identify persons of such ethical and moral stature and publicise their thoughts and preachings for overall betterment of the society. The recent violence in USA due to the death of George Floyd do not indicate any basic flaw in the American society.

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“Unfair Practices Smack The Elections For Herricks Board of Education”, Claims Candidate Bhajan Ratra

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the elections will now be conducted exclusively by absentee ballot via US Mail

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Herricks
The Year 2020-21 School Budget Vote and its Board of Education Election is to be conducted on Tuesday, June 9th. Herricks.org

By Kashish Rai

The Herricks Board of Education is accredited by the New York State Board of Regents and the Middle School Association.

The Year 2020-21 School Budget Vote and its Board of Education Election is to be conducted on Tuesday, June 9th. Two seats in the board are being challenged. Henry R. Zanetti and James Gounaris are running for re-elections against challengers Bhajan S. Ratra and Tarantej S. Arora.

Due to the Coronavirus Pandemic, the vote was postponed from its original date scheduled in May and it will now be conducted exclusively by absentee ballot via US Mail.

Challenger Bhajan S. Ratra is an adjunct professor of Mathematics at Baruch College and SUNY Farmingdale. He is a panel member on the content advisory and bias review committees of New York State Teaching Certification Examination and has served in the past on the standards setting committee for the NYS Regents exams. He claims that unfair practices and inappropriate approach is smacking the election for the board.

The preceding position holders- Zanetti and James Gounaris have violated the code of conduct by doing undesirable posts through social media.

In the below given screenshot it can be observed that they are instigating the audience to vote for them by posting a picture of the ballot having their names marked. They can also be seen getting criticized by a user questioning the “appropriateness” of the post.

Post
Screenshot of the facebook post by Gounaris tagging Henry Zanetti.

According to the rules, it is illegal to take selfies/ post the picture of the ballot during the time of election in New York. Zanetti and James were seen violating the rules, thus, Ratra claims that their candidature should be disqualified.

In the above added screenshot, it can also be seen that the incumbents have pointed out “yes” To the budget vote. This can be considered as an act of misleading the public regardless of prior audits. According to the rules, an incumbent can not urge the public to vote “yes”. This raises some very serious questions- Does the incumbent(s) has/have their personal interest in voting “Yes”?

Screenshot
Screenshot of the discussion by the audience in comments on the Facebook post by Gounaris.

Mr. Ratra states that the reason for him contesting the election is because of his will to serve his community being an educator. As a member of the board of education he wants to use his experience to influence the decisions taken by the board that will help to move the Herricks School district from good to great. Bhajan aims to establish a transparent approach between students, families, Teachers and board members.

Bhajan Ratra
Challenger Bhajan S. Ratra is an adjunct professor of Mathematics at Baruch College and SUNY Farmingdale. He is a panel member on the content advisory and bias review committees of New York State Teaching Certification Examination and has served in the past on the standards setting committee for the NYS Regents exams.

There were many issues emerging earlier in the board, among them which was an inordinate approach with the board’s budget. The NY State Auditors concluded that The Herricks school district consistently overspent its budget for custodians’ overtime pay — thousands of dollars in expenditures that in many cases may not have been necessary. Bhajan aims to focus on solving these very core issues, he says that he aims to take a stand but every time he tries, his voice gets dominated.

Headline
This picture represents the headline of the news story published on newsday.com which highlights the plight of mismanagement in budget of the Herricks Board.

Despite these frustrations and pressures, Bhajan has refused to give up because his only aim is to establish a clean and fair approach. In his concludary words Bhajan told NewsGram- “It doesn’t matter if I win or lose, my only aim is to serve my community in any possible way, these frustrations and pressures doesn’t affect me as I continue to take stand for my role and responsibility as someone who wants to contribute to the society”.

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Now, it is to be think upon~ what best possible action would be taken as far as the code of conduct and the rules are concerned with due respect to the elections. Here position doesn’t matter, what matters is ethics and the truth.

 

 

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Trump Universe Comes to A Stalemate

The tale of Donal Trump and his petty politics continues

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Trump
Trump failing at handelling the crisis. Pixabay

BY SAEED NAQVI

When the tortoise agreed to ferry a stranded scorpion on its back across the river, which was in spate, he didn’t know what he had bargained for. Midway, the scorpion stung the tortoise, deep, through its hard shell.

“Why have you done this?” asked the tortoise. “Now we shall both drown.”

“It’s in my nature,” said the scorpion.

Given its own self-esteem, the US should have been “ferrying” the world through the coronavirus pandemic. Unfortunately, the country is itself so overwhelmed by Corona that it has no time for leadership. Fair enough, let the US attend to protecting its people. But Trump’s Washington is not only making a mess of its own crisis, but it is also aggravating the world’s problems. The tortoise did not live to digest the lesson: a cooperative order is simply not possible with Trump.

If US capitalism in the post-Cold War world were scripted like a Webster melodrama, the audience should prepare itself for some frenetic tattooing by the “scorpion”. Even as the world is focused on fighting coronavirus, US claws are out, groping the Venezuelan coastline, using Columbian territory as its very own. Eight mercenaries are reported dead, even as two pedigreed Americans are in Venezuelan custody, presumably, singing like canaries by now. Wordsmiths have already named the expedition as the “Bay of kids”, so infantile has this latest US adventure been to unseat President Nicolas Maduro. Former US Green Beret, Jordan Goudreau has claimed responsibility. President Trump has closed his gloves in front of his face like a pugilist on the defensive. “I knew nothing about it.”

Of course, he knew just about as much as he did about the founder of Blackwater, Erik Prince’s idea of “privatizing” the Afghan War. Don’t laugh, Prince’s 100-page dossier spelt out details of how Afghanistan should be privately governed. The proposal was considered by freaks in the administration. According to the plan, Afghanistan would be ruled, just as India was, under a Viceroy. The plan was shot down. But Prince proved his resourcefulness once again in Venezuela. According to The Guardian, London, Prince secretly met one of Maduro’s closest allies, Vice President Delcy Rodriguez who also looks after security. About eight months ago, Prince was suggesting an invasion of Venezuela by “a private army of 5,000.” This was after the US had recognized Juan Guaido as the OPEC nation’s “legitimate President.” Which side of the street was Prince playing? The tricks have not worked. Trump will have to go into elections with a military failure in his backyard. Will his cohorts allow him to?

The US
The US criples against the pandemic fight. Pixabay

The world has been persuaded to put its head down on Corona. But this does not come in the way of Trump’s military adventure: holding US-Sri Lanka joint training in March and April at Sri Lanka’s Air and Naval base in Trincomalee, despite a ban on travel because of the pandemic.

This military bonhomie at a time when the coronavirus stricken aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt, has been advised to dock at Guam. More than 4,500 crew members have been moved ashore. The spike in corona cases among the Sri Lankan Navy and Army can be traced to the companionship with US military personnel.

How can one raise fingers at the island nation’s obsequiousness when the great nation to its north circumvents its own rules to ship Hydroxychloroquine to the US because Trump has threatened “retaliation” if he were not helped in his hour of need.

This is not all. The man who is building a wall to keep Mexicans out, delivers a stark message to his southern neighbour: American economic interest supersede Mexican health interests. In other words, allow workers to operate factories essential not for Mexico but to the US — pandemic or no pandemic.

Germans coped with that mentality in March: the Trump administration tried to lure a German firm, CureVac, to the US. This is not where the audacity ends. The vaccine, jointly developed, would be available to the Americans first. The Angela Merkel establishment politely showed US negotiators the door.

In the German episode, the US comes across as almost elegant compared to the highway robbery at the tarmac of Chinese airport loading protection gear against the virus’ for European destinations. American “highwaymen” paid three times the amount and diverted the equipment to the US. French officials called it the “war of masks”.

Donal Trump
Donal Trump and his petty politics don’t pause even in the wake of a world pandemic. Pixabay

Meanwhile across the sea, Trump’s Sancho Panza (or is it the other way around), Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu is stepping up airstrikes against Syria, attempting Drone assassinations of Hezbollah field commanders, and, in brief, trying to pulverize the “axis of resistance”, with Iran as the prime target. The idea is to provoke just sufficient retaliation to enable Netanyahu to survive corruption charges, also to give Trump an opportunity to beat war drums, always a useful strategy in the election season, particularly when ratings are not promising.

The “Bay of kids” and his Gulf gyrations pale before the high wire act he appears to be developing (or bluffing) vis-a-vis China. Martin Wolf of the Financial Times is one of the many commentators who have chastised Trump’s “irresponsible” diatribe without any credible evidence.

The supremacist, neo-Nazi rally at Charlottesville, Virginia, some years ago, attended openly by the KKK and sundry white nationalists, created ripples and waves which never really subsided. “There are very fine people on both sides” was Trump’s immortal observation, balancing between Klansmen and counter-protestors.

From that persona, Trump never really distanced himself. The result is rampaging anti-Semitism. Israel’s respected newspaper Haaretz has expressed concern. Several protests against the measures taken by states to control coronavirus have featured swastikas and worse.

Also Read: Fair is foul and foul is fair in the Trump universe (Comment)

Jewish Centre for Public Affairs CEO, David Bernstein is convinced, that “as more people become economically disaffected the more they will look for scapegoats.” Since the economic downslide is on an epic scale, so will corresponding racism grow in the US and elsewhere. Should this President get a second term, we shall all surely go down like that tortoise, gasping. (IANS)