These are Those Times! December 20, 2019

Jataka Tales of the Buddha
An Anthology
Retold by Ken and Visakha Kawasaki
A wonderful gift!
Now available in the USA
for for only $30!
Prompt delivery!
Not one penny goes to Amazon!
Click here to order
Payment by PayPal
In February 2017, our report included references to the Maha-Supina Jataka, "The Sixteen Dreams," in which the Buddha explained that, in the future, the world would enter a time of moral decay. We opined that that time seemed to have arrived. We wrote:

Those dreams can be interpreted in terms of the dire political, social, and environmental conditions of the whole planet. With climate catastrophe looming, financial meltdowns pending, nuclear disasters threatening, the energy crisis, dominance by lawless international corporations, with flagrant corruption on every side, and the reality of endless wars, no one is immune. We are all vulnerable and all life on the planet at risk. In the modern world, the proliferation of greed, hatred and delusion is accelerating so fast that it is impossible to keep up. We cannot continue to view what is unfolding around us in a detached way anymore. It is personal, it applies to all, it affects us all, even the wealthiest, the most powerful, the elite. As usual, however, those first affected are those least responsible and the least able to help themselves.

This was just one month after President Trump's inauguration. Now, almost three years later, the situation has become infinitely more outrageous and dire. Every disaster we were facing at that time has intensified. The impeachment process is underway, but the feckless, hypocritical Republicans are denying, distracting, and outright lying about it all. Each day brings new dangers, new evidence of corruption and worse. All of this has consequences, of course; real consequences for the most vulnerable, hapless, and innocent. Hence our disgust at the faux outrage of those complicit, entitled enablers. Reading Amy Zimet's acerbic comments in "Be Best My Ass" from Common Dreams may give you the same relief it gave us.

Let us take another look at some of those dreams and relate them to recent events.

King Pasenadi was so shaken by his dreadful nightmares that he couldn't go back to sleep, but waited, in a cold sweat until the dawn. Would that both common citizens and those in power today would wake up and be shaken by the catastrophes facing us every day!

When the king recounted these dreams to his Brahmin advisors, they immediately saw them as an opportunity for material gain and a chance to feast on the flesh of the beasts they would first ritually sacrifice. To that end, they informed the terrified king that the dreams portended great danger. Happily, the king's wonderfully wise queen, Mallika, advised him to immediately consult with the Buddha. He promptly took her advice.

The king explained his bizarre dreams to the Buddha and begged to know what they meant and what danger they foretold!

(Click each painting to view it a little larger larger.)

In one of the king's dreams he saw four mighty jet-black bulls come together from the four cardinal directions showing every intention to fight. A great crowd of people gathered to see the bullfight, but the bulls only made a show of fighting, pawing and bellowing. Finally, they went off, without fighting at all.

In another dream, men unyoked a team of strong, sturdy oxen, and replaced them with young puny steers, too weak to draw the load. Those young steers refused to pull. They stood stock-still; the wagon didn't budge.

Then there was a hideous horse with a mouth on each side of its head, being fed from both sides at once.

In the next dream, people held out a brightly polished golden bowl, worth a fortune, and implored a mangy old jackal to piss in it, until at last the wretched creature did just that.

Next, there was a huge pitcher already full to the very brim, surrounded by many smaller empty pitchers. Coming from all directions, a steady flow of people came to pour water into the already full pitcher. More kept coming and pouring their water into the overflowing vessel, but not a single person so much as glanced at the empty pitchers.

In another dream, the king saw a deep pool with sloping banks where the deep middle was muddy, but the water at the edges was clear.

Later, he saw a pot of rice cooking on the fire. One section of the rice was sodden and mushy; another was hard, virtually raw; but the third part was perfectly cooked.

Next, the king saw a man bartering precious sandalwood for rancid buttermilk .

Then, in two successive dreams, he saw empty gourds sink to the bottom of the river and while huge, heavy boulders floated on the surface of the water.

In the last two dreams, different animals acted very strangely. Beautiful mandarin ducks with feathers of golden sheen were paying deference to an ugly black crow, and, finally, goats were hunting and devouring terror-stricken wolves.

The Buddha reassured the king that his dreams posed no danger to him or his realm. The Buddha explained that these dreams foretold events in the distant future when all would be topsy-turvy; chaotic; in a state of unrighteousness, moral decay, and dissolution; and on the eve of destruction.

That time is now.

Trump Corruption
The over-arching interpretation of the dreams is one of corruption--corruption at all levels and in all areas of society. Basically, corruption results whenever an individual, a group, an institution, or a government places its own well-being above that of the community or the country and ignores and defies the tenets of morality. Of course, this is the heart of the US impeachment, but corruption extends much further. How many corporations are knowingly damaging the environment and people's health, while lobbying with all their might to skirt or eliminate regulations and lawsuits? How many religious leaders around the world are breaking their own rules of discipline, siding with racists and nationalists, and inciting hatred and prejudice, rather than teaching their avowed doctrines of mercy and compassion,and the universal Golden Rule?

Corruption is one of the biggest global issues of our time. From the Occupy movement to the Ukrainian revolution -- all over the world people are taking to the streets. Whilst their grievances are particular to each country, there remains a common thread throughout -- corruption.

Be it a dictator overseas stealing millions from his country's health budget, to a (government official) representing the interests of big business ... over the ... tax payer, corruption fuels inequality, holds back economic development, and hurts the most vulnerable in society.

Several of the dreams referred to the system of justice. Not only would judges become corrupt and accept bribes (even from both sides), but leaders would appoint inexperienced, biased and unfit judges. President Trump has appointed more than 158 federal judges, which accounts for one fifth of the total. These are lifetime appointments, but all are tainted by partisanship and political favors. During the process of review, many were shown to be incompetent. The worst are thoroughly corrupt and dangerous, as Brett Kavanaugh and William Barr (the Attorney-General himself) have proven themselves to be.

The Buddha also explained that the dreams foretold that greedy leaders (and by extensions, corporations) would make everyone work for them, taking everything within reach, while denying the people a decent living. Modern society is controlled by oligarchs and the 1% who amass immense profit but pay no taxes. Corporate CEOs enslave workers and fight unions. Those who have the power and "golden parachutes" happily cut health care, welfare benefits, school lunches, and a myriad of other social programs, claiming that the poor need to learn discipline.

Several of the dreams revealed how society would be turned on its head. Young, inexperienced, and uneducated minions would be elevated to positions of authority, and the wisdom of the experienced elders would be ignored. We can name a few countries (but we won't) where the Prime Minister or President has appointed his children, brothers, and relatives, rather than competent and experienced candidates, to high posts. President Trump's cabinet, advisory staff, and ambassadors are the most blatant examples of this pernicious nepotism. The Buddha predicted that, when this transition is fully implemented, the former leaders will be completely subjugated and cowed into submission by the incompetent upstarts.

Greedy and shameless religious leaders dare to use their positions to enrich themselves and to expand their power. These clerics offer their precious doctrines to satisfy their stomachs and sensual pleasures.

This upheaval of society will not be limited to the people, but will extend to morality itself. Truth and justice will sink into obscurity, while falsehoods, absurdities, and cruel injustices will become the norm.

Two of the dreams are related particularly to the looming climate catastrophe; weather has become unpredictable and unreliable; the black clouds of the monsoon come together like the mighty black bulls, but despite all the promise, the rains do not fall at the proper and usual time. Like the pot of rice cooking over a fire, one area will have floods, another severe drought and fires, while only one portion will have somewhat normal weather, Food insecurity is rapidly increasing around the globe and the most vulnerable are also suffering from the increasing severity of storms--hurricanes, typhoons, and cyclones--resulting from warmer seas, itself the result of global warming.

Climate catastrophe, wars, oppressive regimes, and social injustices are emptying out the centers of many lands as people are forced to flee from their homes to preserve their lives. Today, there are tens of millions of people who, unable to survive because of war, instability, violence, impossible taxation, droughts, or floods, have abandoned their homes, their villages, and their normal lives to seek safety elsewhere.

Is there hope for the future? What can we do?

If anyone were to doubt that lies have become the norm, take a look at these.

In the face if this onslaught of lies, let's consider an unassuming and straightforward Jataka in which the Bodhisatta was born as a fish of great integrity and compassion. Jataka 75, Maccha Jataka, is not included in our Anthology, but we have named it "The Power of Truth."

(Click the image on the left to read the story.)

Click the photo to see the report.
In November, we vistied the nunnery which we have been supporting for the last few months. We were happy to see the results of our assistance, and we will continue, including collecting books for a small library.

* * * * * *

Click the photo to view photos of Ven. U Thanwara, his monastery, and the pagoda on the Salween.
In 2015, U Htun Aung Gyw, the first Chairman of ABSDF, helped us reestablish contact with Ven. U Thanwara, a monk who was living on the Salween River before the Burmese Army overtook the area. In the '90s, Buddhist Relief Mission had helped him construct a pagoda at his monastery. Ven. U Thanwara had resettled in Mon State. Last month, U Htun Aung Gyaw wrote again, informing us that Ven. U Thanwara was inYangon, was going blind, and needed to have eye surgery. We sent a small amount, but we hope to provide more assistance. Donations are welcome.

* * * * * *

Click the photo to see more photos.
In a previous report, we wrote about a monk staying in the Sangha Ward of Kandy Hospital who was diabetie, had been bitten by a venomous snake, and whose leg had been amputated. In October, we took him to the Centre for Handicapped in Digana to be fitted for a prosthesis. Sadly, the doctor there discovered that there was still a small infection which had not yet healed. It was impossible to proceed until that infection cleared up. We have learned, however, that Kandy Hospital will, after all, take care of his prosthesis when it becomes possible, so no further aasistance is needed from us.

* * * * * *

Calvin Malone, whom we have mentioned so many times in these reports, was finally released from prison on December 3. The day before he was releasesl, he wrote to us:

I will be on parole for two year which only adds to the challenges that I will be facing after being incarcerated for over 27 years. The issue of homelessness is a serious and real possibility for me if I am unsuccessful. At my age, that could also be dangerous, so I am determined to do whatever is necessary to secure a job and adequate housing. Since I am starting from scratch, I anticipate running into several obstacles. But I've never been in a better state of mind or this calm, all of which I credit to my Buddhist practice and the support from the Buddhist community in general.
Cslvin, ca 1995

He began his three-month stay at the Olympia Zen Center (Founder/Teacher: Eido Frances Carney) by joining a meditation retreat. The Center presented him with a laptop, and he immediately wrote us an email, the first we had ever received from him.

It was an emotional departure from the island. Lots of people there gave me a nice farewell, including staff. I feel saddened that so many are left behind, mainly because they have no address to go to. That was my case until the OZC offered me housing. Then, suddenly, I was released. They never told me that was the obstacle to my release!

Calvin is the author of Razor-wire Dharma and co-author of Unlocking Your Potential. Buddhist Relief Mission will continue to support him in his reintegration into society. Donations are welcome.

Recent class sessions centered on an explanation of the Wheel of Life and Death, a visual representation of Paticca Samuppada, Dependent Origination. In line with this, the students played a new game of Concentration. This game, which we recently created, has two sets. One deals with the twelve links of the wheel, and the other, with the other elements of the graphic illustration. The game is unique in that players attempt to match not just two cards, but three–--the image, the name, and the explanation. The cards are in three different colors, and each set has a different image of the wheel on the back.

Everyone who has played the game has found it both challenging and a lot of fun. We are happy to make the game available to all who are interetsed. If you would like to receive a copy, either as a file or printed and cut, please let us know.

Rosalie has just left Kandy after her annual three months here. Her work was mainly at the Blue Rose Special School, where she conducted not only classes for the students, but many teacher- training sessions and workshops for the parents. We are very happy that we were able to help her with preparing the exciting materials she uses. It kept our computer and printer busy. We were also happy to visit the school just before she left. Not only did the students present us with gifts and flowers, but they also gave us a preview performance of some of the dances they were preparing for their concert. It was delightful!

The flowers, two weeks later

In October, we needed an excuse for a party, so we sent out this inviation. We received some lovely gifts, including this poem, these flowers, an elegant lace runner which will grace the table for the next party, an antique Buddha (our New Year's card below), a thriving snake plant, an adorable tiger toothpick holder, and more. Thank you one and all!

Click th poem to view it larger.

For several years, Prof.. Dushyanthi Mendis ("Dushy" to us) has been deeply involved with Justus-Liebig University, Germany, in the development of the International Corpus of English Sri Lanka. This was completed and officially launched in a ceremony in Colombo on November 14. CONGRATULATIONS!

Venerable Samahita
David Masao Kawasaki
Robert Brown
Click each of the obituaries to view it larger.

Sylvia's baby was born, and the family is very happy!
Lunch with three visiting students
Lalitha, Aruni, and Jaya, a photo from our archives
Leo loves vehicles
Julie, Moon, and, Visakha, from our archives
Our landlord and his family dropped in for a short visit on Poya day
Ken was surprised to reconnect with Ann, with whom he went to Atlanta and the March on Washington 1n 1963, after 55 years, and we hope that she will visit us in Kandy.
A visitor who spent one night in our courtyard near a light (which we left on all night for him).
Our new durian tree

Back to Table of Contents

Buddhist Relief Mission