If you're like me, you're watching this unbelievable disaster in China, and feeling completely helpless. I mean, there's got to be something we can do. Luckily, I happen to have pretty good contacts with a major Chinese charitable organization, if anyone wants to help by making a donation that way.
This is the lay branch of the Fo Guang Shan Buddhist order, called the BLIA (Buddha's Light International Association). The Chinese are big on associations and organizations, and if you've been reading this blog for any length of time, you've seen me write a little about them from time to time. Anyway, BLIA is accepting checks for the relief effort.
If you would like to donate with a check, please write your donation check payable to "IBPS Houston" and indicate "Donation: Earthquake in China" on the check. The mailing address is Chung Mei Temple, 12550 Jebbia Lane, Stafford, TX 77477.
Here is the link for the latest update http://www.blia.org/
If you have any questions, you can contact the temple at 281-495-3100.
I should point out here that I am in no way connected with any monies collected by BLIA. I don't even see it. But I do personally know many of the people in this group, and can vouch for their integrity.
Here's a cool website. Whoever put this together spent a great deal of time and effort in compiling all this information. http://buddhism.kalachakranet.org/mind.html#1a
Remember the Five Skandhas, and how difficult it was to grasp their importance within the wider context of the Dharma? This site puts it all succinctly, with no doubt and all within the framework of the mind (and the importance of the various functions of the mind) to an understanding of Buddhism in general.
I told him it's pretty simple, you just become one. Either you is, or you ain't. But he looked at me as if the term "Buddhist" labeled me as some different kind of animal, some foreign, alien life form, all of a sudden. I know we're all different, in different ways, but the way this guy looked at me after he found out that I'm a Buddhist was different.
Of course, I'm used to being different. For one thing, I'm an American, living in a world wherein people look at Americans as different. And they look at us differently now than they did before.
And it's in that same context that I class myself as different from most Americans, simply because I'm a Buddhist. I tell my Christian friends that I won't hold their strange, non-Buddhist beliefs against them (always good for an uneasy chuckle). "Oh, that Jerry," they say..."He's different."
Well, yes I am, thank you very much. I'm different from the guy I was before I began studying the Dharma. For one thing, I'm much more responsible now. See, a common belief held by many Buddhists (including this one) is that the Tathagata's teaching encourages us to be more responsible with our lives than maybe some other faiths; responsible physically, environmentally, emotionally, spiritually, and socially. This is sometimes at odds with the more common American consumer approach to living.
It's also at odds with me, because I've never been the most responsible guy on the block. I was always the guy with the second-hand parachute, or the guy with fast car who's not so sure about his brakes. Rapelling? Sure! Partying? Why not! But the Temple? Well...
But following the teaching of a good master, reading a great deal of Buddhist literature from many different traditions, and meditating in a number of different ways can change a person, can bring a person to follow a different path. Volunteering in an Iraqi hospital can be the eventual result of an evening's zazen, for instance. Or a person may, after reading one of Venerable Master Hsing Yun's treatises on compassion, organize a food drive for the less fortunate in the neighborhood.
But these are only the more tangible effects. What's not as easy to see is a better understanding of the world around us. A better ability to recognize the kinds of behavior that will lead to further suffering - and the mindfulness to avoid those kinds of behavior.
And these are some of the more important ways, I think, in which Buddhism is (and I have hopefully begun to become) different.
Does it mean that they just don't think about my religion? Do they not care if I'm a Christian or not? Or are they just assuming that I won't take exception to the email?
It's not a huge problem, of course. I delete a lot of emails anyway. Sometimes, I feel like people are trying to change me. I feel like they're trying to convince me that their beliefs are right and mine are wrong.
Buddhists don't try to convert others. Can you imagine sending out Dharma messages, three a day, to your entire global address list, even though you know perfectly well that not everyone on that list is a Buddhist? Can you imagine the nasty responses you'd get if you filled the inboxes of everyone you know with pointless messages, extolling them to find time in their day for your liturgy? Even though I never send out Buddhist emails, links or whatever to anyone, I probably recieve twenty or more Christian-related emails every week.
But every now and then, I recieve on email that talks about why people set God aside. Why do so many people not go to church any more? Why do so many people want God to be removed from public life, kicked out of the courts, and banished from the schools?
Well, I think this is part of the reason. I'm sure you can understand how someone could get the impression that you're ramming your beliefs down their thoat, if you keep sending them Christian emails even though you know that's not their belief.
Seems to me like, if you want respect for your beliefs, then you should show some respect for everyone else's, too. Now, I'm not suggesting that you show a lot of respect for the belief of someone who thinks that Jack Kennedy was the Second Coming of Christ. But at least, if you realize that person beleives differently than you do, I don't feel that it's right for you to constantly push your beliefs on him.
The people who are sending me these Christian emails know and understand that I have nothing to do with that particular belief system, but they don't care. And I'm left to suspect that this special brand of non-caring is part of that system.
It's still up to me to be compassionate about the whole thing, isn't it? I mean, it wouldn't exactly be skillful behavior for me to simply bash these folks for their efforts. But at the same time, I feel like it would be nice, at least once in a while, if someone on that side of the road took a moment to recognize that they're not the only family on the block.