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Archive for August 27th, 2008

Star Wars is one of the most well known movie series of all time. As far as 1977, the first of its series introduced itself

Although the film entertains us with a beautiful story with cutting edge special effects, one can’t help but wonder if the film is philosophical as well. Did George Lucas actually have other intentions than to entertain the public?

In Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith, one of the lines even seemed to be anti-Bush

http://www.threemoviebuffs.com/review.php?movieID=starwarsepisode3revengeofthesith

One of the most surprising elements of this film is Lucas’ political statement. “Any one that’s not with me, is my enemy,” Anakin says at one point, paraphrasing the famous line from a George W. Bush speech. “Only a Sith believes only in absolutes,” Obi-wan replies. “So this is how liberty dies,” Padmé points out in another scene as Senator Palpatine is laying out his new political strategy. “With a round of applause.”

But aside from political statements, the series can be quite philosophical as well. For some reason, some people have seemed to take the philosophy quite seriously and have tried to promote it as a religion. Just search for “Jediism” and you will be surprised at the number of websites you will find.

I have tried in vain to search for quotation from the “Star Wars” series but only get relatively mundane quotations at best. So I will try to try my very best on this one from memory. The primary theme which I have seen in this series is the introduction of the “Force”. Another is the introduction of mental discipline.

Let us start with the idea of mental discipline first. If you shall look at the development the character of Darth Vader, you shall see that this character is one of the central figures. The character spans throughout the whole six films of the series and goes through a transformation from good to bad and back to good at the last film. The character started as Anakin Skywalker, later to be renamed as Darth Vader as he turns evil. Although everyone agrees that Darth Vader is indeed evil, how many people have noticed how Anakin’s character had changed.

Annakin, never showed greed, never showed materialism. But Anakin had been cautioned numerous times on his discipline. Anakin was the most loving and romantic of the characters, something which he never learned to discipline. He loved his mother and wife dearly. If you will notice, it was his love for his mother which had caused him to lose control and subsequently to slaughter women and children. And it was his love for his wife that caused him to change to Darth Vader. Anakin upon learning of his wife’s demise exuded so much force that he managed to rupture the robots beside him while being operated on on the operating table. Ok, maybe it’s not exactly love, but it was his attachment to his mother and wife which triggered all these.

But again, true love does not hold grudges and can let go. True love is not possessive nor jealous. Maybe Anakin had too much of romantic love and not unconditional love. Again an acquaintance told me before that only God can give unconditional love. Throughout the whole course of the series, I have yet to find an event where Darth Vader had shown greed or materialism.

When you think of it, the idea of it all seems so buddhist.

http://www.thebigview.com/buddhism/fourtruths.html

1. Life means suffering.

2. The origin of suffering is attachment.

3. The cessation of suffering is attainable.

4. The path to the cessation of suffering.

1. Life means suffering.

To live means to suffer, because the human nature is not perfect and neither is the world we live in. During our lifetime, we inevitably have to endure physical suffering such as pain, sickness, injury, tiredness, old age, and eventually death; and we have to endure psychological suffering like sadness, fear, frustration, disappointment, and depression. Although there are different degrees of suffering and there are also positive experiences in life that we perceive as the opposite of suffering, such as ease, comfort and happiness, life in its totality is imperfect and incomplete, because our world is subject to impermanence. This means we are never able to keep permanently what we strive for, and just as happy moments pass by, we ourselves and our loved ones will pass away one day, too.

2. The origin of suffering is attachment.

The origin of suffering is attachment to transient things and the ignorance thereof. Transient things do not only include the physical objects that surround us, but also ideas, and -in a greater sense- all objects of our perception. Ignorance is the lack of understanding of how our mind is attached to impermanent things. The reasons for suffering are desire, passion, ardour, pursuit of wealth and prestige, striving for fame and popularity, or in short: craving and clinging. Because the objects of our attachment are transient, their loss is inevitable, thus suffering will necessarily follow. Objects of attachment also include the idea of a “self” which is a delusion, because there is no abiding self. What we call “self” is just an imagined entity, and we are merely a part of the ceaseless becoming of the universe.

3. The cessation of suffering is attainable.

The cessation of suffering can be attained through nirodha. Nirodha means the unmaking of sensual craving and conceptual attachment. The third noble truth expresses the idea that suffering can be ended by attaining dispassion. Nirodha extinguishes all forms of clinging and attachment. This means that suffering can be overcome through human activity, simply by removing the cause of suffering. Attaining and perfecting dispassion is a process of many levels that ultimately results in the state of Nirvana. Nirvana means freedom from all worries, troubles, complexes, fabrications and ideas. Nirvana is not comprehensible for those who have not attained it.

4. The path to the cessation of suffering.

There is a path to the end of suffering – a gradual path of self-improvement, which is described more detailed in the Eightfold Path. It is the middle way between the two extremes of excessive self-indulgence (hedonism) and excessive self-mortification (asceticism); and it leads to the end of the cycle of rebirth. The latter quality discerns it from other paths which are merely “wandering on the wheel of becoming”, because these do not have a final object. The path to the end of suffering can extend over many lifetimes, throughout which every individual rebirth is subject to karmic conditioning. Craving, ignorance, delusions, and its effects will disappear gradually, as progress is made on the path.

The idea of non-attachment is very central to Buddhism. It is included in their “Four Noble Truths”. For christians, this would be similar to their “Ten Commandments”

The gray area though is, what about love, is an attachment due to love considered an ‘attachment’? I have tried to search on this issue and it seems that buddhism is quite silent about it. If I were them though, I would let the seeking pupil find out for himself rather then tell it to him. Sometimes, experience is the best teacher. If you ask the typical person on the street though, he/she might insist that love is not love unless there is attachment. And love for God is different, with love for a spouse. If you look at Christianity too, there seems to be a lot of verses on love and no verses on attachment due to love. Hence people assume that once one is in love, everything is o.k. But how many times have we heard of men and women in suffering simply because they can not let go. They have not been wronged in their previous relationship, but for some reason, just can’t give up their attachments.

Buddhism, aside from being good, consider mental discipline as a prerequisite to attaining nirvana. Nirvana would be consider Heaven from a Christian’s point of view. Out of eight, we have three which are dedicated to mental discipline.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eightfold_path

Below are the specifics of the three from the same webpage:

Samādhi: Mental Discipline, Concentration, Meditation

Samadhi is literally translated as “concentration”, it is achieved through training in the higher consciousness, which brings the calm and collectedness needed to develop true wisdom by direct experience. [42]

[edit] Right effort

Right effort (samyag-vyāyāmasammā-vāyāma) can also be translated as “right endeavor”. In this factor, the practitioners should make a persisting effort to abandon all the wrong and harmful thoughts, words, and deeds. The practitioner should instead be persisting in giving rise to what would be good and useful to themselves and others in their thoughts, words, and deeds, without a thought for the difficulty or weariness involved. In the Pali Canon, it is explained as:

And what, monks, is right effort?
(i) There is the case where a monk generates desire, endeavors, activates persistence, upholds & exerts his intent for the sake of the non-arising of evil, unskillful qualities that have not yet arisen.
(ii) He generates desire, endeavors, activates persistence, upholds & exerts his intent for the sake of the abandonment of evil, unskillful qualities that have arisen.
(iii) He generates desire, endeavors, activates persistence, upholds & exerts his intent for the sake of the arising of skillful qualities that have not yet arisen.
(iv) He generates desire, endeavors, activates persistence, upholds & exerts his intent for the maintenance, non-confusion, increase, plenitude, development, & culmination of skillful qualities that have arisen:
This, monks, is called right effort.[43][44][45]

Although the above instruction is given to the male monastic order, it is also meant for the female monastic order and can be practiced by lay followers from both genders.

The above four phases of right effort mean:

  1. make effort to prevent the unwholesome that has not yet arisen in oneself.
  2. make effort to destroy the unwholesome that has arisen in oneself.
  3. make effort to arouse the wholesome that has not yet arisen in oneself.
  4. make effort to maintain the wholesome that has arisen in oneself.

[edit] Right mindfulness

Right mindfulness (samyak-smṛtisammā-sati), also translated as “right memory”, “right awareness” or “right attention”. In this factor, the practitioner should constantly keep their mind alert to phenomena as they are affecting the body and mind. They should be mindful and deliberate, making sure not to act or speak through the power of inattention or forgetfulness. In the Pali Canon, it is explained as:

And what, monks, is right mindfulness?
(i) There is the case where a monk remains focused on the body in & of itself — ardent, aware, & mindful — putting away greed & distress with reference to the world.
(ii) He remains focused on feelings in & of themselves — ardent, aware, & mindful — putting away greed & distress with reference to the world.
(iii) He remains focused on the mind in & of itself — ardent, aware, & mindful — putting away greed & distress with reference to the world.
(iv) He remains focused on mental qualities in & of themselves — ardent, aware, & mindful — putting away greed & distress with reference to the world.
This, monks, is called right mindfulness. [46][47][48]

Although the above instruction is given to the male monastic order, it is also meant for the female monastic order and can be practiced by lay followers from both genders.

Bhikkhu Bodhi, a monk of the Theravadin tradition, further explain the concept of mindfulness as follows:

The mind is deliberately kept at the level of bare attention, a detached observation of what is happening within us and around us in the present moment. In the practice of right mindfulness the mind is trained to remain in the present, open, quiet, and alert, contemplating the present event. All judgments and interpretations have to be suspended, or if they occur, just registered and dropped[49].

[edit] Right concentration

Right concentration (samyak-samādhisammā-samādhi), as its Pali and Sanskrit name indicates, is the practice of concentration (samadhi). The practitioner will have to concentrate on an object of attention until it reaches full concentration and then into the state of meditative absorption (jhana). Traditionally, the practice of samadhi can be developed from mindfulness of breathing, from visual objects (kasina), and repetition of phrases. Samadhi is used to suppress the five hindrances in order to enter into jhana. Jhana is an instrument used for developing wisdom by cultivating insight and use it to penetrate the true nature of phenomena through direct cognition, which will then lead to cutting off the defilements, realize the dhamma and self-awakening. During the practice of right concentration, the practitioner will need to investigate and verify their right view, in the process right knowledge will arise and then followed by right liberation. In the Pali Canon, it is explained as:

And what is right concentration?
(i)Herein a monk aloof from sense desires, aloof from unwholesome thoughts, attains to and abides in the first meditative absorbtion (jhana) which is detachment-born and accompanied by applied thought, sustained thought, joy, and bliss.
(ii)By allaying applied and sustained thought he attains to, and abides in the second jhana which is inner tranquillity, which is unification (of the mind), devoid of applied and sustained thought, and which has joy and bliss.
(iii)By detachment from joy he dwells in equanimity, mindful, and with clear comprehension and enjoys bliss in body, and attains to and abides in the third jhana which the noble ones (ariyas) call: ‘Dwelling in equanimity, mindfulness, and bliss.
(iv)By giving up of bliss and suffering, by the disappearance already of joy and sorrow, he attains to, and abides in the fourth jhana, which is neither suffering nor bliss, and which is the purity of equanimity-mindfulness.
This is called right concentration.[50][51][52][53]

Although the above instruction is given to the male monastic order, it is also meant for the female monastic order and can be practiced by lay followers from both genders.

According to the Pali canon, right concentration is dependent on the development of preceding path factors:

“The Blessed One said: “Now what, monks, is noble right concentration with its supports & requisite conditions? Any singleness of mind equipped with these seven factors — right view, right resolve, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, & right mindfulness — is called noble right concentration with its supports & requisite conditions.” [54]

Should this be correct, what will become of people of other religions which only preach love without mental discipline, whose lives are full of stress, insecurities and hangups. Shall they go to Heaven or not?

The next big issue with the “Star Wars” series is their introduction to the concept of “The Force”. Exactly what is “The Force”? Is it God? When you think of it, how can it be God if there is “the bad side of the force” and “the good side of the force”. And both good and evil characters in the series use “The Force” to their advantage. Should this “Force” be God, it is also definitely not a personal God as to what the Christians and Muslims believe. The characters both good and evil do not worship the Force or even pray to it, but they do seem to attempt to assimilate themselves into it. There is also no mention of God in the whole series. This leads me to believe that the series is actually atheist in nature. The closest which it can relate itself into is the Yin and Yang of Taoism. Taoism is mum about its alignment with the concept of God. The Yin/Yang energy can hardly be called a deity. Buddhism is something else, Buddhism is primarily atheist and several Buddhists will even state of their disbelief in God.

This is one such buddhist which is against the concept of God. Here is an excerpt from his book which specifically says so.

http://everything2.com/e2node/Beyond%2520Belief%253A%2520Why%2520God%2520Cannot%2520Exist

Chapter 3:
Why God Cannot Exist

We have seen that the arguments used to prove God’s existence are inadequate. We will now demonstrate that logically an all-loving, all-knowing and all-powerful God such as the one in which Christians have faith cannot exist.

The Problem of Free Will

For the religious life to be meaningful we must have free will, we must be able to choose between good and evil. If we do not have free will we cannot be held responsible for what we do.

According to Christians, God is all-knowing – he knows all the past, all the present and all the future. If this is so, then God must know everything we do long before we do it. This means that our whole life must be predetermined and that we act not according to the free exercise of our wills but according to our predetermined natures. If we are predetermined to be good we will be good and if we are predetermined to be evil we will be evil. We will act not according to our will or choice but according to the way God has already foreseen we will act. Although Christians will insist that we do have free will, God’s omniscience simply makes this logically impossible. And that people will act only as God determines is verified in the Bible.

If people are evil it is because God has chosen to make them evil (Rom 1:24-28) and caused them to disobey him (Rom 11:32). If they do not understand God’s message it is because he has made their minds dull (Rom 11:8) and caused them to be stubborn (Rom 9:18). God prevents the Gospel from being preached in certain areas (Act 16:6-7) and he fixes long before it will happen when a person will be born and when he or she will die (Act 17:26). Those who were going to be saved were chosen by God before the beginning of time (II Tim 1:9, Eph 1:11). If a person has faith and is thereby saved, their faith comes from God, not from any effort on their part (Eph 2:9-10). One may ask “If a person can only do what God predetermines them to do, how can God hold them responsible for their actions?” The Bible has an answer for this question.

But one of you will say to me: “If this is so, how can God find fault with anyone? For who can resist God’s will?” But who are you, my friend, to answer God back? A clay pot does not ask the man who made it: “Why did you make me like this?” After all, the man who makes the pot has the right to use the clay as he wishes, and to make two pots from one lump of clay, one for special occasions and one for ordinary use. And the same is true of what God has done (Rom 9:19-22).

So apparently in Christianity a person’s life and destiny are due purely to the whim of God and as mere humans we have no right to complain about what God has decided for us. The idea that we are all predetermined is quite consistent with the idea of an all-knowing God but it makes nonsense of the concept of making an effort to do good or avoid evil.

The Problem of Evil

Perhaps the most potent argument against the existence of an all-powerful, all loving God is the undeniable fact that there is so much pain and suffering in the world. If there is really a God of love who has unlimited power, why doesn’t he put an end to all evil? Christians try to answer this question in several ways.

Firstly, they will say that evil is caused by man not God and that if only man would follow God’s commandments there would be no pain, evil or suffering. However, while it is true that evils such as war, rape, murder and exploitation can be blamed on humans, they can hardly be blamed for the millions who die each year in earthquakes, floods, epidemics and accidents, all of which are natural events. In fact, according to the Bible, the germs that cause hideous diseases like TB, polio, cholera, leprosy etc. and all the misery, deformity and suffering to which they give rise, were created by God before he created man (Gen. 1:11-12).

Another way Christians will try to explain away evil is to say that it is God’s punishment for those who do not follow his commandments. However this implies that terrible things happen only to bad people, which is certainly not true. We often hear of painful sicknesses or disasters befalling good people including good Christians, and likewise we often hear of really bad people who seem to have nothing but good fortune and success. So it cannot be said that suffering and evil are God’s way of punishing sinners.

Next, Christians will say that God allows evil to exist in the world because he wants to give us the freedom to choose good over evil and thereby earn salvation. Evil, they will say, exists to test us. At first this seems to be a good explanation. If a man sees someone being beaten up by a bully he has a choice between turning away (doing wrong) or deciding to help the victim (doing right). If he decides to help then he has been tested and found good. However, as we have seen before, an all-knowing God must already know what choices a person will make so what is the point of testing us? Also, even if suffering and evil exist in the world to test us, couldn’t an all-loving God think of a less cruel and less painful way to do this? It seems unloving and unfair to allow pain to be inflicted on one person so that another person can have the opportunity to choose between good and evil.

Some Christians will try to free God from responsibility for evil by saying that it is not created by God but by the Devil. This may be true but again if God is so loving why doesn’t he simply prevent the Devil from doing this? In any case, who created the Devil in the first place? Surely it was God.

By this stage the Christian will start to get a bit desperate, shifting the argument from logic to pragmatism. He will say that even though there is suffering in the world we can use it as an opportunity to develop courage and patience. This is undoubtedly true but it still does not explain why an all-loving God allows babies to die of cancer, innocent bystanders to be killed in accidents, and leprosy victims to suffer deformity and pain. In fact the existence of so much unnecessary pain, misery and evil in the world is very strong evidence that there is no all-loving all powerful God.

Why Create?

Christians claim that God is perfect, that he is complete in every way, but if God really did create the universe this would prove that he was not perfect. Let us examine why. Before God created the universe there was nothing – no sun, no earth, no people, no good or evil, no pain – nothing but God who was, according to Christians, perfect. So if God was perfect and nothing but perfection existed, what motivated God to create the universe and thus bring imperfection into being? Was it because he was bored and wanted something to do? Was it because he was lonely and wanted someone to pray to him?

Christians will say that God created everything because of his love of man, but this is impossible. God could not love humans before he created them any more than a woman could love her children before she had conceived them. God’s need to create indicates that he was dissatisfied in some way and therefore not perfect. Christians might then say that God created spontaneously and without need or desire. However this would mean that the whole universe came into being without purpose or forethought and therefore it would mean that God was not a loving creator.

The Problem of the Hidden God

Christians claim that God wants us to believe in him so that we can be saved – but if this is so why doesn’t God simply appear and perform a miracle so that everyone will see and believe? Christians will say that God wants us to believe in him out of faith, not because we see him with our eyes. However, according to the Bible, God in the past performed the most awesome miracles and often intervened dramatically in human affairs so that people would know his presence. So if he did so in the past, why doesn’t he do so now?

Christians will say that God does perform miracles today (healing, solving personal problems etc) but being stubborn and evil most people refuse to believe. However these so-called miracles are individual and minor and leave much room for doubt. If God performed a really impressive miracle which could have no other possible explanation, then most people certainly would believe.

According to the Bible when the Israelites wandered in the desert for forty years, God fed them by making food fall regularly from the sky (Ex16:4). During the 1980’s, several million Ethiopian Christians died slowly and painfully from starvation due to a prolonged drought. God had then the opportunity to make food fall from the sky, as the Bible claims he did in the past, in order to prove his existence, his power and his love. Buddhists would say that God did not manifest his presence because he does not exist.

Here is where you can download his free ebook

http://www.buddhanet.net/pdf_file/beyond-belief02.pdf

So what exactly is this “Force” and what are it’s functions. I have earlier made a book on this too, you can check out my other blog where I have placed it in.

http://www.rickym3.blogspot.com

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http://www.healthatoz.com/healthatoz/Atoz/common/standard/transform.jsp?requestURI=/healthatoz/Atoz/news/hs527353.jsp

Many Dads Unknowingly Raising Others’ Kids
Increase in paternity testing reveals 1 in 25 men raising children not their own, study says

THURSDAY, Aug. 11 (HealthDayNews) — Calling it a Pandora’s Box with broad health implications, British researchers say genetic testing is informing about 4 percent of fathers that a child they are raising is not their own.

The implications are huge, the study authors noted, because such revelations often lead to divorce and increased mental health problems for both the man and woman involved, including the threat of violence by the man.

Now that is such a large percentage! Years ago, I wondered why in Philippine law a wife could be criminally charged with adultery, in this case one extramarital affair would be enough to convict her. A husband on the other hand, could not be charged with adultery, but instead with concubinage. For concubinage to occur, one affair would not be enough. The husband would have to live with the other woman in the same domicile as his wife or would have to live with the woman as husband and wife. Such disparity, I later realized was due to the fact that a womans infidelity could cause the husband and wife to support a child which the husband did not father. Such is not the case if the husband fools around.

But for the wives. You don’t have to cry unfair. Husbands can be charged with infidelity, although this carries a much lesser punishment since this charge is only a civil case and not a criminal case.

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http://www.cnn.com/2008/LIVING/personal/08/25/sex.for.stuff/index.html

(LifeWire) — While she was studying in Brazil during college, the one thing Stephanie Gerson longed to do before leaving was spend time in the thick of the Amazon rain forest. Unfortunately, she couldn’t find a tour that would take her past the forest’s edge.

So, when a college-aged busboy at a resort she was visiting began flirting with her, she asked him if he thought a tourist could survive alone in the jungle.

“He laughed and told me I was nuts,” says Gerson, 27, who works part-time in online marketing for a chocolate company in San Francisco.

Then he told her that he’d grown up in the jungle in a nearby indigenous community. That was all Gerson needed to hear. Although she wasn’t attracted to the guy, Gerson flirted right back in the hopes that he would be her jungle tour guide. It worked. The busboy wormed his way out of work, and the two headed into the rain forest.

“It was amazing,” Gerson says of her adventure in 2000. “We built our homes out of palm leaves, I saw animals I’d never seen before, he taught me the medicinal properties of all the plants, we picked fruit off the trees, we swam with and ate piranhas. And, of course, we had sex … for almost two weeks.”

Body currency system

Gerson never felt sleazy or uncomfortable with her unspoken arrangement with the busboy.

“It was a good barter both ways,” she says. “I got to stay in the jungle, and he got to have sex with a cute, young American girl.”

Such trades aren’t so unusual. Throughout history, humans have used their bodies to get what they want — from ancient Egyptian ruler Cleopatra, who cemented her power through liaisons with Roman rulers Julius Caesar and Mark Antony, to the man and woman who were arrested at a Fort Wright, Kentucky, motel in late June for allegedly swapping sex for gasoline. Regardless of our motivation, scientists say we’re hardwired to use our bodies as a bargaining chip.

A recent study of 475 University of Michigan undergraduates ages 17 to 26 found that 27 percent of the men and 14 percent of the women who weren’t in a committed relationship had offered someone favors or gifts — help prepping for a test, laundry washing, tickets to a college football game — in exchange for sex. On the flip side, 5 percent of the men surveyed and 9 percent of the women said they’d attempted to trade sex for such freebies.

And although they weren’t hard up for resources, the students surveyed “recognized the value of this socioeconomic currency system,” says Daniel Kruger, research scientist at the University of Michigan School of Public Health, who published his findings in the April issue of “Evolutionary Psychology.”

“It’s more about getting what you want than getting what you need,” he says. “Unless you think everyone needs a $200 Louis Vuitton bag.”

Nowadays so many people do that. Legally, they can’t be called prostitutes since they never ask for money. It’s like an unwritten arrangement. In manila, some bars and restaurants have beautiful girls for their waitresses. They never sit with the customer and the lights are bright. You can date them in their day off and hint that you want to help pay for their rent. They consider their benefactors their friends or sometimes even boyfriends. In these bars, it is not uncommon for some of the waitresses to be tipped 500 pesos for serving their customer in the restaurant. I have heard that some go home with 1000 pesos a day from tips alone.

But when you think of it, what are office girls doing. Isn’t it the same? Don’t they get married for money as well? Sometimes it just seems more overt when a poor person does and than when a rich person does it. Poor people in this trade may refuse to entertain you in the restaurant if you don’t tip well, much less go out for a friendly date. Rich people on the other hand may date you, have sex with you, even on a date where each pays for his own. Some of the rich do this because they have researched on your family background and have learned that although you are thrifty, you are still rich. So they feel that spending for you right now on dates is just an investment because when marriage time comes, your assets and her assets will merge as one.

Some people wonder why I sometimes date poorer women. Some of whom attempt to milk me. I always tell them, “it’s better to be with a robber that you know is a robber, than a robber that you don’t know is a robber.”

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