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  • ivanildotrindade 10:28 pm on August 30, 2011 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: rest of the world, , world poverty   

    Were Americans born on third base? 

    A friend of mine — an American who loves baseball, likes to say that Americans were born on third base. Whether this is true or not, it is obvious that the U.S. and much of the western nations are places where lack is only a relative term. Don’t take me wrong. I know there is a lot of people struggling to make ends meet in the west, including the U.S., but when compared to some other parts of the world, we might as well be Bill Gates, even the majority of the “poor” among us.

    Today I start reflecting on what is like to live in some other parts of the world.

    I was visiting a friend in the hospital today. While visiting her brother on Sunday, she missed a step and ended up doing significant damage to her ankle. She had a complicated surgery and now will have to work hard and wait at least two months until she can put weight on that foot. As painful as that process was and is, I don’t know if she realizes her good fortunes under the circumstances. She was able to go to a state of the art hospital where several competent physicians spared no effort to fix her foot. And while the recuperation time is slow and painful, the amazing thing is that she can actually look forward to regaining full use of her foot.

    In some other countries around the world she might have to wait in the emergency room for several hours or days, lying on a mat or on the floor, before she would be helped. She would then be bandaged up and referred to a surgeon, and probably released to go home. Her relatives would then have to get in line, more than likely early in the morning, to try to make an appointment with the surgeon. If she got lucky and saw one, it may be three to four months until she is able to have the surgery scheduled. Of course, in most cases, going to a doctor or a hospital would be completely out of the question either for lack of money or because no such services are available. You get the picture.

    To be more specific, here are the facts:

    Almost half the world — over three billion people — live on less than $2.50 a day.

    At least 80% of humanity lives on less than $10 a day.

    And here are the World Bank Development indicators from 2005:

    Finally, look at the statistics for people who live in hunger in the world (from 2010):

    In the next few days I will be looking at what it means to live in the rest of the world so you can think about the privileges you have living in the West and some of the implications of this to how we live our lives. My goal is not to make you guilty but to inform you. But if you get guilty, deal with it.

    Ah yes, and my friend said, “Thank God for morphine.”

    Ivanildo C. Trindade

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  • ivanildotrindade 11:10 pm on August 29, 2011 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: chocolate, survey about chocolate   

    finally a scientific news we can all savor: chocolate will yet save us!

     
  • ivanildotrindade 10:55 pm on August 29, 2011 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: francis schaeffer, reincarnation vs resurrection   

    What are those Jewish Rabbis smoking? 

    And here is the #6 reason I am NOT a Buddhist: while the evidence for reincarnation is intriguing, If I have to chose based on the evidence, I will stick with resurrection every time. 

    Let’s make something clear here: if resurrection is true, reincarnation is not and vice-versa. If even one person has ever come back to life that pretty much eliminates the need for reincarnation. If I come back to live again as myself, and not some evolved form, like Master Yoda, or some ignominious android like Howard Stern, that means that my material is no longer available for recycling.

    Of course, the opposite would also be true. If one person has reincarnated, that would make resurrection totally redundant. So which will it be?

    When I was a freshman in college I started doubting everything I had been taught at home and church up to that point. I had a young female Philosophy professor whose explicit goal was to wipe out any form of belief any of us naïve students had before entering her smoke-filled class — she was a chain smoker and very irreverent. She had no answers for anything but her questions were devastating and several of the people who started with me in that same class never make it back to the real world. They never finished the university and some of them were seen around the campus mumbling some incomprehensible words having to do with the origin of the universe. That professor should be sued for malpractice.

    Anyway, in that caustic environment, I began to doubt everything. The last thing left standing was the resurrection. If I couldn’t find evidence for the resurrection, all was lost. I was willing to move heaven and earth to find evidence and if I didn’t, I was also willing to renounce everything and live for pleasure and the thrill of the day, as some of my friends chose to live.

    During this time, I discovered the writings of Francis Schaeffer. Dr. Schaeffer gave me what no church had ever given me — a rational basis for belief in God and a lot of that had to do with the reality of the resurrection. His thoughts also convinced me of the irrationality of matter plus time plus chance giving birth to man in all of his complexities, brilliance and paradox. I delved into the written record of the resurrection of Christ, read the critics and the believers and came away with a renewed belief that the facts for the resurrection stand the test of truth.

    I don’t expect anyone just to take my word for it. I encourage you to go on your own search. If you are honest with yourself, in the end, you will see how powerful the record is and you will end up believing (or at least be impressed with the record). I became a strong resurrectionist and that is one of the main reasons I cannot be a Buddhist. Some people have tried to reconcile reincarnation with resurrection. Some Jewish rabbis even conceive of reincarnation as a means to achieve resurrection. I don’t know what these Rabbis are smoking but I imagine it is more than what my Philosophy professor was in that smoked-filled classroom many years ago.

    Ivanildo C. Trindade

    To read a more detail analysis of this subject, get a hold of John Snyder’s Reincarnation vs. Resurrection here.

     
  • ivanildotrindade 11:34 pm on August 28, 2011 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: buddhism in the east, , , laos, other face of buddhism,   

    Buddhism: freedom in the west, prison in the east? 

    And here is the #5 reason I am NOT a Buddhist: while Buddhism in the West presents a more secularized version that promotes freedom from dogmas, in places like Cambodia and Thailand, Buddhism, as it is practiced by the masses, keeps people enslaved to the whims of the spirits and the heavy hand of traditionalism.

    I once trekked to a house outside of Battambang, Cambodia, where people believed spirits resided. I took my shoes off at the bottom of the steps and walked up to the small living room where worshipers had gathered. The sight completely shocked me. People were kneeling all over the floor, chanting, burning candles, offering fervent prayers, quietly mumbling incomprehensible words to me in a repetitive fashion. The heaviness of the place shook my soul. The bewildered look on people’s faces troubled me. While some might have been fascinated with the sight, I felt oppression in the air. My heart went out to the many people who were there, trying to transact business with the unknown with no apparent success. The hopelessness of the situation permeated the whole experience.

    Now I know that this by itself does not disprove Buddhism, just like a highly charismatic prayer meeting among Christians would not dismiss Christianity. But the more I travel to SE Asia, the more I am struck with the pervasiveness of this type of folk Buddhism in many countries there. Many people are incapable of making a move without consulting a shaman who will consult the spirits on their behalf. The fear of evil spirits is in the mind of virtually everyone. Businesses are lined with spirit houses and residences have white strings tied around the building to ward off the spirits who would do you harm. As far as I can tell, this is anything BUT freedom and it is easy to see it when you are there.

    For those who say that Buddhism is not a religion, a trip to Thailand, Cambodia, Laos or Burma will dispel that notion. Buddhism is much of a religion there as Catholicism is in Rome or Mexico. Buddhist Monks are religious figures and going to the temples is not simply a touristic experience. Even the secular calendars of many governments are regulated by traditional Buddhist Holidays with festivals and religious observances.

    In these countries Buddhism is seen as a path to salvation, some type of salvation, even if not in the same sense as the Biblical salvation from one’s sins. People are desperately trying to appease the “gods” or the spirits. And again, as every man-made religion would have it, it is up to the individual to save himself.

    And the visit to that “haunted” house showed me that no one there seemed to be certain they had arrived anywhere. The eerie feeling of total helplessness in the face of man’s fate still haunts me every time I think about that experience in Cambodia.

    Ivanildo C. Trindade

     
    • Graham 1:39 pm on August 30, 2011 Permalink | Reply

      Hi Ivan Here’s a extract from The Essence of Buddhism which I think describes why Buddhist may not consider Buddhism to be a religion. I suppose the definition on religion is subjective but this description fits perfectly for me.
      From ‘The Essence of Buddhism’
      Buddhism is not a religion as such; it does not propose an external God. It does not seek to replace a person’s existing religious beliefs, only to supplement them. The Buddha, in all likelihood, would rather his followers describe themselves simply as Followers of The Way.

      Happy Travels! Graham

      • ivanildotrindade 1:49 pm on August 30, 2011 Permalink | Reply

        Yes, Graham. I have found that book by David Tuffley to be very helpful. But I also agree with you — there are many versions of the Buddhist faith. And who knows really what The Buddha would say since he didn’t really record his thoughts? Actually, anyone can download that book for free and I highly recommend it. http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/26233. Thanks for the comment!

  • ivanildotrindade 9:05 pm on August 27, 2011 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: eight fold path, four noble truths, nirvana   

    Working hard for a better extinction 

    And here is the #4 reason I am NOT a Buddhist: Achieving nirvana is, to the best of my ability to comprehend it, akin to reaching the void or nothingness. It’s hard for me to aspire to get there.

    Understanding nirvana is like trying to read clouds. One moment you have it, the next, it is gone. In essence, nirvana is the end of suffering, the place of a higher consciousness, of being one with the universe. To achieve it, one must practice the Four Noble Truths and the Eight Noble Path referred here previously. Some say that nirvana is a state of ego-lessness, the place of total control over one’s sense and desire (lust). Some say you have to “destroy” your mind to achieve nirvana, others say that you don’t even “achieve” nirvana, you “realize” it (it’s latent in you (latter) or it is a goal to be attained (former).

    For a fascinating forum on what this all means, click here. It will take you about half an hour to read the article and all the comments posted on the bottom. It is tedious but very interesting read, not written by scholars but by practitioners or curious minds. In the end you will see what I mean about not wanting to aspire to go somewhere that is not clearly defined for me. But in the unlikely chance I were to choose to follow this path, the end result does appear to benefit primarily one solitary person — me! How about the rest of humanity? So that’s part of the reason I am not buying.

    For a less engaged description of nirvana, you can go here. You will understand why I think Wikipedia should sometimes be called “Weakpedia.” Still, you will quickly understand that in this view, nirvana can only come through much individual effort and the application of meditation and exercises that most people in this universe may not have time and energy to perform. There are multiple levels and graduating steps. I just don’t get the wisdom of going through all this trouble if all I am looking at in the end is extinction (according to one school of Buddhism). Wouldn’t that be the equivalent of saying, “I will work very hard to improve my life so I can cease to exist better”?

    As I travel the world, I find that most people I meet are preoccupied with survival issues — how will I feed my family tomorrow? Where will I find the money to pay for medical treatment for my sick child? How long will it take me to gather wood and will my crops survive the drought this year? Sophisticated people may find the time to develop these disciplines of the mind, but the vast majority of the world is just trying to make it to the next day. How is Buddhism helping them? (More about that tomorrow).

    Ivanildo C. Trindade

     
  • ivanildotrindade 12:31 am on August 27, 2011 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: reliance on self, self-mastery, under construction   

    Ivanildo: “under construction” 

    And here is the #3 reason I am NOT a Buddhist: I am not convinced that one can totally eliminate cravings by her/his own effort.

    I saw a status on Facebook the other day: “If I can’t trust myself, how can I trust others?” Good question! I guess it is of paramount importance that we know where we stand on the matter of the condition of the human heart. Are we intrinsically good or intrinsically bad? Mother Theresa or Hitler? The New York Yankees or The Red Socks? (you can guess who is what here).

    Based on experiential knowledge of myself and other humans I have observed, I have yet to find one who has been able to achieve complete self-mastery. Buddhism depends on lot on one’s ability through concentration and meditation to achieve a state of mind where s/he is detached from everything also and may enter into a state of consciousness where s/he is one with everything. Nirvana is not too far away after that.

    The Christian vision of redemption is just the opposite of this. Simply put, no matter how much we try, we can never achieve purity of mind and body through our own efforts. We need some kind of divine enablement, some supernatural intersection of God’s Spirit with our spirit. Without this, we are hopeless wanderers, incapable of detaching ourselves from even the most mundane things such as chocolate covered vanilla ice cream.

    Of course one can achieve levels of concentration where even pain is eliminated. But to sustain that level of focus for indefinite periods of time is unimaginable and I personally doubt whether anyone has ever really achieved it. Humans can be reduced to a problem waiting to happen, if they have to rely on their own ability to conquer their tendency toward selfishness, pride and self-pity.

    The Biblical is clear here: all have sinned and have fallen short of the glory of God. Human effort unaided by supernatural intervention is like economic stimulus without economic growth.

    Humans need a total recall not a partial one. If you think you can save yourself, more power to you, but if you’ve already tried and failed, there is hope and it is not in nirvana, it is in a Person whose Name is Jesus Christ. He lived in history and demonstrated in my history that He can do for me what I could not do for myself. I am glad I’m attached to Him now. If I were a construction project, the sign on the front would say, “under construction,” and I am glad for that. How about you?

    Ivanildo C. Trindade

     
  • ivanildotrindade 9:18 pm on August 25, 2011 Permalink | Reply  

    If you die a Buddhist, where do you go? 

    And here is the #2 reason I am NOT a Buddhist: While I agree that suffering is a great problem, the greatest problem of all is death. What is Buddhism’s answer to the problem of dying?

    So, according to tradition, a royal prince who was destined to become a powerful leader, stepped out of the palace where he had been sheltered for 29 years and saw suffering which he never knew existed. He abandoned his family, including his wife and small child, and went on a search to find the answer to the problem of suffering. After a while, he found it: suffering is the result of desire (lust); detach yourself from all desire and you will eliminate suffering.

    One thing I have to agree with Buddhism: if you live, you will suffer. Don’t fight it, embrace it. Not in a masochist way, but with open eyes that lead to wisdom. I don’t have a problem with that. What I have a problem with is that this doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface. Suffering is not simply an individual thing, it is a cosmic thing. Something is terribly wrong with human beings and the entire universe. Fighting suffering is not a deal for a lonely Rambo of the mind. If my solution only benefits me, it is no ultimate solution to the problem of suffering. Applying myself to meditation and discipline in some aspects of the four-noble truths or the eight-fold path may help me achieve some level of enlightenment, or even detachment from suffering as an individual, but how does that help alleviate the suffering in the entire universe?

    Granted, I don’t have all the answers either, but let me propose to you that if the ultimate expression of suffering is dying, which is final and decisive, the solution must also be final and decisive. Going into the “great unknown” or becoming “one with the universe,” won’t do it for me. Sure, I don’t have “scientific” proof that the resurrection of Christ ever took place, but when I examine the written record, the story is more compelling than some abstract enlightenment.

    500+ people saw Jesus alive. The tomb is empty. Women were the first to see him in spite of the fact that their testimony was worthless in those days. Roman soldiers were guarding the tomb and it had the seal of the Rome in it. All the disciples with the exception of John died for their belief that Jesus rose from the dead. I could go on and on. You get the idea…

    Ivanildo C. Trindade

     

     
  • ivanildotrindade 6:48 pm on August 24, 2011 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: bono, grace, , moral law, moral lawgiver   

    Bono doesn’t have enough good karma 

    And here is the #1 reason I am NOT a Buddhist: I don’t believe in a moral law of karma without a moral law giver.

    In Buddhism there is a fundamental principle that regulates one’s station in this life and the next and this principle is called “karma.” Karma determines your fate in the next reincarnational cycle. If you accumulate enough good karma, you will reincarnate as a higher being, but if you are not good enough, you will be lucky if you come back as the gecko from the Geico commercial… Karma is in essence a moral law that makes value judgments about what everyone deserves. But what or who is behind these determinations? In a religion without a personal God, how can there be a moral law that judges between good and bad? Who put that in place and how do I know that it is always fair and will not trick me in the end? What if the “karma machine” malfunctions on some days when I am doing good? Will there be a recourse? A karma recall of sorts?

    I guess someone could ask the same question about the morals of the Christian faith, but here our answer would simply be that God has made His will clearly known in the pages of Scriptures. The Word of God is normative for my life and for the world. You can disagree with it, but don’t try to deny that there is a moral law giver behind the Word. Who is the moral law giver behind the law of karma? How can an impersonal, cosmic something give rise to a law so specific as to determine the fate of each individual being in the universe in this life, all previous ones and the next? How can an impersonal force keep track of reincarnations that span centuries into the infinite?

    Karma doesn’t do it for me. It doesn’t do it for Bono either. The leader of the Irish band U-2 has spoken clearly of how he feels about karma. Here are some of his comments:

     You see, at the center of all religions is the idea of Karma. And yet, along comes this idea called Grace to upend all that… Grace defies reason and logic. Love interrupts, if you like, the consequences of your actions, which in my case is very good news indeed, because I’ve done a lot of stupid stuff. But I’d be in big trouble if Karma was going to finally be my judge. The point of the death of Christ is that Christ took on the sins of the world, so that what we put out did not come back to us, and that our sinful nature does not reap the obvious death. That’s the point. It should keep us humbled. It’s not our own good works that get us through the gates of heaven.” (Bono).

    It is not often that I quote Bono but he nailed it here when it comes to karma and grace. Maybe some people have achieved a higher level of confidence to believe that their good karma can deliver them a better station in the next life, if there is one. As for Ivanildo, he knows himself too well and is not afraid to say that if he depended on karma to decide his fate, he would be doomed.

    Ivanildo C. Trindade

     
  • ivanildotrindade 2:33 pm on August 23, 2011 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: and catherine deneuve, , contrary to popular belief, eight fold path of buddhism, list of majors, right livelihood   

    The sweet ingredients in Buddhism 

    No wars have ever been started in the name of Buddhism. That statement has been enough to drive people toward the Buddhist way of life. And who could argue against the principles behind the eight-fold path of Buddhism? Elsewhere here I have written about the idea of “Right Speech,” one of elements of the eight-fold path. Anyone can benefit from applying the principles of “Right Speech” to their daily lives.

    Contrary to popular belief, Buddhism does have something to say about what a person should NOT do. This falls under the category of “Right Action,” which includes: a. Harming any sentient being (this the worst a person can do, therefore, many Buddhists are vegetarians); b. Stealing (includes all forms of robbery, theft, deceit and fraud); c. Sexual misconduct (not engaging in sexual behavior that harms others either physically or emotionally). I don’t know too many people who take issue with any of these, except maybe the likes of French actress Catherine Deneuve, who says it’s nobody’s business if she wants to wear a fur coat. And yes, I have to confess: I hate flies and my son is always asking me to kill spiders around our house!

    “Right Livelihood” is another great thing in Buddhism. Even though some say Buddhism is not a religion, it does regulate which professions are good and which are to be avoided. And here is the list of majors to avoid in college: a. Trading in weapons; b. Trading in living beings, including slavery, prostitution and raising animals for slaughter; c. Butchery and meat processing; d. Trading in drugs and poisons, including alcohol and recreational drugs; e) trading your vote on raising the debt ceiling (just kidding about the last one!).

    To summarize: no drug dealing, no weapons contraband, and about that favorite neighborhood gourmet meat shop of yours? Gone! And no more pimps and madams. And to boot: the end of the sex trade industry in Thailand, which, ironically, by the way, is 97% Buddhist. I mean who can argue against that? I can’t, except for the little detail about meat. If you’ve had Brazilian barbecue, you know why it would be hard to convert to vegetarianism… but that’s not even among the reasons why I am not a Buddhist. (You will start reading about that tomorrow).

    As you can see, then, Buddhism has a lot going for it, so it is no wonder people the world over have a favorable opinion of it. On the face of it, it looks like the icing on the cake of whatever beliefs you already have going for you. And it does help when you also see that kind of sweetness stamped all over the face of the Dalai Lama whenever you see him on T.V. But is this all there is? How does one practice these noble things without the aid of a supernatural being?

    That is the rub and we will start unraveling it tomorrow. We will see that while there are some wonderful truths embedded in Buddhism (and all truth is God’s truth), and some striking points of convergence with Christianity, there are some sharp contrasts as well, which will automatically eliminate the possibility of simply coating the beliefs of Buddhism on top of a Christianity cake that is already baked. Ingredients will clash and the twain shall not meet. Indigestion is sure to follow.

    Ivanildo C. Trindade

     
  • ivanildotrindade 2:27 pm on August 22, 2011 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , einstein, ,   

    Einstein pitching religion? 

    Albert Einstein once did PR for a religion and it was not for Scientology. He is attributed as saying that he was not a religious man, but if he were, he would be a Buddhist. One of the versions of the famous quote goes: “Buddhism has the characteristics of what would be expected in a cosmic religion for the future: It transcends a personal God, avoids dogmas and theology; it covers both the natural and the spiritual, and it is based on a religious sense aspiring from the experience of all things, natural and spiritual, as a meaningful unity.”

    Whether he did really say that or not is questionable, but though I am no Einstein, if I was trying to make up a quote for Einstein, I would probably have said something like that! No matter. For the next several days I will be writing about Buddhism here. Today I deal with why Buddhism is so attractive to people in the West and over the next several days I will deal with the top 7 reasons why I am not a Buddhist. Tell me what you think. By the way, you can leave comments here even if you are not on Facebook (this is for Bob Mitchell. :)).

    Buddhism is attractive to people in the West for many reasons. First, there is the lure of a “religion” without a God. In fact, many people say that Buddhism is not even a religion, it is a way of life. You can bring a god, no god, or multiple gods and simply add the Buddhist teachings to the menu. For people who are looking for a religion with no accountability to anything other than self and community, Buddhism is the ticket.

    Secondly, Buddhism offers an explanation to the problem of suffering and evil in the world that is compelling to people looking for “scientific” type of answers. Basically, Buddhism is “pay it forward” perfected. If you are good, you progress; if you are bad, you regress. Suffering today is the direct result of having been bad in some previous life. This supposedly avoids the problem of a good and loving God that allows suffering in the world. In Buddhism, “karma” and not God, rules, and you only have yourself to fool.

    Thirdly, there is a fresh and all-pervasive emphasis in Buddhism on compassion. Not just to your fellow human being but to the whole universe and all beings that have feelings. Most people aspire to be compassionate and loving and Buddhism offers them a hope of achieving that.

    Fourthly, Buddhism in the West, and especially Zen-Buddhism, puts a great deal of emphasis on self-mastery. The ability to control one’s emotions and reactions; the dream of a mind that is at ease no matter what. I mean just look at Phil Jackson, the former Lakers coach, before he retired. As a practicing Zen Buddhist, you never saw him yelling and screaming at his players. He was a picture of serenity. For those who are old enough to remember, don’t you think Bobby Knight could have added some Zen-Buddhism to his sideline manners?

    Finally, Buddhism, as it is practiced in the West, looks at this life as the  only game there is. There is no heaven and hell. Like a friend of mine says, “Our life is like the light of a candle whose wick burns until it is no more. Once the flickering flame is extinguished, you also go off into a state of non-existence.” Believe it or not, in an age when people don’t want to deal with personal accountability, this possibility can be very attractive.

    So, my question to you: Are any of these Buddhist traits attractive to you? Why? Please post your comments and we will relay them to Mr. Einstein, that is, if he didn’t reincarnate into some bug or mosquito, as a punishment for bringing to light the theory of relativity, where everything is  relative and there are no absolutes. Oh wait, that’s not what the Theory of Relativity is!

    Ivanildo C. Trindade

     
    • Bob 7:14 pm on August 22, 2011 Permalink | Reply

      Hey Brother……Like a mutual friend said “you are in the class of the likes of Ravi Zacariah.” One of the great thinkers of our day. Where do you find time to think so much.:)

      • ivanildotrindade 8:51 pm on August 22, 2011 Permalink | Reply

        i love ravi and he has been a kind of mentor to me, but in his class? not so fast. stay tuned, there will be much food for thought here coming up…

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