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HBV Newsletter – December 2020

Beat Depression Forever with Meditation
By Dylan Charles
Source: The Waking Times

Doctors and psychiatrists are well-versed in the science of antidepressants. They’ve established a body of research showing how levels of certain brain chemicals fluctuate to affect mood, and they can chemically stabilize someone’s mood with pills.

But truly healing from depression involves many intangible factors such as diet, the support of family and friends, belief systems, self-identity, frustration with work, resolving or coming to terms with childhood trauma or past events, and so on. There really is no one-pill-chemical solution to heal people from depression.

In an article entitled, The Real Cause of Depression Has Been Completely Overlooked, Christina Sarich looks at some of these intangibles.

“Many of us with depression can think back to multiple instances of child abuse, negligence, and abandonment. We were likely raised by narcissistic parents who themselves, were abused. If our parents happened to be fairy-tale perfect, society did its own number on us, either bullying the innocent, exposing us to broken families and rampant poverty, or simply mind-controlling the heck out of us into thinking that because we don’t fit the images paraded before us, we are somehow lacking or inferior.

Our brains are trying to help us live. They become depressed and anxious because they are calling those wounds to the surface so that they can be healed. If we keep medicating them, the wounds will only crash to shore with more vengeance, until we finally understand the Higher Purpose of pain. Just as food can be toxic to our bodies, so can stress. Adverse childhood experiences coupled with real depression-instilling societal norms upheld today have created an epidemic of depression.” ~Christina Sarich

What we do know is that depression takes place in the brain. Some amalgam of thoughts, memories, and brain chemicals combine to cause it. And since it is somehow a function of the brain, then we can employ the tools at our disposal to manipulate how the brain works.

Of course the drug companies have their stake in recommending pills, but the simple (and free) act of meditation can go along way in recovering from depression.

For starters, meditation is an act that increases connection. It allows us to see clearly just how much control we have, or don’t have, over the thoughts and emotions running through the mind. It allows us to identify patterns and programs at work in the mind, by allowing us to isolate the inner happenings of the mind from the external influences inundating us each day.

Furthermore, scientific studies have demonstrated that meditation can be highly effective. In a 2016 article entitled, How Running and Meditation Changes the Brains of the Depressed, Melissa Dahl reports on one such study:

“To test this, Alderman and his colleagues recruited 52 young adults, 22 of whom had been diagnosed with major depressive disorder and referred by a university counseling clinic. (The rest of the participants were “typically healthy” individuals.) Twice a week for eight weeks, all of the study volunteers reported to the lab for MAP training sessions, during which they spent 30 minutes in “focused-attention meditation” and 30 minutes running on a treadmill. At the start of the study, they all took surveys measuring their depression symptoms, as well as a test designed to measure their cognitive control — that is, their ability to harness their own attention. They repeated these tasks at the study’s conclusion, and the researchers’ analysis shows a decrease in self-reported depressive symptoms for both groups — but especially for the group with major depressive disorder. Both groups improved their performance on the cognitive-control test, too.”

Furthermore, according to Reset.me,

Amazingly, a slew of recent studies have found that meditation does actually “shape” the brain; it corrects damage from stress, enhances connectivity between the two lobes and even promotes cell growth in key regions that are underdeveloped in depressed people, like the hippocampus. This means that meditators are changing the actual structure of their brains, thereby rewiring their emotional reactions and thought patterns to a calmer baseline on a physical level. This makes them more resilient to depression permanently.”

Although it is difficult to explain in strict scientific terms, meditation is indeed a powerful tool for overcoming depression. It can positively impact the regulation of thoughts and emotions. We even see it working in schools and prisons to help reduce troublesome behavior and violence. And we see it working to create peace in our world, and we know that with dedicated practice it can create peace in the troubled mind of those suffering through depression.

Interesting Buddhist News from around the World:
Undecaying body of the diseased Buddhist monk:

https://www.buddhistdoor.net/news/tibetan-monk-shows-no-signs-of-decay-26-days-after-clinical-death

Buddhism in Uganda:

https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2020/dec/07/ugandan-monk-bhante-buddharakkhita-buddism-buddhist-uganda-africa-mindfulness-meditation

How Jeff Bridges got his start with Buddhism:

https://www.nickiswift.com/271976/what-most-people-dont-know-about-jeff-bridges/

HBV Newsletter – October 2020

Where Is the Soul?

Various religious groups zealously campaigning for followers, the Buddha’s society produced famous speakers and debaters. They address audiences and argued in public debates, highlighting the soundness of their views. Those who impressed the public most won members to their groups.

Succhka, a strong believer in the soul, was such a famous debater with many victories.  Opponents evaded him, fearing certain defeats. Saccaka’s strength in debates is evident in his own words about himself. Exaggerating his superior skills, he once said, “If I were to engage a senseless post in a debate, even that post would tremble, so what shall I say about a human being?”

One day Saccaka met Bhikkhu Assaji, one of the very first ordained disciples of the Buddha, while Bhikkhu Assaji was going for his alms. As both stopped for a brief, friendly conversation, Saccka inquired about the teachings of the Buddha. “How does your master train his students?” Saccaka asked. Bhikkhu Assaji replied that the Buddha’s training of monks was mainly based on the teaching of impermanence. He further said that the Buddha had accepted nothing permanent in the individual or the world.

That reply annoyed Saccaka considerably because the Buddha’s was an entirely different philosophy from his. “If what I have heard from you is actually what the Buddha teaches, his view is disagreeable, indeed,” Saccaka said. He then expressed his willingness to visit the Buddha one day and to “help the Buddha dispose of his evil view.”

Keeping his promise, Saccaka one day visited the Buddha with a group of about five-hundred people. Some in the group were Saccaka’s supporters while others were either admirers of the Buddha or just curious visitors.

It is interesting how the group behaved in the presence of the Buddha.  Some had a cordial chat with him; some others bowed down in front of him; several visitors just introduced themselves to the Buddha; many others remained silent. After the initial noisy but friendly behavior, everybody, including Saccaka, gradually settled down and sat for a serious conversation.

When total silence prevailed in the atmosphere, Saccaka began to speak. “Sir, I would like to ask you a certain question. Would you allow me permission to ask it?” he told the Buddha.

 “You may ask whatever you wish to,” the Buddha replied.

Saccaka first asked about the Buddha’s view with regard to the concept of the soul in an effort to verify what he heard from Assaji. After hearing from the Buddha that he refrained from accepting such a view, Saccaka challenged the Buddha’s point of view. He gave several speculative reasons to justify the theory of the soul.

The Buddha’s counterargument was based on the analysis of the human being. First, he separated “the human being” into five aggregates: material form of the body, feelings, perception, mental formations, and consciousness. Next, he asked Saccaka which of them would be the permanent, unchanging entity. 

That question seems to have baffled Saccaka. He replied that each of the five aggregates is a part of the self. Looking at the enthusiastic audience of over five-hundred people, Saccaka then said, “This great multitude of people also thinks so.”

“What do these people have to do with you, Saccaka?  Present your own claim,” the Buddha replied assertively.

Saccaka then confirmed his assertion that all five aggregates represent the self.

The rest was easy for the Buddha. He argued that each of the five aggregates, including the consciousness, would be impermanent. When Saccaka eventually agreed with the Buddha’s claim that even human consciousness would be impermanent, the Buddha had already won the debate, for Saccaka would hardly defend a permanent entity in the ever-changing human consciousness.

The end of the debate is the most interesting part of the entire episode. Of course, Saccaka never became a follower of the Buddha, but he appreciated the Buddha’s wisdom by inviting the Buddha for lunch at Saccaka’s residence the following day. The Buddha accepted the invitation.

Majjhima Nikaya: 35; The Middle Length Discourses of the Buddha:: 322-331

HBV Newsletter — September 2020

Is Giving a Cause of Decline?
During one of his constant tours, the Buddha, with a large number of Bhikkhus, arrived in the city of Nalanda in the state of Kosala and was lodging in the Mango Grove. During that time, Nalanda was experiencing a famine. Trees and plants produced little fruit and crop. Food was not as abundant as before.This situation was not a problem for those spiritual leaders who starved themselves as a part of their religious practice, but the Buddha would not do so.  The Buddha, following the middle path, ate moderately, and he expected his ordained disciples also to eat moderately.

The Buddha’s and his ordained disciples’ regular routine was to go for alms once a day.  Wherever they stayed, they took an alms bowl and went from house to house every morning.  Once they received enough food, they returned to the dwelling and ate. When invited by a particular family for lunch, the Buddha and the Bhikkhus visited that house instead of going for alms from house to house.

Now that the Buddha and a large number of Bhikkhus had visited Nalanda during a famine, and that they were to go for alms every day, some opponents of the Buddha thought that they had an excellent opportunity to refute and discredit the Buddha.  They claimed that the Buddha, if he were kind to people, should not have visited Nalanda with a large number of monks during a famine.

After much preplanning, the Buddha’s opponents sent to the Mango Grove one headman of the city, asking him to challenge the Buddha in an argument.

After initial greetings, the headman sat down and asked his first question: “Sir, don’t you in many ways praise sympathy for families, protection of families, and compassion for families?”

“Yes, headman, I do, of course,” the Buddha replied.

“Then, why are you touring [here in Nalanda] with a large number of Bhikkhus at a time of a famine, scarcity, and drought?  You are [actually] working for the suffering and destruction of families [instead of their wellbeing]”

The Buddha replied that he had never known a family that had gone bankrupt because of giving away cooked alms. He indicated that giving itself is a sign of progress instead of being a sign of decline.

Elaborating further, the Buddha gave the following eight causes for the decline of families: confiscation of wealth by the king, robbery, fire damage and water damage to the property, failure to save wealth properly, mismanagement of wealth, having a wastrel in the family, and the universal law of impermanence.

Samyutta Nikaya 1V: 42. 9; The Connected Discourses of the Buddha: 1345-1346

Newsletter – August 2020

How to React to a Disagreeable Speech
Some profound statements of the Buddha remain unnoticed, and the following is just one of them:

“Some are extremely gentle, extremely meek, and extremely peaceful so long as a disagreeable speech does not touch upon them. However, only after a disagreeable speech reaches them, one can understand whether they are actually kind, gentle, and peaceful or not.”

This utterance indicates that one’s personality development can be tested by one’s reaction to opposing views and arguments. Any individual can be gentle when his or her views are approved by others, but the well-developed person remains pleasant even when his or her views are opposed by others.

Elaborating on what he meant by gentleness, the Buddha advised further:

“You must train yourself in the proper way [before responding to what people say]. They may talk to you at the right time or wrong time; they may tell you the truth or a lie; the way they talk may be gentle or harsh; their speech may be beneficial or useless to you; [finally,] they may speak with a wholesome intention or with an unwholesome motive.

However it is, you must train like this: “Our minds will remain unaffected, and we shall utter no unpleasant words; we shall remain compassionate for their welfare with a mind of loving-kindness, without inner dislike’”

What is most fascinating in these instructions is the Buddha’s view that the development of communication skills is not just an external act; rather, compassion toward the listener should predominate throughout the process of communication. Even though one speaks at the wrong time, tells lies, uses harsh words, offers useless and harmful instructions, and reacts angrily, still the skillful listener should keep the compassion towards the speaker intact.

Majjhima Nikaya: 21; Middle Length Discourses of the Buddha, 217-223

Vihara news
Next YouTube Live-Stream Service on Sunday, Aug. 2nd

Maha Sangha will  conduct the next live-stream morning service on Sunday, August 2nd, at 9:00 am. We are requesting parents to mark the service on calendar and participate with their children.

Vas Aradhna on Monday, August 3rd

Vassa Aradhana (invitation to the rain retreat) will take place on Nikini full-moon day (August 3rd) at 8:00 pm.

Considering the wellbeing of the monks and the community, only a few Vihara members will physically participate in the event, and all of you can participate in it through Zoom Live. We will send the link Sunday.

Vassa observance Begins on August 4th

Vassa observance by Ven. Rahula and Sirirathana Theros will take place the following day, August 4th, and will end on Vap full moon day, Oct. 30th. The day of the Kathina ceremony will be announced later.

Vassana Programs

A special Dhamma speech will be given every Saturday, and a Bodhi Puja will be held every Sunday. Notably, several distinguishing members of Maha Sangaha in Sri Lanka and in the USA will give several of the Dhamma talks through Zoom Live.

Bhante Sathi Will Give the First Dhamma Deshana

The first of the Dhamma Deshanas will be given on Saturday, August 8th, by Ven.  Peradeniye Sathindriya Thero (Bhante Sathi), abbot of the Triple Gem of the North, Minnesota. Venerable Thero is well known to the Houston Vihara community.

Anuruddha and Irani Kulatunga family will sponsor this Dhamma program. The Vihara appreciates their sponsorship.

Sponsorship of Programs

Our faithful devotees may take sponsorship of each Dhamma Deshana and Bodhi Puja and receive enormous blessings, which may be shared with their departed loved ones, wishing them the ultimate bliss of Nibbana.

In the past years, sponsoring a program means a lot of activities, including preparing dinner for the participants. However, the current situation has simplified sponsorship this year.

In sponsoring a Saturday Dhamma Deshana, it is the responsibility of the sponsor family to:

1. Invite their friends and family members to participate in the live Zoom program.

2. Offer a Parikkara (donation) to the the Bhikkhu who gives the speech

In sponsoring a Sunday Bodhi Puja:

1. You may physically participate in the Puja with flowers and the like.
2. You offer a donation to the Bhikkhu who conducts the Puja

Several families have already volunteered to sponsor some programs. On the day of Vassana invitation, the Vihara will send the list of the Dhamma Deshanas and programs for your sponsorship.

Announcement 2020/08/21

Live-stream Dhamma Talk in English by Most Venerable  Udairiyagama Dhammajiva Maha Thero:
Saturday, August 22nd, at 8:00 pm
The 3rd of the Dhamma Deshana during the Vassana season will be given by Ven. Udaeriyagama Dhammajiva Thero in English. It begins at 8:00 pm. Ven. Maha Thero is a renowned meditation teacher.

Dhamma Deshana is sponsored by Anuruddha and Irani Kulatunga  family.

Please use the following zoom link to join.
https://us02web.zoom.us/j/5087885805

Live-stream Bodhi Puja during Vassana Season by Ven. Sirirathana Thero:
Sunday, August 23rd at 8:00 pm
Venerable Karamidule Sirirathana Thero will hold the 3d of the live-stream Bodhi Puja series on Sunday at 8:00 pm. Pradeep and pramitha Matarage family will sponsor the program.

Please joint the Puja through this link:

https://us02web.zoom.us/j/5087885805

The Vihara appreciates volunteering to sponsor each program by the two families. 
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Note: Please enable original sound for the best quality sound especially when there is chanting. Detailed instructions on how to change this settings is found below. It is necessary to create a free Zoom account.
https://youtu.be/v5fiCoc6nxE for PC Laptops

https://youtu.be/tUtStq289_0 For Mobile Devices

Wishing You the Blessings of the Triple Gem!

Newsletter – June 2020

There could be more than 30 Alien Civilizations in our Galaxy

Note: This research article draws our attention for two reasons:

1. The ancient Buddhist scriptures state that there are 31 planes of existence, You can learn about that teaching here:
https://www.accesstoinsight.org/ptf/dhamma/sagga/loka.html

2. Pali Buddhist texts state that life on earth, as well as the life of earth itself, is numbered. (Sattasūriya sutta in the Aṅguttara Nikāya AN 7.66) The following research article also agree that our civilization could be short lived.

———————————————————————————-

By Adam Smith / The Independent UK

There could be more than 30 alien civilizations in our galaxy, researchers have found in a major study.

A new paper looked to understand how many planets in our neighborhood could be home to alien life, by assuming that life develops on other planets in a similar way to how it develops on Earth, and matching that to planets that could be home to similar evolution.

It found that there could be dozens of active civilizations waiting to be found in our Milky Way. But it could also shed light on our own fate, and suggest our prospects for long-term survival are lower than we may have thought.

“There should be at least a few dozen active civilizations in our Galaxy under the assumption that it takes 5 billion years for intelligent life to form on other planets, as on Earth,” Christopher Conselice of the University of Nottingham said in a statement.
“The idea is looking at evolution, but on a cosmic scale. We call this calculation the Astrobiological Copernican Limit.”

One is the ‘weak’ limit, which suggests that intelligent life forms on a planet any time after 5 billion years. The other is the ‘Strong’ limit where life formed between 4.5 billion and 5 billion years years ago.

The new research used the latter, and also assumed that these new species would need to develop in metal-rich environments. This is because human beings developed near a metal-rich environment, due to the metal present in the Sun.

Previous research from 2012 suggests a suitable “minimum stellar metallicity” required for the formation of planets that would be similar to Earth.

Researchers were then able to use those assumptions about where life may form to understand how many planets in our Milky Way would be able to satisfy those conditions.
Detecting any civilisations in our galaxy is strongly dependent on how well we can pick up signals being sent into space.

These include radio transmissions from satellites and television. If these technological civilizations last as long as ours, which has been sending out signals for the last century or so, then it is estimated there could be 36 ongoing intelligent civilizations.

While that might be the case, interacting with them would be difficult. The average distance to any possible civilization would be 17,000 light years, which makes communication very challenging.

The other scenario is that we are the only intelligent life in the galaxy, and that civilisations die out before we can detect them.

“Our new research suggests that searches for extraterrestrial intelligent civilizations not only reveals the existence of how life forms, but also gives us clues for how long our own civilization will last,” Professor Conselice said.

“If we find that intelligent life is common then this would reveal that our civilization could exist for much longer than a few hundred years, alternatively if we find that there are no active civilizations in our Galaxy it is a bad sign for our own long-term existence. By searching for extraterrestrial intelligent life — even if we find nothing — we are discovering our own future and fate.”

The new study was led by the University of Nottingham and published today in The Astrophysical Journal.

This is not the only recent news to imply the development of intelligent life in the galaxy. Scientists have found a potential habitable planet called ‘Proxima b’ around the star Proxima Centauri, approximately 4.2 light years from the Sun.

It receives comparable amounts of energy to that the Earth gets from the Sun. If there is liquid form on the planet, it could harbor life, but researchers said there is still much to be done before that can be confirmed, such as checking for the atmosphere and chemicals that could support life.

Vihara News

Monthly Sila Program and Dhamma Talk on Saturday, July 4th

Saturday, July 4, is the Esala full-moon day. The Vihara will offer two programs on July 4th for you to participate in from home. They both are through YouTube live streaming. You can join the programs here:

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCLYkdpllIW2xEyis2G1ULUw

Once you are on the page, join the live programs by clicking.

7:00 am: Administering the Eight Precepts and morning Puja

7:00 pm: Dhamma Deshana in Sinhala and Terminating Sila observance

(Since Sila observants find numerous online sources that offer Buddhist programs for them to participate in from home, the Vihara will offer only these two program tomorrow.)

Vassana Retreat Begins on Nikini Full Moon Day

All the Nikayas in Sri Lanka have come to a consensus that the Vassa season begins immediately after the full moon day in August. Accordingly, resident monks at the Vihara will observe the rainy retreat on August 4, 2020, the day following the Nikini full moon day.

You will receive a separate message with details about the Vas Aradhana, programs during the Vassana season, and the Kathina ceremony.

Next Live-Stream Service on Sunday, July 5th

Maha Sangha will conduct the next live-stream morning service on Sunday, July 5th, at 9:00 am. We are requesting parents to mark the service on calendar and participate with their children.

Newsletter – February 2020

Seven Noble Principles for a Nation to Prosper
The Sutta Pitaka shows that King Ajatasattu, the ruler of Magadha kingdom, never had a close relationship with the Buddha.  Ever since Ajatasattu became a patricide, the Buddha showed no interest in a close relationship with the king.  Ajatasattu, in the meantime, openly insulted the Buddha and attempted to destroy the Buddha’s reputation.  He would support various thinkers and religious leaders, but not the Buddha.However, over the time, the Buddha reached the pinnacle of his popularity as a great spiritual leader while the king had become a nuisance to the neighboring states as a war monger. Ajatasattu’s next preparation was to attack and destroy the Vajji Kingdom, a powerful state.

The king was not that much confident, anyway. He was well aware that Vajji was a powerful kingdom, and that an invasion of that state would not be that easy. However, his enormous power hunger ever increasing, Ajatasattu had no intention to give up the enticing attack.

Now, all of a sudden, Ajatasattu began to think about the Buddha—not as a source of moral support to subdue his uncontrollable hunger for power but as a possible prophet to predict about his war victory!  The king summoned Vassakara, his chief minister in the state of Magadha, and assigned him the following duty: “Visit the Buddha and show him my respect. Then, inform him my intended invasion of Vajji Kingdom.  Keep in your mind what the Buddha will say and report it to me immediately.”

This plan of king Ajatasattu is very shameful and unbecoming indeed if, at least, he remembered what the Buddha had told him during their only meeting many years ago. While explaining his and his disciples’ moral practices, the Buddha asserted on that occasion that he would never make predictions about victories and defeats of kings who would fight in wars. However, Ajatasattu, in his desperation, was now choosing the same Buddha to make a prediction about the war he intended to fight in.

When Ajatasattu’s chief minister visited the Buddha and conveyed to him the king’s message, Ven. Ananda was also there. After listening to the visitor, the Buddha turned to Ven. Ananda and addressed him. He reminded Ven. Ananda the seven noble principles of Vajjis, the principles that the Buddha himself had taught to them.

The following is the list of those seven principles:

  1. They hold regular and frequent meetings.
  2. They meet in harmony, leave in harmony, and carry on their work in harmony
  3. They refrain from imposing new rules and respect and follow the existent rules.
  4. They respect their elders and seek guidance from their elders.
  5. They refrain from abusing and ill-treating women.
  6. They show respect to and protect their religious places.
  7. They facilitate the leaders of other faiths to visit their kingdom and care about those who have already visited there.
After elaborating on these seven noble principles of Vajjis, the Buddha then turned to the minister of king Ajatasattu and said, “Because the Vajjis are placed on these seven great principles, one should expect only their progress, not their decline.” In other words, the Buddha implied that King Ajatasattu would never be able to defeat Vajjis.

Newsletter – January 2020

Meditation Makes You More Resilient to Mental Decline in Old Age
Source: Daily Mail
Writer: Jaleesa BaulkmanMeditating for just one hour a day can buffer the effects of age-related cognitive decline, new research claims.

The researchers at the University of California, Davis, who carried out the study, can’t explain why the practice has this effect, but previous studies have found that it can cause brain changes that help people keep their mental abilities.

The current study, spanning seven years, examines the long-term benefits people gained from meditating.

As cognitive impairment impacts an estimated 16 million people in the US, researchers suggest meditation could help with brain aging.

For the study, investigators followed-up on previous research they’ve done in 2011, which evaluated the cognitive abilities of 60 people who regularly meditated before and after they went on a three-month-long retreat at a meditation center in the US.
Participants meditated daily at the center using techniques that were supposed to calm them, and help generate compassion, love and kindness among them.

Seven years after the study, researchers asked the 40 participants who had remained in the study how much time over the course of seven years they had spent meditating.

They found that 85 percent of them attended at least one meditation retreat, and they practiced about one hour a day for seven years.

They then completed assessments designed to measure their reaction time and ability to pay attention to a task.

Researchers found that continued meditation practice is associated with enduring improvements in sustained attention and response inhibition, or suppression of actions that are inappropriate.

These effects were significant in older adults who meditated more over the past seven years. They did not show typical patterns of age-related decline in sustained attention.

Previous studies have also found that meditation increase attention span. A 2011 study conducted by the Massachusetts General Hospital found that people who meditate are able to quickly adjust their brain waves – which regulate the flow of information – so that they can screen out distractions.

Another study published in 2012 by researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles found that people who regularly meditate have larger amounts of gyrification, a process that involved the ‘folding’ of the cerebral cortex – which plays a key role in memory, attention and thought.

The gyrification process allows the brain to process information faster and enhances neural processing.

Researchers of the current study said their findings are the first to ‘offer evidence that intensive and continued meditation practice is associated with enduring improvements.’
However, they said more research is needed to determine if it is effective at countering the effects of aging on the brain.

Newsletter – December 2019

Teaching Meditation to Kids in Chicago Swiftly Reduced Crime and Dropout Rates

Source: https://qz.com/432740/teaching-relaxation-to-at-risk-kids-could-lower-crime-and-dropout-rates/The motto “think before you act” may be more powerful than people think.

In a working paper published by the US National Bureau of Economic Research this month, researchers found that a simple, cost-effective after-school program for Chicago high-schoolers focused on slowing down their decision-making process significantly lowered crime and dropout rates for participants and boosted school attendance.

The study analyzed the effects of a Chicago-based program by the organization Youth Guidance called Becoming a Man (BAM). The researchers invited 1,473 Chicago teens, chosen at random from 18 public schools, to participate in BAM programming and compared them to a control group of similar students who were not invited.

The goal of the program, explains coauthor Harold Pollack, a professor at the University of Chicago and the director of its Crime Lab, was to encourage less violent behavior by slowing their automatic response, rather than telling the students to be less violent. ”If you tell the kids never fight, you’re basically saying don’t listen to anything else we’re going to say,” he tells Quartz.

In psychology, humans are thought to develop automatic responses to common situations to save time. For example, American teenagers from privileged backgrounds learn to automatically comply with authority figures, handing over their smartphone to a mugger, or quieting down when a teacher says so.

Low-income teenagers sometimes learn that submitting to authorities on the street isn’t necessarily the smartest or safest choice. For instance, handing over your wallet, instead of shielding you from further harm, may only invite more aggression.
Much of BAM’s training focuses on what is termed “positive anger expression.”

Students learn simple breathing and meditation exercises—slowly exhale, count to four, control your thoughts—to help manage their emotions while making difficult decisions. They also run through exercises that teach the power of positive reactions. For instance, in an exercise where a participant is tasked with getting a ball from a peer in less than 30 seconds, the students learn that grabbing or stealing the ball is considerably less effective than politely asking to hand it over.

The study found that, based on monitoring the students for a year after the program, those assigned to participate in the BAM program were 44% less likely to commit violent crimes, and performed significantly better in an academic performance index that combines academic measurements including GPA, attendance rates, and dropout rates.

Pollack says the research shows there are easier ways to help reduce crime rates among low-income teens. Many people “believe that there are so many deeply rooted, chronic problems that we have to address before we can reduce the rate of violence and crime among young people,” Pollack says. But programs like these, he adds, can be “cost-effective, and a feasible part of a solution.”

Vihara News
Morning Puja and Evening Blessing Service on January 1st

To bless the Vihara community for the New Year, the Vihara has organized two services: a Kiri Ahara Puja at 7:00 am and the traditional blessing service at 6:00 pm.  You are invited to participate.The Blessing Service from 6:00 to 7:30 p.m. will include a special Puja, Maha Paritta chanting, and a brief Anusasana (Dhamma advice) in English.

As done in the past years, please bring flowers for the Puja and Kiribath and/or other food items for you to share after the service.

January Sila Program Conducted by Ven. Sathi Thero

Venerable Sathindriya Thero will conduct the first Sila program in 2020 on Saturday, January 11th.Sila program begins at 6:00 am and ends at 6:00 pm.

Most of you are familiar with Ven. (Bhante) Sathi who has conducted several meditation sessions at the Vihara. He is a leading meditation teacher in the United States. The program will be conducted both in English and Sinhala.

Dhamma Discussion Every Saturday

The Vihara will offer a Dhamma discussion session every Saturday (except Sila observance days) from 5:00 to 6:00 pm, beginning from Dec. 28th. Visiting monk, Venerable Kirama Rathanasiri Thero, will hold the first  session this Saturday (Dec. 28). It is given in the Sinhala language.This series of discussion is based on Suttas. Venerable Thero will discuss Asivisopama Sutta in his initial discussion.

Monthly Dhamma Deshana on Jan. 25th
In 2020, monthly Sila program and the monthly Dhamma Deshana will be given on two different days. The January Dhamma Deshana will be delivered on Saturday 25th. You will receive details of this program in the 2nd week of January.

Newsletter – November 2019

Seven Buddhist Beliefs that Make You Happy, according to Science
Source: https://www.learning-mind.com/I always find it fascinating when new scientific discoveries prove things that religious and spiritual sources have been saying since time immemorial. Recently, science has found some interesting principles of happiness. And it turns out that they are pretty similar to Buddhist beliefs.

I recently read an article by Bodhipaksa the founder of Wildmind, who looked at scientific research published by Yes Magazine. He found some amazing correlations that suggest that living by a few Buddhist beliefs can make you happy.

Here are the principle Buddhist beliefs that can make you happier and more contented.

1. Be mindful

One of the core beliefs of Buddhism is the idea of right mindfulness. When we’re mindful, we stay in the present moment and really pay attention to what we are doing rather than dwelling on past events or worrying about future ones. This is the real heart of Buddhism. Wisdom will emerge if your mind is pure and calm.
Science also suggests that taking the time to savor the moment can increase happiness. A study showed that when people tried to be present in the moment they felt positive benefits. Psychologist Sonja Lyubomirsky found that the participants “showed significant increases in happiness and reductions in depression.”

2. Avoid comparisons

The Buddhist principle of equality says that all living entities are equal. In addition, the Buddhist belief that we are all connected makes a nonsense of comparing ourselves to others. There is no superiority or inferiority when we are all parts of a unified whole.
Studies have shown that comparing ourselves with others can damage self-esteem. Lyubomirsky says we should focus on our own personal achievements rather than comparing ourselves with others.

3. Don’t strive for money

Buddhism says that relying on materialism to bring us happiness is a false refuge. While money is important in that it helps us meet our physical needs, we will not find long term satisfaction in striving for money and material goods.
Scientific studies have suggested the same. People who put money high on their priority list are more at risk for depression, anxiety, and low self-esteem, according to researchers Tim Kasser and Richard Ryan. Money-seekers also score lower on tests of vitality and self-actualization.

4. Work towards meaningful goals

Bodhipaksa says that ‘The whole point of being a Buddhist is in order to attain spiritual awakening — which means to maximize our compassion and mindfulness. What could be more meaningful than that?’ The Buddhist principle of right effort tells us to find a balance between the exertion of following the spiritual path and a moderate life.
Again, science agrees. Though it is not necessary for meaningful goals to be spiritual or religious. People who strive for something significant, whether it’s learning a new craft or raising moral children, are far happier than those who don’t have strong dreams or aspirations,” say Ed Diener and Robert Biswas-Diener.

5. Develop close relationships

To the Buddha, spiritual friendship was “the whole of the spiritual life. Generosity, kind words, beneficial help, and consistency in the face of events” are the things that hold people together. Buddhism also emphasizes the idea of non-attachment, which allows us to love our friends and family unconditionally without any need or desire to control or change them.
Research has found that people who have good relationships with family and friends are happier. However, it is not a number of friendships we have that matters. “We don’t just need relationships, we need close ones,” says Yes Magazine.

6. Practice gratitude

The Buddha said that gratitude, among other qualities, was the “highest protection,” meaning that it inoculates us against unhappiness. It is by being grateful and appreciative that we begin to focus on the blessings in our lives, which makes us more positive and happy.
Science has studied the concept of gratitude extensively. Author Robert Emmons found that people who keep gratitude journals on a weekly basis are healthier, more optimistic, and more likely to make progress toward achieving personal goals.

7. Be generous

Buddhism has always emphasized the practice of dana, or giving. As well as giving money or material possessions, Buddhism recognizes the benefit of giving less tangible gifts such as time, wisdom and support.
Make giving part of your life, and it can help you achieve more happiness. Researcher Stephen Post says ‘helping a neighbor, volunteering, or donating goods and services results in a “helper’s high,” and you get more health benefits than you would from exercise or quitting smoking. Listening to a friend, passing on your skills, celebrating others’ successes, and forgiveness also contribute to happiness,’ he says.

These principles are simple enough to live by and as both spiritual and scientific theories say they can make us happier they are well worth giving a try.

Vihara News
Last Sila Program of the Year on Dec. 14thNext monthly Sila program will be held  at the Vihara on Saturday, December 14th, from 6:00 am to 6:00 pm.

It will be conducted by the visiting monk Ven. Kirama Rathanasiri Thero and Ven. Karamidule Sirirathana Thero.

Both breakfast and lunch will be offered by Vihara members.

Next Two Sunday Classes for Children on Dec. 8th & 22ndDec. 8th and 22nd are the last two days in 2019 of the children’s Sunday school.

On 8th, the children will learn the final lessons of the semester, and on 22nd they will do the year-end evaluation of their learning.