Aug 5, 2007

Legislating Reincarnation

Sonam Gyatso, Third Dalai Lama, 16th-17th Century

In its continuing effort to crush the influence of Tibetan Buddhism within its borders, China is cracking down on the reincarnation of living Buddhas.

All the reincarnations of living Buddhas of Tibetan Buddhism must get government approval, otherwise they are "illegal or invalid," China's State Administration for Religious Affairs (SARA) said in Beijing Friday.

The SARA has issued a set of regulations on reincarnation of Tibetan living Buddhas, which will take effect as of September 1.

"It is an important move to institutionalize management on reincarnation of living Buddhas," the SARA said in a statement issued Friday.

The regulations require that a temple which applies for reincarnation of a living Buddha must be "legally-registered venues for Tibetan Buddhism activities and are capable of fostering and offering proper means of support for the living Buddha."

I have to admit, this actually struck me funny when I first heard about it; the idea that a government bureaucracy could administrate the comings and goings of souls. But, it's deadly serious.

The 14-part regulation issued by the State Administration for Religious Affairs is aimed at limiting the influence of Tibet’s exiled god-king, the Dalai Lama, and at preventing the re-incarnation of the 72-year-old monk without approval from Beijing.

It is the latest in a series of measures by the Communist authorities to tighten their grip over Tibet. Reincarnate lamas, known as tulkus, often lead religious communities and oversee the training of monks, giving them enormous influence over religious life in the Himalayan region. Anyone outside China is banned from taking part in the process of seeking and recognising a living Buddha, effectively excluding the Dalai Lama, who traditionally can play an important role in giving recognition to candidate reincarnates.

For the first time China has given the Government the power to ensure that no new living Buddha can be identified, sounding a possible death knell to a mystical system that dates back at least as far as the 12th century.

This continues and expands Chinese policies to wrest control of the Tibetan spiritual practices that largely define the occupied people. Having already decreed that only the government can authorize the appointment of its two most important spiritual leaders, the Dalai Lama and the Panchen Lama. His holiness the Dalai Lama, who has lived in exile in India since 1959, selected the reincarnate of the Panchen Lama in 1995. But, Chinese authorities held their own selection ceremony and the boy chosen by the Dalai Lama has since disappeared.

Last week hundreds of Tibetans were taken into custody for protesting the detention of another Tibetan protester, who seized the microphone at an official Chinese event and called for the return of the Dalai Lama.

The reports said the crowd of hundreds responded with a roaring yes when Runggye Adak asked whether the Dalai Lama should return.

"If we cannot invite the Dalai Lama home, we will not have freedom of religion and happiness in Tibet," Radio Free Asia quoted him as saying in a report filed from neighboring Nepal. Many Tibetans go through Nepal to reach the seat of the Dalai Lama's government-in-exile in Dharamsala, India.

Aug 2, 2007

Echinacea Prevents Colds: Newest Study

Echinacea Purpurea (Purple Coneflower)

Studies on the effectiveness of echinacea have been decidedly mixed. Like many natural remedies much of the evidence is anecdotal. That's never been a deterrent for me as I have never believed in one size fits all remedies. (I pendulum test everything. Works for me.) However, a new scientific study concluded that echinacea does, in fact, prevent colds, by a substantial percentage, and seems to shorten the duration and severity of colds.

The paper, published in the July issue of The Lancet Infectious Diseases, used statistical techniques to combine the results of existing studies and reach conclusions based on the larger sample that resulted. The researchers selected only those trials that used randomized and placebo-controlled techniques: 14 studies involving 1,356 participants for the number of colds and 1,630 for the prevention of colds. The studies varied in the dosages of the herb, the duration it was taken and the species of echinacea used, and the number of participants ranged from 40 to more than 300.

The analysis concluded that echinacea reduced the risk of catching a cold by 58 percent. It also found that the herb significantly shortened the duration of a cold, but there was no general agreement about the magnitude of this effect.

“Our analysis doesn’t say that the stuff works without question,” said Dr. Craig I. Coleman, an assistant professor of pharmacy practice at the University of Connecticut, and the senior author of the paper. “But the preponderance of evidence suggests that it does.”

On the subject of herbs, this might be a good time mention that one of my newest affiliates is Mountain Rose Herbs. I don't mean this to be a shameless plug, but a genuine recommendation. I waited for years for these folks to go online and start an affiliate program. I bought from them when all they had was a low-budget, newsprint catalog. Their herbs and oils are top-notch. Highly, highly recommended.