Americans Consider Buddhism as More of a Philosophy than a Religion

Americans Consider Buddhism as More of a Philosophy than Religion - 1During the month of February, within the heart of Eastern Asia, Buddhists will celebrate the death of the great Buddha and his ushering mankind into final enlightenment. Yet in American, many Zen temples have that celebration of Buddha’s enlightenment during the December holiday season. This is just an example of America’s view of Buddhism.

Early Influences of Buddha

Buddhism made its way into the American culture during the late 19th century. This was a time when Americans were intrigued by Oriental mysticism. In fact, it fueled the imaginations of many famous American philosophers, artists, poets, and even world religion scholars.

Many great poets such as Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau were said to have read Buddhist philosophy quite often. And Henry Steel Olcott even visited Sri Lanka in the year 1880 and actually made a conversion to Buddhism, he then went on to found a very popular brand of mystical philosophy that is now called Theosophy.

Additionally, many connoisseurs that admired Buddhist art exposed America to its beauty. Ernest Fenellosa, who was a well know art historian and also a Professor of philosophy , and his fellow Bostonian William Sturgis Bigelow, were some of the very first Americans at that time to travel to Japan. There they converted to Buddhism and collected many pieces of Buddhist art. After returning home, their art collections were the beginning of the famous Arts of Asia collection located at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston.

And then there were the early scholars that studied world religions like Paul Carus who made Buddhist material available to Americans. He was responsible for the publication of The Gospel of Buddha, which is a best-selling group of Buddhist parables, one year after he attended the World Parliament of Religions that took place in Chicago during the year 1893. This was actually the very first time in modern history where members of the world’s largest religions met to find out more about each other’s religious traditions.

More Modern Views

The Buddhist delegation that took place in Chicago which included the Sri Lankan Buddhist reformer Anagārika Dharmapāla as well as the Japanese Zen master Shaku Sōen, the former of which has studied science and philosophy from the west in order to modernize his own traditions. Many of these Buddhists who have been influence by the west are presenting their existing traditions to their current Western audiences as a “rational” and “non-theistic” tradition which has no competing gods, meaningless rituals, or irrational beliefs.

The fact is that traditional Buddhism does have many deities, rituals, and doctrines, as well as ordained priests, sacred texts, sectarian developments, ethics, and other such elements that people would usually associate with an organized faith or religion. The view of Buddhism shifted at the 1893 World Parliament, when Buddhist masters presented their religion’s meditative traditions and rituals to modern America as merely a practical philosophy, and not a religion. This is the same perception that many Americans have of Buddhism to this day.

However, it is believed that these Buddhists didn’t intend to deliberately misrepresent their rituals and traditions; perhaps they only told Americans the things they wanted to hear.

But the end result was that Buddhist merely transplanted a few little branches of Buddhism’s very large tree and planted them into America’s soil. As it turns out, just a few little cuttings of real Buddhist philosophy, meditation, and art actually came to America. There are still many traditional elements from the great Buddha that remain in Asia.

Read more here – https://qz.com/1190957/why-americans-see-buddhism-as-a-philosophy-rather-than-a-religion/

Scientists Discover that Magic Mushrooms might Fight Fascism

Scientists Discover that Magic Mushrooms might Fight FascismScientists believe they may have found an unlikely catalyst in protecting the planet from authoritarianism  – and that is magic mushrooms. These scientists belong to the Psychedelic Research Group from Imperial College located in London. Their data indicates that psilocybin, which is the active ingredient that exists within psychedelic mushrooms, tends to makes folks less apt to adopt radical authoritarian views such as fascism and are much more connected to nature.

Study Yielded Interest Results

Their report was co-authored by Robin L. Carhart-Harris and Taylor Lyons, who are among the top researchers that exist within this field of study. They are reporting that treatments of psilocybin have shown mindset changes that are lasting.

“Our findings tentatively raise the possibility that given in this way, psilocybin may produce sustained changes in outlook and political perspective, here in the direction of increased nature relatedness and decreased authoritarianism,” reported Lyons and Carhart-Harris.

These scientists designed this study to be built on the results of prior studies. These older studies revealed specifics of the political lean of those who use psychedelic drugs. A study from the year 2017 which included 1,487 people revealed that people who took magic mushrooms and LSD were much more apt to claim that they liked spending their time in nature and felt a connection to it. A British study also from the year 2017 which contained 900 people also discovered people using psychedelics typically experiences a bigger connection to nature as well, and they generally had a political view that is more liberal.

A Relatively Small Sample Group was used

What Carhart-Harris and Lyons hoped to understand in this relatively small study – that involved only 14 subjects – was if the use of psilocybin would specifically promote an anti-authoritarian attitude along with nature loving feelings. Their study compared seven people who suffered from major depression and were also resistant to prior treatments to seven people who were the control subjects that hadn’t taken any psychedelic ingredient at all.

The researchers checked the participants prior to starting the treatment, one week into the treatments and once again 7-12 months. They discovered that those participants who took the psilocybin exhibited a clear boost in their attitude of nature connection after only one week. And this effect was also sustained after 7-12 months.

One of the participants commented about the connection to nature which had been transformed:

“Before I enjoyed nature, now I feel part of it,” wrote one subject. “Before I was looking at it as a thing, like TV or a painting… [But now I see] there’s no separation or distinction, you are it.”

The participants also exhibited a marked decrease in any authoritarian attitude and had suffered from fewer depression symptoms as well. And the participants who received no drug at all experienced no such changes at all.

The small sample from this study was actually intentional in part. They wanted to draw an inference regarding cause and effect. But there is no doubt that it is also a limitation – leaving more to be examined in future research. One theory is that psilocybin lowered attitudes about making people yearn for “dear leader” indirectly by reducing their depression. This led the study’s authors to warn that “it would be hasty, therefore, to attempt any strong claims about a causal influence due specifically to psilocybin at this stage.”

Read more here – http://bigthink.com/paul-ratner/scientists-find-magic-mushrooms-could-help-fight-fascism

Poop of Seabirds Help Spread Vital Nutrients

Poop of Seabirds Help Spread Vital NutrientsWe all know that seabirds are full of poop and they are not at all shy about sharing it either. But not everyone is put off by all their pooping. Brand new research is indicating that it is actually a good thing.

Most of us probably don’t know that bird poop is also called guano. And this guano is apparently full of those important nutrients for plants such as phosphorus and nitrogen. Whenever these seabirds get together and breed, they team up and create insane quantities of this manure. Each year, there is over 218 million pounds of phosphorus (99 million kgs) and over 1.3 billion pounds of nitrogen (591 million kgs) which are present in all of their droppings, this is in accordance to a report published recently in the publication Nature Communications.

Amazing Effect of Seabird Poop

After learning precisely the amount of these nutrients that seabirds are cranking out, scientists are now able to predict what changes could occur within the environment should these birds ever die out. In addition, there happens to be a critical goldilocks zone of nutrients that exists within bodies of water. Actually, there is a delicate balance that is required.

If there is too little of this poop, then those species that are relying on these food sources will have difficulty growing. If there is too much, then it can actually become dangerous with algal blooms that could start sucking oxygen out of the water which would kill off the fish. So it is very important to understand and be aware of where the phosphorus and nitrogen comes from. And now we know that a lot of it comes out of the butts of seabirds.

“This is really fascinating,” said Scott Winton, who is an aquatic chemist from ETH that is located in Zurich, Switzerland. Actually, Winton wasn’t involved in this research, but has performed studies on the ways that seagulls spread these nutrients – all the way from bodies of water to landfills. “I love stories like this.”

Incredible Amount of Knowledge was Gathered

Most of the time, we will hear stories about the runoff of nitrogen and phosphorus whenever human or agriculture waste that has caused too much leakage into bodies of water. This causes dead zones just like the one that chokes the Gulf of Mexico. But we also need to understand the effects from other nitrogen and phosphorus sources, such as these seabirds — who get their food out of the ocean, digest that food, and then returning back to the land through their poop. Phosphorus and nitrogen that exists in that poop will leach into all the soil, the underground reservoirs, the rivers and lakes, and also the ocean.

So these scientists who were led by Miguel Angel Huerta-Diaz, who comes from the Universidad Autónoma, that is located in de Baja California, Mexico, was wanting to learn the amount of nutrients that comes from all these millions of seabirds globally. After measuring the number of birds who visit breeding sites, how long all the various species remain there, leaning the approximate the sizes of them, these researchers discovered that the seabirds produce about the same quantity of nitrogen and phosphorus as the fishing industry does. But they do not produce quite as much nitrogen as bean farming. And we know that quite a bit more phosphorus still comes out of rocks and other sediments than out of bird poop.

Read more here – https://www.theverge.com/2018/1/28/16937192/seabird-poop-feces-nutrients-cycles-nitrogen-phosphorus-algae-blooms

4 Ways to Stop Telling People You’re Sorry All the Time

4 Ways to Stop Telling People Youre SorryHave you become one of those chronic apologizers? With every little mishap, you find yourself somehow absorbing the guilt and blame for it and then apologizing. If you stop and think about these situations rationally, then you will probably see that it wasn’t your fault at all. Worst yet, nobody else blamed you either and certainly were not expecting your apology.

Image Damaging Habit

While sometimes people who do this think they are showing themselves to be straightforward and humble, this is not the case at all. Over apologizing actually hurts your credibility and makes you look weak. And if you work every day in a political environmental, guess who people will try to blame problems on behind your back? Your propensity to apologize about everything pretty much confirms that you are the one to blame.

However, there are some actions you can start taking right away to get you on track. Let us look at them:

Four (4) Ways You can Quit Apologizing So Much

1. Come Up with a Solution

All of us are prone to make mistakes at work on occasion. And the proper thing to do is own up to them. For the little screw-ups, just telling the people involved what you did and that you are working to correct it is usually enough. Most of the time, no one even expects an apology. The thing is that apologizers often want to get a “oh that’s okay” out of someone, and apologizing is the quickest way to do that.

In any case, when you screw-up, come up with a solid solution to how you are going to fix your screw-up. If the screw-up is really big, then you should apologize to those involved – but don’t linger on that – get started fixing the problem. If you missed a deadline, then offer them an alternative date that you can uphold.

2. Stand Strong in Silence

Most apologizers hate silence. And because of their inability to handle silence, they start blabbing – and then out from the apology for something. For professional auditors, silence is one of the oldest tricks in the book. Most of them are taught to offer very few replies to the comments of the people they are auditing. This is because many people get nervous during silence and starting talking and they eventually spill their secrets. So learn to be comfortable in the silence of others.

3. Stop and Determine What you did Wrong

This is where you give your rational mind a chance to intervene. Every time you feel the urge to apologize, stop and ask yourself what exactly you did to warrant an apology. Find that reason for apologizing – if you find one and you feel it is sufficient, then go for it. Otherwise, you should just keep quiet.

4. Technology Can Actually Help

Believe it or not, there is a Chrome extension called “Just Not Sorry” which will find words in your emails that are undermining your overall message. It will find the ugly words that can hurt your credibility and weaken your voice. It is very much recommended to give this tool a try.

Conclusion

As you can see, most of the things mentioned above are just a matter of habit, If you become aware of your overapologizing, then you will begin seeing opportunities for improvement.

Read more here – https://www.fastcompany.com/40520565/how-to-stop-yourself-from-saying-sorry-all-the-time

US Keeps Falling Behind after Years of Political Bickering

US Keeps Falling Behind after Years of Political BickeringOver the last decade or so, we have begun to see a sharp division among Americans. During that time, it seems that things have gotten more polarized with very little concessions on either side. Liberals appear to continue shifting left, while the conservatives keep moving to the right.

It appears to me that it has become a battle of socialism versus capitalism. I think most everyone will agree that the Democratic Party has shifted from their role of being the party of labor for many decades to now being the party of social justice. Many of you might disagree, but that’s how I am seeing the current landscape in the United States

Political Bickering Continues to be a Worthless Practice

I could go back and forth about why this political position is better than another position – but there is no point. It has all been said already and we are not going to change anyone’s opinion anyway – only they can decide when to change. And they will voice their view at the polls regardless of what any of us have said to them.

The fallout from all this political bickering has fallen squarely on the citizens of this great country. America used to be a world leader in so many ways, but that doesn’t seem to be the case anymore. All you have to do is look around and get yourself informed – not from your political echo chambers, but from the subjective sources who will tell you straight up what is happening.

Let us look at just a few of the areas where America has fallen dreadfully behind.

Education of Our Children

According to the most recent testing of worldwide children, as performed by the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), American children are now ranking in the middle of the pack after years of being among the global leaders. More can be read via the Link Below:

The US is falling behind academically. This is why 

How do U.S. students compare with their peers around the world? Recently released data from international math and science assessments indicate that U.S. students continue to rank around the middle of the pack, and behind many other advanced industrial nations …

The Health of Our Nation

We are also seeing the overall health of our nation dramatically fall as compared to other counties. For the most part, we can blame the two “Os” for our failing health: obesity and opoids. And as reported recently, the life expectancy of Americans have been falling.

The U.S. is Falling Behind in Life Expectancy

Christopher J.L. Murray, a Professor of Global Health at the University of Washington, is at the forefront of the effort to quantify disparities in health around the world. As the Institute Director of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME), he led 500 researchers from 50 countries to create the Global Burden of Diseases, Injuries, and Risk Factors Study 2010. The study, which is updated yearly, provides estimates of health outcomes for populations in dozens of countries. As he continues his work at the Institute, his goal is “to create the most complete and up-to-date roadmap to help policymakers and donors determine which avenues to pursue to help people live longer, healthier lives.”

Welfare of our Senior Citizens

It is sad that every time the national budget is debated, one of the first things that gets tossed around are the entitlements of our senior citizens. The despicable part of this debate is that most senior citizens have no other options – their welfare depends of the decisions of those who will not be affected by their decisions. How is that fair?

Most of the elderly cannot work to supplement their income in the event of big cut in senior entitlement. This is a growing problem in the United States. Other countries are treating their elderly with more respect and compassion.

U.S. falling behind other countries in retirement security

The U.S. dropped three notches to No. 17 out of 43 countries in a global ranking of retirement security, according to the fifth annual Global Retirement Index ranking from Natixis Global Asset Management.  A number of factors negatively impacted America’s score, including increased longevity, pension fund shortfalls, old-age dependency and related pressure on government resources. One of the biggest takeaways from the report is that the U.S. spends more than most countries on healthcare but is seeing a drop in its life expectancy. In other words, it isn’t getting the best bang for its buck. 

Economic Freedom Index

The Economic Freedom Index is an annual measurement of the world’s nations to determine the economic freedoms that are enjoyed within that country. There are several factors and pieces of data that are taken from every country in order to make the final calculation. Specifically it evaluates the “basic institutions that protect the liberty of individuals to pursue their own economic interests result in greater prosperity for the larger society”.

These measurements have been taking place every year since 1995. America’s score on the Economic Freedom Index used to be among the global leaders but has steadily fallen over the last decade.

US falls in economic freedom index

The United States has slipped to its lowest level in world rankings of economic freedom, according an annual index released Wednesday by the conservative Heritage Foundation. In the latest report, the U.S. ranks 17th out of 180 countries with an economic freedom score of 75.1 out of 100. Last year, the U.S. ranked number 11.

Conclusion

Maybe it is time for Americans to put their fingers back in their pockets instead of pointing them at others. Perhaps we should revisit what the word “compromise” means and start working again to improve the lives of our people – especially those people who are powerless like our children and senior citizens.

Unfortunately, many Americans appear to be willing to sacrifice the welfare of our citizens if it means the failure of the opposing political party. In another words, it is more important to be right than do the right thing.

From where I am standing, all this protesting has not accomplished anything …. Remember Einstein’s definition of ‘stupidity’?

 

Penny Sized Robot that is Precise Enough to Aid Eye Surgery

Penny Sized Robot that is Precise Enough to Aid Eye SurgeryIt seems we see lots of incredible headlines like this one. Today’s technology never ceases to amaze us. We have all heard the old saying that size isn’t everything, but you have to wonder if they were referring to robots when they said that.

Incredible Little Robots

The precision and quickness of these little machines is the reason they are hard at work performing tiny sensitive pick-and-place functions in thousands of factories, and also they are used to control the heads of 3D printers. Now Harvard scientists have discovered that when they are scaled down to millimeter sizes, it allows them to move even faster and become more precise. This has opened all kinds of new applications for them which include anything from microsurgery to handling tiny objects such as circuit board elements or perhaps even living cells.

Robot Components

Most of us have probably seen industrial robots, but these delta robots contains three (3) arms that are controlled individually while supporting a platform. There are various combinations of movements that can drive the platform in three different directions, and an assortment of tools is able to be attached to the platform.

The big engineering benefit regarding this design is that all its motors are located in the base of the unit, rather than at the joints like most typical robotic arms. This drastically reduces the mechanical complexity, but more importantly, it reduces the arm weight. All these factors allow the unit to move and accelerate with more precision and faster as well.

Actually, scientists have long known from the physics of these tiny robots that smaller versions of them would yield bigger advantages. The problem has been the struggle to build them at these small scales.

In a report that was recently published in the journal Science Robotics, these researchers talk about the way they were inspired by origami in the approach to the micro-fabrication used. This was because of the process depends upon the folding of flat sheets of a composite material to build a robot that measures only 15 millimeters by 15 millimeters by 20 millimeters.

The robot was called the “milliDelta” and it features joints that depend upon a flexible polymer core in order to bend—a more simplified version of these more complex joints are found in larger scale delta robots. The unit is driven by three (3) piezoelectric actuators, which flex whenever voltages are applied, and is able to perform movements at frequencies that are 15-20 times higher than normal delta robots.

One possible task for the tiny device is the cancelling of the hand tremors by surgeons while carrying out delicate microsurgery operations, such as those on the retina of the eye. Scientists investigated this particular application in their report. They had volunteers hold a toothpick and recorded the movements of the tip as they mapped natural hand tremors. They then fed the data into the milliDelta, which matched the movements and cancelled out the tremors.

The researchers reported that when they added the robot to the ends of surgical tools, it was able to stabilize scalpels or needles through the optimization of the robot design. For starters, the base was redesigned in order for the fitting of surgical tools, and then sensors were added to the robot to let it measure tremors.

Another potential application for these devices is the placing of components upon circuit boards at extremely high speeds. This is a game changer for the electronics industry. The scientists also believe that it can be used for the manipulation of living cells for medical research.

Read more here – https://singularityhub.com/2018/01/22/this-awesome-robot-is-the-size-of-a-penny-and-precise-enough-for-eye-surgery/

5 Minute Method Helps You Fall Asleep Faster

5 Minute Method Helps You Fall Asleep FasterNeed some help falling asleep? We have all experienced the irritation of tossing and turning – struggling to doze off. Our minds are clouded with an assortment of stresses, worries, and the things we need to do tomorrow. And we know all those things will be worse if we do not get the proper sleep to deal with them.

This problem presently afflicts about one-third of all Americans who also experience difficulties falling asleep routinely. Health gurus are now telling us that sleep deprivation could very well be the reason of many health problems. So many people are searching for the magic ingredients for getting a good night’s sleep.

Discovering a Surprising Solution

A recent study has apparently found a surprise solution to the sleep problem. They had participants who ranged in ages from 18 to 30 perform one of two tasks prior to going to bed. They were either asked to devote five (5) minutes jotting down a comprehensive list of things they need to do tomorrow and also over the next couple of days, or they could spend the same amount of time making a list of the things that they got done that day.

These participants did as directed and carried out one of the tasks before going to bed. Then it was determined exactly how much time it took for them to fall asleep. Those people who made “to-do lists” took around 15 minutes to go to asleep on average, while the people from the “accomplishments list” group took about 25 minutes to fall asleep.

What was also observed was that when “to-do lists” that the subjects made were more vivid and detailed, the more rapidly they drifted off to asleep. This result made the scientists believe that there must be some kind of “offloading” mechanism occurring. This activity of detailing the tasks that need accomplishing allows the mind to ease and be put to rest. The exact opposite result was observed within the “accomplishments” group. When they used more detail in making their lists, it actually took them longer to fall asleep.

Should we begin making to-do lists right before bedtime?

It should be noted here that this study was a bit limited in scope. It was performed with a small sample set of 57 participants, none of which ever claimed to have chronic sleep difficulties. And there was no defined baseline level for the amount of time it would normally take to fall asleep for each subject. This leaves the possibility that making the list actually made it harder for them to go to sleep. But it does reveal that making a “to-do list” seems to work better than making an “accomplishment list”.

Having difficulty with trying to go asleep are among the most prevalent issues throughout the world. For insomniacs like these, potential relief could lie completing an easy five (5) minute method. Even though more research is certainly required to evaluate whether the writing of tomorrow’s to-do list will help people go to asleep quicker, many of us are gonna begin making to-do lists right before bedtime.

Read more here – http://bigthink.com/scotty-hendricks/having-trouble-falling-asleep-a-new-study-proposes-a-five-minute-solution