Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Tuesday before New Year's Eve 2011

A very fun animated clock. Numen Clock
Worth watching for a minute or two.

Death gets his present from Santa

The 10 Best Memoirs of 2011

Reading My Father, by Alexandra Styron
Bossypants, by Tina Fey
[sic]: A Memoir, by Joshua Cody
One Day I Will Write About This Place, by Binyavanga Wainaina
Blue Nights, by Joan Didion
The Chronology of Water, by Lidia Yuknavitch

Robert Ader, 

Who Linked Stress and Illness, Dies at 79

Dr. Robert Ader, an experimental psychologist who was among the first scientists to show how mental processes influence the body’s immune system, a finding that changed modern medicine, died on Tuesday in Pittsford, N.Y. He was 79...
His initial research, in the 1970s, became a touchstone for studies that have since mapped the vast communications network among immune cells, hormones and neurotransmitters. It introduced a field of research that nailed down the science behind notions once considered magical thinking: that meditation helps reduce arterial plaque; that social bonds improve cancer survival; that people under stress catch more colds; and that placebos work not only on the human mind but also on supposedly insentient cells.
At the core of Dr. Ader’s breakthrough research was an insight already obvious to any grandmother who ever said, “Stop worrying or you’ll make yourself sick.” He demonstrated scientifically that stress worsens illness — sometimes even triggering it — and that reducing stress is essential to health care.
That idea, now widely accepted among medical researchers, contradicted a previous principle of biochemistry, which said that the immune system was autonomous. As late as 1985, the idea of a connection between the brain and the immune system was dismissed in an editorial in The New England Journal of Medicine as “folklore.”

Christmas cats playing in the snow

Today Thinley Norbu died.

New condom packages

The Maha Santa Claus Sutra 
by Doug

Thus have I heard. At one time the Buddha was staying in the Jeta Grove monastery of Anathapindaka’s Garden at Shravasti, together with a large assembly of twelve hundred and fifty monks, who were all great arhats, well-known to the people. Among them were great disciples such as the Elders Shariputra, Mahamaudgalyayana, Mahakashyapa, Mahakatyayana, Mahakausthila, Revata, Shuddhipanthaka, Nanda, Ananda, Rahula, Gavampati, Pindola-Bharadvaja, Kalodayin, Mahakapphina, Vakkula and Aniruddha. He was also accompanied by many bodhisattva-mahasattvas, such as the Dharma Prince, Manjushri, the Bodhisattva Ajita, and the Bodhisattva Constant Endeavor. Also present were King Brahma, lord of the saha world, and his followers, twelve thousand sons of gods, the eight dragon kings, the four gandharva kings, the four asura kings, the four garuda kings, and King Ajatashatru, the son of Queen Vaidehi, with several hundreds of thousands of followers.1
At that time, the Buddha said to the Elder Ananda: “If you travel northward from here, passing a hundred thousand asamkhya kotis of Buddha-lands, you will come to a workshop where dwells a Bodhisattva of the tenth-stage named Mahāsānthaklaṣ (Santa Claus), who even now is in a state of deep samadhi.”
“Ananda, why is that Bodhisattva called Santa Claus? In the distant past — innumerable, incalculable and inconceivable kalpas ago there lived a Brahmin named Nikholāṣ (Nicholas). At that time, Nicholas encountered a Buddha named Joy of Gift Giving, who expounded the Dharma. Nicholas was so deeply moved by the teachings he renounced the householder life and made a series of great vows:”
  1. To attain the samadhi of knowing who is naughty and who is nice.
  2. To attain the samadhi of being able to visit all houses in one night.
  3. To attain the samadhi of being able to hear all gifts requested for.
  4. To provide a joyous winter holiday to children everywhere.
Then the Buddha said to Ananda, “Having spoken these verses, Nicholas adopted the pure practices which led to the establishment of a splendid workshop in the North Pole. At that moment, the entire earth shook in six ways, and a rain of wonderful flowers fell from heaven, scattering everywhere. Spontaneous music was heard, and a voice in the sky said, ‘Surely you will attain the highest, perfect Enlightenment.’”
Ananda then said to the Buddha, “Can you describe this workshop to us?”
The Buddha said to Ananda, “Well said, Ananda. I am very pleased with your question. You have shown profound wisdom and subtle insight in asking me this question out of compassion for all sentient beings.
“At Santa Claus’s workshop, there are seven-jeweled ponds, filled with water of the eight excellent qualities. The beds of the ponds are covered solely with gold sand, and from the four sides of each pond rise stairs of gold, silver, beryl and crystal. Above these stand workbenches adorned with gold, silver, beryl, crystal, sapphire, rosy pearls, and carnelian. Besides these ponds are Christmas Trees hundreds, thousands, millions of yojanas tall — the blue ones radiating a blue light, the yellow a yellow light, the red a red light and the white ones a white light. They are marvelous and beautiful, fragrant and pure.
“At each workbench, bodhisattvas whose light emits for one hundred yojanas around their body, toil away day and night making toys and gifts for the children of the world. All the bodhisattvas in the land of Santa Claus will ultimately attain the Stage of Becoming a Buddha After One More Life.
“Ananda, why is this sutra called the Maha Santa Claus Sutra?”
“Ananda, if sons and daughters of good families should, on the 24th night of the twelfth month, leave an offering of milk and cookies and recite this mantra:
Om, maha-santa-klas-ho-ho-ho hum!
Then Santa Claus will fly to their house, as easily as one extends their arm, in a chariot pulled by his eight reindeer attendants, and leave behind a great cart of the seven treasures. Such a disciple will receive an inexhaustible quantity of goods to meet their material needs, thus enabling them to follow the Dharma more easily.”
“Ananda, just as I now praise the inconceivable virtue of Santa Claus Bodhisattva, the Buddhas of the Ten Directions also praise my inconceivable virtue, saying, ‘Shakyamuni Buddha, you have accomplished an extremely difficult and unprecedented task. In this Saha world, during the evil period of the five defilements you have attained the highest, perfect Enlightenment and, for the sake of sentient beings, have delivered this teaching, which is most difficult in the world to accept in faith.’”
When the Buddha delivered this sutra, Ananda and all the monks, together with beings of the whole world, including devas, humans and asuras, rejoiced at what they had heard and reverently accepted it. Having worshiped him, they departed.
Have a Merry and Joyous Christmas too all!

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