Tag Archive: Do No Harm


Life requires a series of ongoing daily chances which are often dealt like random cards from a casino dealer. The chances we take are enormous. Small events, the crisscross of human paths etched as we transverse each day. Most dismiss these small events as mundane. Yet each path offers opportunities for both opportunities of joy and sorrow. Quirks of time, moments of interconnected strangers passing between brief singular points of focus.

I don’t know singer and entertainer Ariana Grande. If I heard her music, I wouldn’t recognize it. However, late last night, I checked Ms. Grande’s Twitter for the very first and last time in my life. Two days prior, her account hovered over her tour, tour notes, and upcoming performance events. Forty-eight hours later, Ms. Grande’s was filled with love and vile. I’m unsure why, as some claim, how Ariana Grande is sole heir to the deaths of concert patrons.

From a tragic event, comes continued pain and joy. For those who left the arena uninjured, joy. For the fourteen or so who remain unaccounted, everlasting anguish. Here one minute, gone the next. Where are they? Alive one second, ghosts another.

If there is ever a time I question God’s honor, it’s especially ripe in such moments. If we truly admit, such times are an open scar for the world to bear. Why do children have to perish in such horrific ways? Surely, I would have given my life for any of the missing. Yet, 4,600 miles from the destruction, I remain alive. The victims are not.

I have no answers to long sought after questions. For many, God remains as silent today as several hundred years ago. In truth, Jesus, nor God, nor early Biblical writers offer much hope for victims of terrorism. One preacher I heard shortly after September 11th stated that 9/11 in and of itself was a test of faith. I tend to reject such allusions. Let’s confirm we aren’t sure what God beliefs are.

From my Buddhist training, I reach back to the eightfold path and grasp the first three: the right view, the right thought and the right speech. My view rightfully suggests this was a horrific event. The right thought is to honor those who lost, including the performer. Ariana Grande is just another victim in a list of many. Lastly, my speech is one of comfort not hatred.

We must choose to “Do No further Harm” to any of the victims. Doing otherwise forsakes the path of love we are commanded to carry.

Rather to have chosen the vile, I choose love. To those who lost or suffered in Manchester. I offer my love, my tears and heart.

img_0015Protests erupted on campus of the University of California Berkeley late Wednesday that canceled a scheduled speech by conservative Milo Yiannopoulos, a self-proclaimed “troll” and editor for Breitbart News. The university blamed the violence on a group of 150 masked agitators who came onto campus and interrupted an otherwise non-violent protest.

I worry about “the heckler’s veto” being used to shut down free speech. We live in a country where people of all faiths, politics and ethnic backgrounds should be allowed to freely speak.

What we find is one political party or president uses hate tinged speech to justify hatred versus policy. We’ve all seen it, “unethical and corrupt media,” “she’s sick,” “a senator’s father helped kill a former president,” “an attorney betrayed their staff,” “You’re a Republican, I’m a Democrat, so I can learn nothing from you.” “Screw you,” they say. “No. Screw you first,” we reply.

As a Buddhist, it’s important to understand everyone has a legitimate right to feel and think the way they do. No one is wrong simply because he or she has a different point of view. Factual observations and other evidence may lead either to disagree, but the person always remains honorable.

For example, I listen to far-right and alt-right perspectives. Not so much because I agree with their position, but rather to understand. Our 2016 Presidential candidates accused one another of racism and bigotry so often they forgot about the people. By stating falsehoods, we race-bait. Anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant, anti-women ideas are key tenets of such racist ideology.

Lastly, few, if any, understand that if one person wins an argument, you both lose. This is problem most politicians, including our President, fails to understand. When winning becomes the number one goal, you’ll eventually fail. Need an example? Former “Apprentice” contestant Omarosa Manigault warned all Trump critics they will soon be bowing before him. I will leave it at that.

Lastly, unless you in a country with a dictator, free speech shouldn’t have to hide. Protesters argue hate speech isn’t free speech. Why not? If so, why do free speech protestors have to hide behind masks? And if so, why do many such protests devolve into destruction?

In response To Berkeley protests, one blogger posted:

“President Trump must take action. We must get our colleges back from these radical haters. Any university that accepts federal funds must provide a balanced education. For every leftist professor, there must be a conservative professor. American universities are out of control.”

In the wake of Black Lives Matter movement and other protests, we’ve seen a clamoring for “safe spaces” whereby affected parties can process pain. What we require are spaces by which we can discuss and exchange ideas.

America is a free speech country. However, we really need to relearn the ability to agree to disagree agreeably.

DreadlocksOver the past year or so, the country’s racial battles have been cast in black-and-white terms — with black folks on one side, white folks on the other. Other avenues often expressed are the entitled versus the poor.

Recently, a video showing a black San Francisco State University campus student accosting a white student over his dreadlocks has reached both news and blog infamy. Bonnie “Bonita” Tindle lectured Cory Goldstein about how being white means he shouldn’t have dreadlocks, calling it “cultural appropriation.”

Since America seems to be under some detailed microscope, old ideas about its racial dynamics have been extensively challenged. Writer Wedaeli Chibelushi noted that part of the oppressive culture (I presume white), the white student emulates minority tradition (I presume Black) while ignoring the discrimination that came with it.

Really?

I simply cannot recall a single instance where dreadlocks have been patented to a specific race. Corey Goldstein was correct when explaining dreadlocks are not the sole preserve of black culture. The style has been traced back to Ancient India, Egypt and Greece. Critics claim Goldstein isn’t immune to the accusation that now surrounds him: that he’s guilty of “cultural appropriation.

Really?

Critics require a reality-check, everyone one is guilty of cultural appropriation.

On May 14, 2015, Rihanna arrived at The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute benefit gala celebrating “China: Through the Looking Glass.” Rihanna swooped in, wearing a fur-trimmed yellow cape with floral swirls of gold and a train so long it required three assistants. The ensemble came with a little pink mini-dress underneath, and a sparkling tiara. In keeping with the evening’s theme — China, and its artistic influence on the West — the outfit came from Beijing-based designer Guo Pei, whose sumptuous designs also are on display in the current Metropolitan Museum exhibit, “China: Through the Looking Glass.” At the same event, Lady Gaga, wore a huge kimono-like garment studded with feathers by Balenciaga. Gaga drew cheers when she waved to the crowd packed behind bleachers across Fifth Avenue from the museum.

No one was busted neither Lady Gaga nor Rihanna. Then again, I heard no one talk about China’s labor camps, exiled dissidents, or widespread poverty and corruption in rural areas either.

It’s much harder to patrol the ramparts of our cultures, to distinguish between the appreciators and appropriators. Just who gets to play in which cultural playground?

Today, we question ourselves constantly. Does eating an Israeli-grown avocado mean I effectively fund the war on Hamas? Does drinking Russian vodka mean I approve Putin bombing Syrian hospitals? If I eat high-end chocolate harvested in Africa, do I condone slave labor by Africa cocoa farms, where an estimated 100,000 children are working, with more than 10,000 trafficked? I wear a Buddhist pendant and a silver cross made by a Navajo Indian Artist. Does that make me a cultural appropriator?

And speaking of American Indians, people have been injured, and some have died, in fraudulent sweat lodge ceremonies performed by non-Natives. Utterly horrific. Yet many other forms of cultural appropriation are honored, including New York pizza, Japanese denim, not to mention democratic discourse, mathematics, and the calendar.

Personally, in light of everything going on in today’s world, the only sin Corey Goldstein guilty of is a bad hair style. Whoever did that style for him should never be allowed in a beauty parlor again.

From a Buddhist perspective, the message is tolerance and the beauty that comes out of cross-cultural expression.

Lighten up.

Missouri graduate student on hunger strikeMissouri University President Timothy M. Wolfe, stepped down early Monday morning. Later in the day, the Columbia campus Chancellor R. Bowen Loftin also bit the dust. The issue was Wolfe’s lack of response to a recent spate of racist incidents on Mizzou’s campus, where graduate student Jonathan Butler’s protest received the support of Mizzou’s football team. Butler’s response to recent wave of bigotry came in the form of a hunger strike.

“I will not consume any food or nutritional sustenance at the expense of my health until either Tim Wolfe is removed from office or my internal organs fail and my life is lost.”

It’s good to die for something worthy.

In truth, Wolfe was probably forced out by a set of unified stakeholders, from internal department heads to state legislators. The backstage strategic puppeteering in such high-press cases is amazing. Today, the unique role is litigating in the court of public opinion where evidence and personal bias gets shoved down a listener’s throat is powerful.

One key group was Concerned Student 1950, formed on Mizzou campus in response to racially-motivated incidents. (1950 referred to the year black students were first admitted to the University of Missouri.) Concerned Student 1950 demanded the removal of Tim Wolfe, whom they felt had not handled these incidents well, if at all. Butler noted:

“Students are not able to achieve their full academic potential because of the inequalities and obstacles they face,” he said. “In each of these scenarios, Mr. Wolfe had ample opportunity to create policies and reform that could shift the culture of Mizzou in a positive direction but in each scenario he failed to do so.”

Personal bias aside, “Bullshit!.”

Former Mizzou football player A. J. Ofodile raised a valid point. To Mr. Ofodile, the 1950’s-style oppression wasn’t apparent.

“Through this whole process I haven’t heard one example of any oppressive action or policy that is systemic in nature. I’ve seen tons of examples of individual bigotry and claims that those incidents weren’t handled appropriately but at this point I have to seriously doubt that people fully understand what systemic oppression really is.”

So this is the same Mizzou that’s so racist it elected a black man student body president and homecoming king? Or, are we to believe Mizzou racists systematically elected the black student body president only to hurl racial insults? Is this the same Mizzou that embraced gay defensive lineman Michael Sam in 2014? And nearly 18 months beyond Sam, Mizzou is fraught with racism?

Seriously?

Still, after hearing of Wolfe’s resignation, students danced where activists had set up a tent city. The football team announced that it was ending its strike and hundreds of students chanted in the sun, “I … am … a … revolutionary!” Social media users around the world joined in, tweeting more than 100,000 times the day’s protest.

While I believe incidents of racism must be addressed, what will be interesting is watching how Mizzou students and residents struggle with their response. Even if all the reports of racism prove accurate, Mizzou’s president shouldn’t have been adjudicated via a lynch mob mentality that served no meaningful purpose other than to inflame.

I propose that losing $1,000,000 of football revenue is what really forced Wolfe to resign, more cash than protest. Yes, football gold and the massive amounts of money pouring into the ol’ football coffer.

So I repeat what I wrote after the Ferguson Riots. After the cameras stop rolling, they’ll (Mizzou) be left nearly in nearly the same place they started. After all the sound bites and television interviews, someone will query, “What did we accomplish?“ Probably not a hell of a lot.

Real change requires effort and love. But no worry for Butler. Technically, Butler won. He received his pound of flesh. However, what Butler and others will learn is that whether right or wrong, every university has an adjudication process. And sometimes that very process is goddam slow. You can’t cure cancer via instant soup.

Mizzou will play the remaining three games. That’s approximately $3,000,000 bucks into the coffers. One University President was sacrificed unto the football gods. And football players run the university.

Good Lord! All hail the “Pigskin God.”

bs-md-protests-20141210-001You are suggesting this idea that broken windows are worse than broken spines, right? Freddie Gray will never be back. Those windows will.

~DeRay McKesson to CNN’s Wolf Blitzer~

This past Sunday, I caught the dialogue between Sally Kohn and LZ Ganderson on CNN’s Reliable Sources. At the end of day, Mr. Ganderson posed a question, after all that’s been said and done in Baltimore, “Will anyone care?” Does America want change? Are we really committed to making lasting change?

As I thought about his question, DeRay McKesson’s activism proliferates my thoughts. Can society dialogue without destruction?

I want to believe there is a way to protest that is more than marching but not bloodshed,“ DeRay McKesson told The Washington Post.

And that’s where the protest movement fails. Against the long road of progress, protesting is easier. It’s quick. Raising the conscious thought of America is one thing. Making a last impact in society in and of itself is exhausting.

McKesson emerged from Ferguson a prominent organizer and activist. However, in the wake of Baltimore, Ferguson, New York and others, McKesson’s “Word To Action” online newsletter is nothing more than a list of tweets and quips. Little content actually brings people together to promote solutions.

To highlight, McKesson’s tweeted,

We have become too casual with the word violence — it refers to harm done to people. The police are the only violent ones here” and “Property damage is not violence, it is property damage. Violence is when people are hurt, injured, harmed. The police have been violent.”

Sometimes windows are never replaced. Sometimes businesses close. The Baltimore Sun reported that in addition to damaging an estimated 200 businesses, rioters torched 144 cars, including both police and civilian vehicles. City restaurants lost millions of dollars from a weeklong curfew and fear from long-term harm to Baltimore’s image.

In December 2014, the Baltimore Sun also noted,

The symbolic starkness of medical students sworn to save lives participating in a demonstration known as a “die in” showed just how wide-reaching protests have become.

“People of all races, all different types of people and all different kinds of organizations — not just civil rights organizations — are taking part,” Baltimore NAACP chapter president Tessa Hill-Aston said. “Everyone is seeing that there’s something wrong.”

Empowerment Temple of Baltimore has asked its congregants to wear black to Sunday services in honor of “unnamed African-Americans who have been brutally murdered by police,” church spokeswoman Nicole Kirby said.

So I ask, will society institute police reforms but fail to alter the culture? In and of themselves, police can’t resolve public problems alone. Ferguson’s city council passed several bills to establish a police review board, set limits on excessive court fines and fees exposed after Brown’s death. But substantive much-needed infrastructure investment and community solutions throughout America remains aloof. Solving racial disparity requires a variety of stakeholders creating bold initiatives and solutions that imprint new educational standards, employment and societal opportunities. Little of that effort exists.

To end, I paraphrase poet Ted Hughes. Wherever life takes me by surprise, and suddenly the artificiality proves inadequate, and fails to ward off the invasion of raw experience, it is then we must throw ourselves into the front line. That’ what these moments require. It’s where society must come alive—even if only to be overwhelmed and bewildered and hurt. We must call upon our own resources—those real inner resources, to account, and love, to give, to provide comfort, to enjoy the simple notion that giving unto the man next to me is a worthy and just cause.

As Buddha said: live like a mighty river. Make plans and solutions as though they are the manna of life, then partake partake partake. This is how we get to where we need to be. Protesting is only an act. If any life matters, solutions are mandatory.

PrayforBaltimore-copyChants of “no justice, no peace, no racist police” echoed through Baltimore streets Saturday in a march organizers dubbed as a “victory rally.” Pastor Michael Crawford homilized “Satan wants our city, and he can’t have it. We were born for this hour and we will fight this right away — on our knees.” Crawford further alluded to principalities and powers of darkness being everywhere, but God was greater.

The victory rally came amid a surreal week in “Charm City,” where Edgar Allen Poe eloquently wrote “There is no exquisite beauty…without some strangeness in the proportion.” Here’s a few of the bizarre I saw:

  • Rashid Wiggins sold $10 shirts with the slogan, with “I Matter.” Apparently $10 will ensure one matters;
  • Protesters charged police with “kidnapping” a prominent black community organizer. Never mind the fact the protester was arrested for violating curfew;
  • CNN’s Brooke Baldwin decided to blame the Baltimore riots on returning veterans;
  • Baltimore Orioles and Chicago White Sox played in an empty stadium; and
  • The Ad Council used an ill-advised Public Service Announcement (PSA) promoting a Caregiver Assistance program that included the background audio of a TV news anchor announcing:

Riots nationwide have prompted local governments to declare martial law….the President is asking that citizens find safety and remain calm….authorities are working to contain the outbreak.”

I pondered this mess while watching a lone protester stand in front of the burned-out CVS with sign reading “God heard our prayers.”

Seriously? God heard our prayers?

Let’s highlight some of the insanity.

In Baltimore, police and civilian vehicles were destroyed, businesses looted, and as of this writing, fifteen officers injured.  In summary, Baltimore tallied:

  • 200 Arrests;
  • 15 Structural Fires;
  • 144 Vehicle Fires;
  • National Guard;
  • Curfew;
  • Citizens Attacked; and
  • Police Officers Indicted.

In the wake of Michael Brown, Ferguson recorded:

  • 80 arrests;
  • Over 100 gunshots;
  • 25 buildings burned and/or looted; and
  • Vandalized police cars in Ferguson, Missouri.

Oakland, California residents notched the following in marches for Michael Brown:

  • A looted Starbucks
  • Smart & Final had liquor cabinets pulled off
  • Chase Bank had two front doors smashed
  • Wells Fargo (targeted in previous Occupy and Trayvon Martin protests) experienced broken widows
  • 40 people arrested on charges ranging from assault on a police officer, to vandalism, burglary, public intoxication, and refusal to disperse
  • Officers pelted with rocks, bottles paint and fireworks.

But hey, God answered our prayers. It’s such a wonderful example of God’s intervention. Isn’t it?

I’m amazed how people attempt to find meaning in the absurdity. Truthfully, God answered nothing. The only principality was ignorance and intolerance. They were bred from our inhumanity – bred from deep within our soul.

If that CVS protester was right and God answered Baltimore’s prayer, then His message to those who lost a business was … what? To those who were attacked, did God ordain that?  Was God’s hand of justification empowered through a young prosecutor, the indicted officers or both? To those who lost jobs as a result of destruction, did God answer their prayers as well? I mean maybe they didn’t want to go to work that day. Did God get the prayer wrong, simply fuck up and make a mistake? “Oops, my bad,” God exclaimed.

A part of me wants to yell, “God answered Baltimore’s prayer, but Bosnia, Rwanda, ISIS, Boko Haram, Hiroshima and Nazi death camps were God’s plan? How many people go to bed hungry every night? And now you’re praying for the ‘God of justice?

Borrowing from Rabbi Brad Hirschfield, I openly ask anyone to tell me about God’s plan. But if you’re going to tell me about how His plan answered Baltimore, you better also be able to explain how the plan wiped out so many who had nothing to do with either Gray or the officers. The test has to do with going and saying it to the person whose business burnt down. Look in their eyes and tell them God’s plan was to wipe them out but justice was served. I don’t worship that God, but at least you have integrity.

imageCNN reported the family of Michael Brown filed a civil lawsuit against the city of Ferguson under Missouri’s “wrongful death statute.” The family suit seeks punitive and compensatory damages in excess of $75,000, in addition to attorney fees. My guess? The family will get millions.

The Brown family lawsuit raised an interesting question that I’ve pondered for several hours: “Once there’s a settlement, can the Brown family be sued by a destroyed Ferguson business owner?

Recollecting, as Louis Head (Michael Brown’s stepfather) consoled Brown’s distraught mother after the grand jury announcement, he turned to the crowd of demonstrators and said, ‘Burn this motherfucker down’ and ‘Burn this bitch down.’ While Mr. Head apologized the following day, riots left parts of Ferguson a burning wreck.

In a subsequent police investigation, Mr. Head issued a statement saying that while sorry for screaming ‘Burn this bitch down!‘, to arrest and charge him ‘goes way too far and is as wrong as the decision (of the grand jury) itself.‘ Granted, that stance may be good against criminal prosecution, but how about civil court, where the burden of proof is only a preponderance of evidence?

Should mobs get a free pass to riot and steal in response to unwelcome political outcome? Remember, approximately 25 structures in Ferguson were burned, damaged, or destroyed during riots following the grand jury verdict. Has any of the protesters paid for damage sustained? Sam Chow, an immigrant opened a Ferguson restaurant in 2009. His restaurant practically whipped. Where’s the outrage for the death of Zemir Begic? Begic, a young immigrant who fled violence in Bosnia, was driving home with his fiancée 20 miles away from Ferguson when black teens beat him to death. I don’t recall a single protester speaking for him.

I ponder the outcome of a black business owner’s civil suit against Louis Head and the Brown family for punitive and compensatory damages, especially when statements “Burn this bitch down” contributed to inciting the riots. From prima facia value, if we honor the choice to not prosecute Mr. Head based upon Head’s claim that prosecuting him ‘goes way too far and is as wrong as the decision (of the grand jury) itself,‘ then should business owners completely ignore the option to litigate civily?

At the end of the day, no one can stand in the court of public opinion and shout ‘Look over yonder, but don’t look here (at me).’ Responsibility applies everyone equally – to you, me and Mr. Head.

talking-to-godVisiting an area with heavy snowfall, I was reminded just how stupid many of us can be.

After a night of heavy snowfall, a young professor stormed around the home flabbergasted that the private university she was employed did not cancel academic class. “After all,” she exclaimed, “my secretary called and said roads were awful. It was tough crossing some snow-packed highways, with some having ice.”

I simply stated, “Why chance it? Work from home.”

Fifteen minutes later my friend stated, “Let’s go to the store?”

“Why?”

“Well, the remaining Valentine’s day chocolate is half-off.”

“But didn’t you say road conditions were awful, even treacherous” I responded.

“Yeah, but the store’s a five minute drive.”

And with that, off she went … too treacherous for a drive to work but not treacherous enough to save a couple bucks.

Some conservative Christians claim nothing is random in gambling. As a determinative force, there is no such thing as Lady Luck or Lady Luck. God is sovereign even over the roll of the dice; He is the one who sovereignly determines everything appearing to be random.

As a Buddhist, this is the point within the blog narrative I would state that taking unnecessary risk causes suffering. And the Buddhist way to overcome suffering is by following the Noble Eight-fold Path.

However, being a former rescue man, I made a living pulling people out some strangest things: car wrecks, boating accidents, fighting a barnyard bull while drunk, sex games gone awry, murder, knife fights to drag racing. For instance, since the book “Fifty Shades” sold more than 100 million copies, London fireman have been called out to 393 incidents believed related to sex since April 2014, including 28 incidents involving people trapped in handcuffs. In November 2014, firefighters had to come to the rescue of a man who had a pair of metal rings stuck on his manhood for three days. I personally once rescued a man who stuck his penis into a vacuum cleaner hose … while the vacuum clear was on.

So are all of these things something God knew, created and laughed about? I’ll leave that up to you.

From a simple perspective, how does one know if the risk is stupid? Here are some thoughts:

  1. You rush the process. You perform no homework.
  2. Ignore feedback.
  3. You do something with no skillsets. A high school football player does not make one a hang glider in three easy lessons nor does an excellent home cook make a great chef.
  4. You worry about the details … later.

My friend made it to grocery store, having purchased 5 bags of Hersey’s Kisses at half price. Total savings $12.50. It never occurred to her that 23% of accidents occur under a mile from home. That percent increases exponentially in snowstorms and other inclement weather.

So was that $12.50 worth a lifetime? God only knows.

imageNBC Nightly News host Brian Williams apologized and recanted his story about being in a U.S. military helicopter as it was forced to land under fire in Iraq 12 years ago, Stars & Stripes reported.

You are absolutely right and I was wrong. In fact, I spent much of the weekend thinking I’d gone crazy,” Williams wrote on his Facebook page.

Many of my father’s father’s fish stories are folk lore in rural Wisconsin. My grandfather was a huge fisherman. He loved fishing. He also loved ‘fish’ stories. He was good at them. We’ve all heard them before. “Hey, there was really super duper extra large Bluegill. He had to be at least 17 feet long.” Of course through the years, there was the shark that got away, “God, he was huge. Must have been ninety feet long.” We laughed, he laughed, drank our beer and listened by the camp fire for another regaling battle of man versus nature.

We’ve all had our fish stories. For six days in June 2009, South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford’s whereabouts were unknown. Magically, the Governor reappeared and reported having been on a lengthy leisurely stroll hiking mountains, when in fact, he was in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Senator Rand Paul continually provides misleading statements about vaccine safety, claiming “many” children have developed “profound mental disorders” after vaccinations. There is no evidence any recommended vaccine causes brain damage or other mental disorders. Other notables include Clinton did not having sex with that woman … but did; Al Gore inventing the Internet and Missouri State Senator Todd Akin believing women cannot get pregnant when truly raped. So his loyal voters must feel that those who did conceive, well they must have secretly wanted as such.

The National Review wrote, “Fox News is a personalities-driven opinion network with occasional news reports; it is inevitable that its broadcast hours will be more rapidly punctuated by controversial statements than those of others.. Unsurprisingly, the opinion-heavy Fox News and MSNBC both have relatively high falsehood scores on the PolitiFact report card, while CNN doesn’t. It’s not as though Michaela Pereira never says anything that might be disputed — she simply never says anything that is interesting, true or false, so nobody cares. Or, as PolitiFact puts it: “We use our news judgment to pick the facts we’re going to check, so we certainly don’t fact-check everything. And we don’t fact-check the five network groups evenly.””

Sigh … To be fair, I wasn’t in Brian Williams helicopter either. Wish I did – would’ve been a hell of a ride.

Still, let’s face it, fish stories are everywhere. All of us project our own home movies onto everyone else’s screen. If you haven’t, you’d be an oddball rarity. Christ not included, name one person who hasn’t lied, stretched the truth or told something not factual? When conversing with friends or colleagues, we’ve filtered our stories. If you feel otherwise, go look at your resume. In a 140 character text and one-minute sound bite world, it’s hard to be completely honest. Memories fade and our minds adapt to the moment before us.

Unlike the Ten Commandments, the Buddhist Precepts are not rules everyone must be compelled to follow. Instead, they are personal commitments people make when they choose to follow. Practice of the Precepts is a kind of training to enable enlightenment. Right Speech goes beyond simply trying to not tell lies. It means speaking truthfully and honestly, yes. But it also means using speech to promote good will and reduce anger. Right Speech is using speech to benefit, not to harm.

28india04-master675President Obama attended India’s Republic Day parade Monday, a stunning display of military might, including lavish floats, dance performances, and daredevil feats on motorcycles. Helicopters and fighter jets flew overhead. Military equipment rolled down Rajpath, complete with tanks, rocket launchers and regiments of Indian armed forces marching in formation.

Yet there’s a hidden side to the India political landscape. Prime Minister Narendra Modi is a savvy politician, with more than 6 million Twitter followers and ranked by Forbes as the 15th most powerful person.

In the real world, Modi would be labeled as a “dick.” During his political ascent, he kept his marriage a secret for decades, admitting only last year that his wife existed. Jashodaben Chimanlal Modi is a retired teacher living in a small town in Modi’s Gujarat home state. And although she’s not heard from Modi in years, she still hopes to join him one day in the capital as his spouse. After their marriage, Modi never returned. He never divorced either, even after becoming the high-profile chief minister of Gujarat and then Prime Minister.

Modi seems too self-absorbed. From afar, the suit Modi wore to meet President Obama appears to be navy blue with wide gold stripes. Yet the stripes were actually embroidered letters that spelling out Modi’s name. I don’t know, maybe he forgets who he is and requires such constant reminder.

Still, with all the pomp and circumstance, one would figure India could display something more than modern day weaponry. How about living wages, jobs and women’s rights? In the backdrop of Obama’s visit, there is no easy explanation of a woman’s life in modern day India. Depending upon where you live, whether you are rich or poor, almost every Indian woman has one thing in common: they have most certainly experienced some form of sexual harassment.

As traditional values dissolve, modern values are not widely accepted.

As the New York Times reported, “… in a pointed message, President Obama said India needed to combat human trafficking and slavery, elevate the status of girls and women in society, promote religious and racial tolerance and empower young people. He also argued that India had an obligation to curb greenhouse gases despite its economic challenges.”

Every girl’s life matters,” he said, as his wife, Michelle Obama, watched from the audience. “Every daughter deserves the same chance as our sons. Every woman should be able to go about her day, to walk the street or ride the bus, and be safe and be treated with respect and dignity. She deserves that.”

Just before the speech, Obama met with Kailash Satyarthi, the Nobel Peace Prize laureate who has long fought child slavery in India. Mr. Satyarthi told him there were still five million children living as slaves worldwide.

What if Pranab and Modi dedicated Obama’s entire visit to the referendum of social reform required for modernizing India. By focusing on education, social justice for women, healthcare, quality living away from slums, they could start dealing a severe blow to the prevalent caste system. Instead of a military procession, what if Pranab and Modi opened a chain of schools, hospitals, orphanages and libraries throughout the country? What if India provided relief during famines, earthquakes and epidemics?

That would be very Buddhist, very Christian. What if Pranab and Modi created positive karma for others and not for themselves? Should they have done so, they could transform the law of cause and effect by helping others create their own destiny.

Maybe all of us should do as much.

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