Animal Rights and Buddhism

From a Buddhist perspective, it seems to me the tricky part of this question is not "animals," but "rights." The concept of rights developed in western civilization over many centuries and came to fruition during the 17th century or so, in the work of Enlightenment philosophers such as John Locke.  But there was no such concept in the world 25 centuries ago, during the time of the Buddha.

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Advaita Vedanta – Adi Sankara’s views

Adi Sankara's treatises on the Upanishads, the Bhagavad Gita and the Brahma Sutras are his principal and almost undeniably his own works. Although he mostly adhered to traditional means of commenting on the Brahma Sutra, there are a number of original ideas and arguments. He taught that it was only through knowledge and wisdom of nonduality that one could be enlightened.

Sankara's opponents accused him of teaching Buddhism in the garb of Hinduism, because his non-dualistic ideals were a bit radical to contemporary Hindu philosophy. However, it may be noted that while the Later Buddhists arrived at a changeless, deathless, absolute truth after their insightful understanding of the unreality of samsara, historically Vedantins never liked this idea. Although Advaita also proposes the theory of Maya, explaining the universe as a "trick of a magician", Sankara and his followers see this as a consequence of their basic premise that Brahman is real. Their idea of Maya emerges from their belief in the reality of Brahman, rather than the other way around.

Sankara was a peripatetic orthodox Hindu monk who traveled the length and breadth of India. The more enthusiastic followers of the Advaita tradition claim that he was chiefly responsible for "driving the Buddhists away". Historically the decline of Buddhism in India is known to have taken place long after Sankara or even Kumarila Bhatta (who according to a legend had "driven the Buddhists away" by defeating them in debates), sometime before the Muslim invasion into Afghanistan (earlier Gandhara).

Although today's most enthusiastic followers of Advaita believe Sankara argued against Buddhists in person, a historical source, the Madhaviya Sankara Vijayam, indicates that Sankara sought debates with Mimamsa, Samkhya, Nyaya, Vaisheshika and Yoga scholars as keenly as with any Buddhists. In fact his arguments against the Buddhists are quite mild in the Upanishad Bhashyas, while they border on the acrimonious in the Brahma Sutra Bhashya.

The Vishistadvaita and Dvaita schools believed in an ultimatelysaguna Brahman. They differ passionately with Advaita, and believe that his nirguna Brahman is not different from the Buddhist Sunyata(wholeness or zeroness) — much to the dismay of the Advaita school. A careful study of the Buddhist Sunyata will show that it is in some ways metaphysically similar as Brahman. Whether Sankara agrees with the Buddhists is not very clear from his commentaries on the Upanishads. His arguments against Buddhism in the Brahma Sutra Bhashyas are more a representation of Vedantic traditional debate with Buddhists than a true representation of his own individual belief. (See link: Sankara's arguments against Buddhism)

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The Large Hadron Collider May Allow us to Read the Mind of God

Today the LHC may have the potential to explain the origin of all four fundamental forces: gravity, electromagnetism, and the strong and weak nuclear forces. Physicists believe that at the beginning of time there was a single superforce that unified these fundamental forces. Finding it could be the crowning achievement in the history of science.

Through the LHC, we hope to finally prove the existence of the Higgs boson, which is the only particle yet to be observed by the Standard Model. There is a hypothetical, ever-present quantum field that is supposedly responsible for giving particles their masses; this field would answer the basic question of why particles have the masses they do or why they have any mass at all. According to CERN, "The answer may be the so-called Higgs mechanism. According to the theory of the Higgs mechanism, the whole of space is filled with a ‘Higgs field,’ and by interacting with this field, particles acquire their masses. Particles that interact intensely with the Higgs field are heavy, while those that have feeble interactions are light. The Higgs field has at least one new particle associated with it, the Higgs boson. If such a particle exists, experiments at the LHC will be able to detect it.”

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Spe Salvi facti sumus……in hope we were saved

In the encyclical about hope running into about 75 pages, Pope Benedict is not proposing a facile hope in heaven undoing injustices of life on earth. Indeed, this is where he brings in Dostoyevsky. The Pope asserts that "the last Judgment is not primarily an image of terror, but an image of hope". A world without God is a world without hope, and "God is justice". Only God can provide the justice that sustains hope in the better future—the eternal life—for one and all. "God is justice and creates justice. This is our consolation and our hope. And in his justice there is also grace. This we know by turning our gaze to the crucified and risen Christ. Both these things—justice and grace—must be seen in their correct inner relationship."

With justice comes grace, yet "grace does not cancel out justice. It does not make wrong into right. It is not a sponge which wipes everything away, so that whatever someone has done on Earth ends up being of equal value. Dostoyevsky, for example, was right to protest against this kind of Heaven and this kind of grace in his novel "The Brothers Karamazov”. Evildoers, in the end, do not sit at table at the eternal banquet beside their victims without distinction, as though nothing had happened."

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Vatican welcome to Anglicans boldest move since Reformation

The Vatican launched an historic initiative Tuesday to make it easier for disgruntled Anglicans worldwide to join the Roman Catholic Church. The church said the move was not a swipe at the Anglicans but it could nevertheless result in hundreds of thousands of churchgoers unhappy with openly gay and female clerics defecting to Rome.

Pope Benedict XVI gave his approval to a new framework to bring back into the fold Anglicans who oppose their church's liberal stance on gay marriage and the ordination of women priests and gay bishops while allowing them to retain some of their separate religious traditions.

The move comes nearly 500 years after Henry VIII's desire for a divorce led him to break with Rome and proclaim himself as the head of the newly formed Church of England in 1534. The framework is the Vatican's most sweeping gesture toward any schismatic church since the Protestant Reformation in the 16th century and the Thirty Years' War that followed it in the 17th century. That war ended with the Peace of Westphalia in 1648, which acknowledged the right of monarchs rather than the Vatican to determine their national faiths, prompting Pope Innocent X to declare the document "null, void, invalid, iniquitous, unjust, damnable, reprobate, inane, empty of meaning and effect for all time."

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What happened at Lambeth 2008

THE 2008 LAMBETH CONFERENCE of Anglican bishops in Canterbury July 16-August 3 was a milestone in this march of relativism. While nothing extraordinary happened – no fist fights or beatific visions – a number of prelates came away from Lambeth realizing the Anglican Communion no longer worked. Its structures were not a place for holy men, but for hollow men: bishops who knew in their hollow hearts they were stuffed with straw, trapped in a purposeless whirl of apathy and spiritual torpor called "dialogue." The Anglican Communion had finally broken, coming to an end "not with a bang but a whimper."

While past Lambeth Conferences have endeavored to speak clearly on matters of common concern as a guide to the global church, Lambeth 2008 was designed to, and did, decline to draw the line between the irreconcilable claims of the left and right. Gene Robinson's cry that "God is doing a new thing," and that the affirmation of his election as Bishop of New Hampshire showed that "God has once again brought an Easter out of Good Friday," was left to stand alongside the claims of traditionalists like Fort Worth Bishop Jack Iker, who argued that the standard the church must use in moving forward with change was the rule of Vincent of Lerins: a once-for-all received faith, witnessed everywhere and by all. Quod ubique, quod semper, quod ab omnibus creditum est.

While the liberal juggernaut has ground through The Episcopal Church (TEC) over the past generation, carrying prayer book revision and women's ordination with it across the 38-province Anglican Communion, Vincent's 5th century rule had been consistently applied to questions of sexual ethics. At the 13th Lambeth Conference in 1998, bishops of the Communion affirmed by a 7 to 1 margin the church's traditional teaching on human sexuality, as informed by Scripture and the church's unbroken teaching of 2,000 years.

The onus lies with those who seek change to convince the church of the need for it, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, George Carey, explained after Lambeth '98. Listening to proponents of change acknowledges their honorable motives, he told the clergy of the Diocese of Central Florida in 2003, but entering into a conversation with them does not validate their arguments.

"Saints should always be judged guilty until they are proved innocent," George Orwell once wrote of Gandhi, and the same standard applies in the development of doctrine, Lord Carey argued. However, the 14th Lambeth Conference under the presidency of Archbishop Rowan Williams said goodbye to all that.

AT LAMBETH '08, Dr. Williams lost the confidence of his fellow archbishops, and left the Communion millions in debt, and on the same trajectory as before the Conference began. Left and right have rejected his pleas for restraint, vitiating the renewed call in Canterbury for moratoria on gay bishops and blessings and cross-border episcopal actions, pending putative rescue by an Anglican Covenant at some uncertain date. New layers of bureaucracy suggested at Lambeth (e.g. a "Pastoral Forum" and "Faith and Order Commission") remain to be developed at a time when many saw stronger measures to restore order as overdue. Meanwhile, Roman Catholic and Orthodox representatives announced the effective end of talks aimed at corporate reunion and the recognition of Anglican orders.

Philosophically, the Lambeth Conference witnessed the retirement of the historic Anglican guides of Scripture, Tradition and reason in divining truth. Scripture was subordinated to experience and culture, reason rejected in favor of political power, and Tradition debased into equal parts antiquarianism and haberdashery.

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Pope John Paul II and Suffering

Jack Wintz, O.F.M.

When Our Son Told Us He Was Gay

It is no secret that Karol Wojtyla, as a young man and even during the early years of his pontificate, was a picture of health, vigor and vitality. As an athlete skilled in soccer, swimming, canoeing and skiing, he exhibited a great physical presence.

During his papal trip to the United States in 1979, he rode through Manhattan in the back of a limousine with an opening in the roof that allowed him to be visible to the crowd from the waist up. He was in excellent physical condition, waving to the crowds with just the right amount of drama as the vehicle moved slowly along. (This was before the 1981 assassination attempt in Rome and the days of the “popemobile,” with its bulletproof glass protecting the pope.)

These are all reminders of John Paul’s healthier days when he had all the physical stamina and charm any human could want. The pope did regain—for a time—his health and vigor after recuperating from the 1981 assassination attempt.

In the early 90s, however, a series of health problems began to take their toll. In 1992, the pope had colon surgery, involving removal of a noncancerous tumor. The next year he fell and dislocated a shoulder. In 1994, he suffered a broken femur in another fall. An appendectomy followed in 1996. During these years, moreover, a Parkinson-like condition, if not the disease itself, began to reveal its visible effects.

The point of these sobering details is to show that John Paul was clearly entering the part of his life’s journey marked by failing health and suffering.

Describing the Holy Father in the fall of 1998, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger stated: “The pain is written on his face. His figure is bent, and he needs to support himself on his pastoral staff. He leans on the cross, on the crucifix….” Certainly John Paul was beginning to lean on Christ’s cross in more ways than one.

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