Category Archives: Culture and Lifestyle

How chronic stress can affect the brain’s size, structure, and how it functions:


Stress isn’t always a bad thing; it can be handy for a burst of extra energy and focus, like when you’re playing a competitive sport or have to speak in public. But when it’s continuous, it actually begins to change your brain. Madhumita Murgia shows how chronic stress can affect brain size, its structure, and how it functions, right down to the level of your genes.

TED-Ed Original lessons feature the words and ideas of educators brought to life by professional animators.

Converting Out of Caste: Triratna on the BBC Sun 17 Apr 2016

Maitriveer-Nagarjuna-1200-webListen to this recent BBC radio documentary featuring our very own Maitriveer Nagarjuna! It is about why the Dalits, after generations of oppression, are converting to Buddhism. An interesting listen in that it highlights the problems of caste, which it calls apartheid, as well as the current difficulties the new Buddhists face as they leave the dominant Hindu culture. However, I think it presents conversion to Buddhism as a reaction against Hinduism and underplays the inspiration of following the Buddhist path itself. She says that Dr Ambedkar embraced Buddhism as a political move, when Dr Ambedkar talked of conversion as having both spiritual and material benefits for his people, and for himself as having purely spiritual benefits. He had a deep feeling for the spiritual life and a lifelong interest in Buddhism. As he said himself “Whatever good things I have in me or whatever have been the benefits of my education to society, I owe them to the religious feelings in me”. What is true is that Ambedkar did ‘open the lock on caste’. We have a unique opportunity to help people open a door to a different way of living, to transformation of self and society in the light of the Dhamma. What do you think of the programme?

BBC recording: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p03qkq4

Urthona – a Journal of Buddhism and the Arts

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Urthona is a lively, glossy magazine packed with reviews, art features, photography features, in depth essays on art, music & literature and much more – everything about the arts from a spiritual viewpoint, written by Buddhists for Buddhists!

Urthna-mag-webCurrent issue: Goddesses east and west. Anne Baring on the goddess image. Stunning photographs of Tibet by Mariisa Roth. Ted Hughes and the goddess by Dhivan Thomas Jones. Further details in URTHONA SHOP

LOOK AT FREE SAMPLE ONLINE

Our site: www.urthona.com

Essays and much more: urthonaessays.wordpress.com

Read interviews with remarkable artists like Sahaja who has been painting canvases of Vajrasattva – Buddha of primordial purity.
See a wide selection of high quality reproductions of work by artists at the cutting edge of turning dharma into image.
Savour ten pages of poetry by Buddhist and others, plus poetry reivews of your favourite modern poets.
Be informed about developments and new work in the Triratna arts community.

IFor more details and to subscribe go to www.urthona.com

For editor’s blog with intriguing thoughts on art, nature, society and the universe, plus longer essays on Blake, Seamus Heaney, Aro Paart and much more go tourthonaessays.wordpress.com

A bit more about Urthona (see websites for lots more about our vision and our mission!)

The Blake connection: Urthona magazine takes its name from William Blake’s spirit of the Imagination, Urthona, one of the four Zoas. In his temporal form Los, Urthona is the archetypal blacksmith who labours at his forge to beat out forms which will awaken mankind from spiritual slumber and remind us that this world is ‘all one continued vision of Fancy or Imagination.’

Urthona’s Mission: Our focus is mainly on European and American art, literature and music, from Lucian Freud or James Macmillan to Shakespeare and Sophocles. Most of our writers are buddhists but we do interviews and feature the work of anyone whose work is inspired and relevant to modern spiritual seekers. There are also features on Eastern Buddhist art, for example on Japanese poetry. We explore particularly the work of artists and thinkers who are working to bring about cultural renewal by expressing the sacred dimension of the arts in ways which are relevant to the 21st century. We investigate artists and writers from all eras and cultures who, to borrow a phrase from Nietzsche, ‘grope their way along new experiences, open up new tracks’…Urthona is a magazine for those who are interested in the cultivating the imagination as means to self development. We see the arts as tools of spiritual transformation.

How to find us: Urthona is published annually, in late Autumn. It is sold in all larger Triratna centres & by subscription from the website. If you would like to see it at your centre or group please e mail us! Urthona is a 64 page, A4 format, colour magazine, with a stylish design.

Editor: Ratnagarbha

www.urthona.com

Sangha at the Lucid Body House

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On Friday, October 9, long-time Triratna NYC sangha member Fay Simpson held the inaugural Performance Salon at her recently renovated Lucid Body House in the Kip’s Bay neighborhood of Manhattan. An impressive coterie of artists, performers, and students made for a full house at what Fay hopes will become an ongoing, monthly event.

Fay performed in a dance piece she created, entitled, “Sharla’s Story”. Other sangha members joined her on stage. Josh Heath presented a selection of his paintings from a series called “The Apostles”, while Brian Waldbillig read from his original work, “On Compassion of the Tree”. The New York sangha had notable contingent in attendance: in addition to the performers, Sita Mani, Lara Nahas, Vajramati, and Brian’s dog Dante all showed up to offer support and encouragement.

To find out more about Fay’s work and to check out future events, go to www.lucidbody.com

On Compassion of the Tree

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Liturgy of a World that Passes Away

BRIAN WALDBILLIG

Part I

MEDITATION
Just outside the dining room bay window of my childhood home in Iowa stood a tall tree. To be honest, I don’t even know what sort of tree it was. Was it oak or elm? The tree was old, at least to the little mind of a little man. It was just a tree. And yet, more than most elements of my childhood, the tree still dwells in my consciousness. For all its plainness, I can recall no other tree that was so grand and kind in that little town. Never was there so sweet a tree with such gentle leaves. Perhaps it is the mere nostalgia of a man midway through his journey in this life, a man who could not love a tree when he was a child and now deludes himself with wishful memories. Perhaps it is something else: a wooly intuition that there is something noble and valuable in every experience. That tree is no longer there and I am no longer a little child but, in some way, the tree lives on in me.

The tree is so common an aspect of our human experience that most of us cannot grasp its beauty, significance, or compassion. Perhaps only on a long journey in the desert or across the sea or through the infinite expanse of outer space – those places where the tree seems but fantasy – can our kind laugh with joy or weep in sorrow for something so ordinary as a tree.

The embrace of a grandmother
The compassion of a tree
The infinite expanse of the human heart
These will endure forever

Not long ago I discovered in my own DNA remnants of a past I never knew. From far away places like Northern India and the Caucasus Mountains there are hints of ancient migrations, of survival in unlikely circumstances, of love in the midst of suffering. In the DNA of every human – in your DNA and in mine – there is courage to embark upon impossible journeys, to survive and evolve in hopeless situations. There is ancient wisdom we never knew we possessed.

The human heart is a mystery worth contemplating. Fragile is the heart, bruised and pierced quite easily. It is the very essence of human weakness. And yet, because of that heart our kind is capable of near-infinite love, compassion, and healing. We can forgive anything, even the unforgivable. We can love anyone, even the unlovable.

The heart is sacred, just as you and I are sacred
Just like the stray dog
Just like the wrinkles of an old woman’s face
Just like the sweet refuge of calm waters
Just like the branches of an ancient tree
Just like each and every breath

When I was young nothing seemed so vain, so unnecessary, so terrifying as having children. Now, midway through life’s journey, I wonder differently.

On the tree of every family, of every people
There are many branches
Some are foolish men, others wise women
Some are hopeful children, some cynical elders
There are farmers and beggars
There are peoples of the forest
There are peoples of the sea
There are people of hate and war
Some are deaf and blind
While others are oracles of an impossible future

Should my branch never produce even a single shoot, the tree will continue. My tree will continue. Your tree will continue. OUR tree will endure and the fragile human heart will make many marvelous, unimaginable, glorious journeys.

Part II
SEQUENCE
Our Tree is a tree of suffering
It is a tree of life and hope
Under the shade of its kind boughs
We take refuge from the scorching sun
And from the torrents of rain
Whether alone in silence
Or surrounded by the many peoples
Its roots are watered with tears
Its roots are nourished by blood
Though we are tired and weak
Its noble trunk holds us aright
And its many mighty branches
Reach out to the infinite multitude of stars
To proclaim: WE ARE HERE

LITANY
Though the elders are slaughtered and the children enslaved
The Tree will continue
Though the fields lay barren and rivers flow no more
The Tree will continue
Though the houses are empty and the monuments destroyed
The Tree will continue
Though our world is passing away
The Tree will continue