Archives for April 2008

Quote of the Day

By Paulo Coelho

Those who never take risks
can only see other people’s failures.
(Eleven Minutes)

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Tibet and reincarnation

By Paulo Coelho

Upon being asked by the journalist Mick Brown, whether he was a reincarnation of the previous Dalai Lamas, the present Dalai Lama answered:

– This is a very complicated matter. Some people are reincarnated, others are merely symbols of the being they ceased to incarnate. Through my previous lives I believe I have strong ties with my people, and all my spiritual work manifests itself in that which I can do to bring back freedom to my country.

In other words: the Dalai Lama doesn’t answer ” yes” or ” no”. However, according to Tibetan Buddhist teachings, our subtle conscience – which exists in all human beings, but which is normally dormant – lives on after death. All the actions, gestures and intentions of the life which has just ended, are stored in this subtle conscience; and all this, after remaining in empty space for a time, ends up finding its physical form once again, in a new body.

The Tibetan people store in this subtle conscience (a variation of that which we know as soul) a cycle of behavior which will help in the next life. The more often one repeats the task, the stronger the mark it leaves behind will be – thus, religious rituals are almost daily.

Mick Brown says that our culture does not accept the idea that a subtle conscience can remain dematerialized in order to then manifest itself once again. However, Peter Kedge believes that the natural talents we see in certain children – such as a gift for music, or mathematics – are the results of a conscience which has lived before, and now manifests itself once again.

In Tibet, this conscience is not only deliberately developed, but when a master dies, he seeks to leave clues so that his next body can quickly be recognized.

One of the better-known recent cases is that of the Spanish boy, Osel, who is now 11 years old and lives in northern India. In 1935 the Lama Yeshe was born, who spent his life studying Tibetan mysticism, was exiled during the Chinese invasion and ended his days in California. On the day of his death, he called his favorite disciple and said that this time he would be reincarnated in the West. Some years passed, and the disciple dreamed about Yeshe, asking him to go and seek him.

Which is what he did: visiting the various monasteries founded by his master, he ended up in the town of Bubion, in southern Spain, where he found a boy who had been born on the exact day of his dream. He showed the boy a series of bells and counting beads; the boy, who was then 2, selected the very one which had belonged to the Lama Yeshe – and was proclaimed his reincarnation, and taken to a monastery in order to be educated according to Tibetan rituals.

The predecessor of the present Dalai Lama indicated where he would be reborn. Three or four years after his death, monks went to a village in eastern Tibet, and found a child who fitted the description. This child – the present Dalai Lama – was taken to the Potala palace, in Lhasa. As soon as he arrived, he began walking around the palace very naturally, and at a certain moment saw a box.

– My teeth are in there – he said.

And in fact, the box did indeed contain his predecessor’s false teeth.

There is a reason for the vague answer given by the Dalai Lama to journalist Mick Brown: all great Tibetan masters always leave similar clues to the above example, but it is impossible to verify or authenticate them outside their cultural context. This has resulted in a series of false masters popping up here and there around the planet, claiming to belong to a lineage of truly wise men, but whose single goal was to gather a group of disciples to contribute financially to their well-being.

The Dalai Lama’s brother, Tenzin Choegyal, says:

“As a Tibetan, I believe in the reincarnation of man. But the West only seems interested in the exotic side to our customs – the oracles, rituals and ceremonies. None of that has any importance: the highest ideal, the miracle of Buddhism, is to allow any human being with an empty heart to become a person filled with love and compassion.”

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Excepts from ” Punch line for a digital age: Take my e-mail. Please!”

by Randall Stross The New York Times

E-mail has become the bane of some people’s professional lives. Michael Arrington, the founder of TechCrunch, a blog covering new Internet companies, last month stared balefully at his inbox, with 2,433 unread e-mail messages, not counting 721 messages awaiting his attention in Facebook.

Arrington might be tempted to purge his inbox and start afresh “” the phrase “e-mail bankruptcy” has been with us since at least 2002. But he declares e-mail bankruptcy regularly, to no avail. New messages swiftly replace those that are deleted unread.For most of us who are not prominent bloggers, our inbox, thankfully, will never become quite so crowded, at least with nonspam messages. But it does not take all that many to seem overwhelming “” for me, the sight of two dozen messages awaiting individal responses makes me perspire.

Eventually, someone will come up with software that greatly eases the burden of managing a high volume of e-mail. But in the meantime, we perhaps should look to the past and see what tips we might draw from prolific letter writers in the pre-electronic era who handled ridiculously large volumes of correspondence without being crushed. (…)

We all can learn from H.L. Mencken (1880-1956), the journalist and essayist. Mencken adhered to the most basic of social principles: reciprocity. If someone wrote to him, he believed writing back was, in his words, “only decent politeness.” He reasoned that if it were he who had initiated correspondence, he would expect the same courtesy. “If I write to a man on any proper business and he fails to answer me at once, I set him down as a boor and an ass.”

Whether the post brought 10 or 80 letters, Mencken read and answered them all the same day. He said, “My mail is so large that if I let it accumulate for even a few days, it would swamp me.” Yet at the same time that Mencken teaches us the importance of avoiding overnight e-mail indebtedness, he also reminds us of the need to shield ourselves from incessant distractions during the day when individual messages arrive. The postal service used to pick up and deliver mail twice a day, which was frequent enough to permit Mencken to arrange to meet a friend on the same day that he extended the invitation. Yet it was not so frequent as to interrupt his work.

Today’s advice from time-management specialists, to keep our e-mail software off, except for twice-a-day checks, replicates the cadence of twice-a-day postal deliveries in Mencken’s time. We can handle more e-mail than we think we can, but should do so by attending to it only infrequently, at times of our own choosing.

http://www.iht.com/articles/2008/04/20/business/digi21.php

Today’s Question by Aart Hilal

When did you start writing and what has inspired you?

A pilgrimage was my rite of passage. All of a sudden, walking during 56 days from France to Santiago de Compostela, in 1986, I realized that the connection with God was simpler than I thought, and that was better to, instead of trying to understand why am I here, start being here and accepting that God must have a reason for that. I my case, I always thought of being a writer, but I was 38 years then, and I thought it was too late. However, at the end of the pilgrimage, I said to myself: if you want to be here, you need to fight for your dreams. And I decided to write my first book.

Quote of the Day

By Paulo Coelho

Whoever wants to fight the Good Fight
must regard it as if it was a vast treasure
that is there waiting to be discovered
and conquered.
(The Pilgrimage)

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The sound of OM

Interesting article – sent to me by Reine Willing:

According to Hinduism the whole universe started from the sound of OM. The new discovery seems to corborate it.

Earth gives off a relentless hum of countless notes completely imperceptible to the human ear, like a giant, exceptionally quiet symphony, but the origin of this sound remains a mystery.

Now unexpected powerful tunes have been discovered in this hum. These new findings could shed light on the source of this enigma.

The planet emanates a constant rumble far below the limits of human hearing, even when the ground isn’t shaking from an earthquake. (It does not cause the ringing in the ear linked with tinnitus.) This sound, first discovered a decade ago, is one that only scientific instruments “” seismometers “” can detect. Researchers call it Earth’s hum.

Investigators suspect this murmur could originate from the churning ocean, or perhaps the roiling atmosphere. To find out more, scientists analyzed readings from an exceptionally quiet Earth-listening research station at the Black Forest Observatory in Germany, with supporting data from Japan and China.

Different types

In the past, the oscillations that researchers found made up this hum were “spheroidal” “” they basically involved patches of rock moving up and down, albeit near undetectably.

Now oscillations have been discovered making up the hum that, oddly, are shaped roughly like rings. Imagine, if you will, rumbles that twist in circles in rock across the upper echelons of the planet, almost like dozens of lazy hurricanes.

Scientists had actually expected to find these kinds of oscillations, but these new ring-like waves are surprisingly about as powerful as the spheroidal ones are. The expectation was they would be relatively insignificant.

New thinking

This discovery should force researchers to significantly rethink what causes Earth’s hum. While the spheroidal oscillations might be caused by forces squeezing down on the planet “” say, pressure from ocean or atmospheric waves “” the twisting ring-like phenomena might be caused by forces shearing across the world’s surface, from the oceans, atmosphere or possibly even the sun.

Future investigations of this part of the hum will prove challenging, as “this is a very small signal that is hard to measure, and the excitation is probably due to multiple interactions in a complex system,” said researcher Rudolf Widmer-Schnidrig, a geoscientist at the University of Stuttgart, Germany.

Still, a better understanding of this sound will shed light on how the land, sea and air all interact, he added.

Researcher Dieter Kurrle and Widmer-Schnidrig detailed their findings March 20 in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.

(Source : Charles Q. Choi – Special to LiveScience )

Stories of kings and wise men

By Paulo Coelho

The ancestor’s bones

There was a king of Spain who was very proud of his ancestors, and who was known for his cruelty to the weak.

One time, he was walking with his advisers across a field in Aragon, where – years before – he had lost his father during a battle, when he found a holy man searching a large pile of bones.

– What are you doing there? – asked the king.

– Honored greetings, Your Majesty – said the holy man. – When I heard that the king of Spain was coming this way, I resolved to recover the bones of your late father and present them to you. But however hard I search, I cannot find them: they are exactly the same as the bones of country folk, the poor, beggars and slaves.

Fetch another sort of doctor

A powerful monarch called a holy father – everyone said he had healing powers – to help him with his back ache.

– God will help us – said the holy man. – But first let us understand the reason for these pains. I suggest Your Majesty confesses now, for confession makes men face up to their problems, and liberates much guilt.

Annoyed at having to think about so many problems, the king said:

– I do not wish to speak of these matters; I need someone who heals without asking questions.

The priest went off and returned half an hour later with another man.

– I believe that words can relieve pain, and help me to discover the right path to a cure – he said. – But you do not wish to talk, and I cannot help you. This is the man you need: my friend here is a veterinarian, and does not generally speak to his patients.

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Today’s Question by Aart Hilal

What events in your life did change you somehow?

My life changes in a daily basis. Every day – and this goes for everyone – has a magic moment, which I have to seize and follow. As Carlos Castaneda says: “every warrior has a cubic centimeter of good luck, and his wisdom consists in following this cubic centimeter.”

My unfulfilled desires

My unfulfilled desires

One of the favorite questions of the journalists : ” now that you got everything you wanted, do you still have dreams?”

First, I didn’t get everything I wanted, although I got the most important things in life (love, fulfilling my personal legend, faith). Writing is a constant challenge, where you have to dig into your soul, having discipline, inspiration, and courage at the same time.

Second, like everybody else, I have my list of things that I want to do, and are still waiting. I don’t make “New Year’s” resolutions, but there are several unfulfilled tasks. I have enough time (contrary to the legend that famous people are always busy – they are not), I can afford, but I postpone.

Here is my list of things that I would love to do, and I never did. Would you please also share yours?

A]to learn how to dance well (from a 1 to 10 scale, I would say I am 2)

B] to learn how to play guitar ( from the same scale, I am definitely 1)

C] spend three months in a monastery, totally isolated from the world ( I already talked to the abbot three years ago, but I am always postponing)

D] a safari in Africa (politically incorrect, of course)

E] to sponsor a good boxer (I know it sounds politically incorrect, as the previous item, but boxing for me is the ultimate body dialogue)

F] to learn boxing myself

G] being in orbit circling the planet (the Russians are making a business out of it, but I never actually sought the information out)

H] to have dinner with Nelson Mandela (this one I tried, but I did not manage so far)

I] to fly a Mirage (as a passenger, of course)

While writing this list, I realized that I did most of the things I wanted (the most recent being a 9.280 kms train journey from Moscow to Vladivostok, in 2006). And probably I also have some other itens that are so hidden in my heart that I don’t even know. But just in case that I remember some more, I will update this list.

So, what are your “New Year” resolutions that you never ever managed to fulfill?

Warrior of the Light Newsletter no.170

Read the new issues from “Warrior of the Light Online” :

Edition n° 170 : The act of writing – the reader

Edií§í£o n° 170 : O ato de escrever

Edición n° 170 : El acto de escribir – el lector

Édition n° 170 : L’acte d’écrire

Edizione n° 170 : L’atto di scrivere

Quote of the Day

By Paulo Coelho

We are allowed to make a lot of mistakes in our lives, except the mistake that destroyes us.
(Veronica Decides to Die)

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Threatened charity

By Paulo Coelho

Some time ago, my wife helped a Swiss tourist in Ipanema, who said he had been robbed by pickpockets. He spoke terrible Portuguese with a heavy accent, and claimed to be without a passport, money or place to stay.

My wife bought him lunch and gave him enough money to stay the night in a hotel while he contacted his embassy, and went off. Some days later, a Rio newspaper printed a story about this “Swiss tourist”, who was in fact nothing but a creative conman putting on an inexistent accent, and taking advantage of the good faith of people who love Rio and, eager to exorcise the negative image which – fairly or not – has become our city’s postcard.

Upon reading this news item, my wife’s only comment was: “well that won’t stop me from helping people.”

Her comment reminded me of the story of the wise man who, one afternoon, came to the town of Akbar. No one took much notice of his presence, and he was unable to interest the population in his teachings. After a time, he became an object of laughter and sarcasm among the townsfolk.

One day, as he wandered down Akbar’s main thoroughfare, a group of men and women began to insult him. Instead of pretending not to be aware of what was going on, the wise man went over to them and blessed them.

One of the men commented:

– Is it possible that, on top of everything else, this man here is deaf? We hurl abuse at you, and all you do is reply with beautiful words!

– Each of us can only offer the other that which is his – was the wise man’s answer.

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Money vs Happiness?

In today’s Herald Tribune, I read the following article:

Maybe money can buy happiness after all
By David Leonhardt The New York Times

In the aftermath of World War II, the Japanese economy went through one of the greatest booms the world has ever known. From 1950 to 1970, the Japanese per-person economic output grew more than sevenfold. Japan, in just a few decades, remade itself from a war-torn country into one of the richest nations on earth.

Yet, strangely, Japanese citizens didn’t seem to become any more satisfied with their lives. According to one poll, the percentage of people who gave the most positive possible answer about their life satisfaction actually fell from the late 1950s to the early ’70s. They were richer but apparently no happier.

This contrast became the most famous example of a theory known as the Easterlin paradox. In 1974, an economist at the University of Pennsylvania named Richard Easterlin published a study in which he argued that economic growth didn’t necessarily lead to more satisfaction.

People in poor countries, not surprisingly, did become happier once they could afford basic necessities. But beyond that, further gains simply seemed to reset the bar. To put it in current terms, owning an iPod doesn’t make you happier, because you then want an iPod Touch.

Relative income – how much you make compared with others around you – mattered far more than absolute income, Easterlin wrote.

The paradox quickly became a social science classic, cited in academic journals and the popular media. It tapped into a near-spiritual human instinct to believe that money can’t buy happiness. As a 2006 headline in The Financial Times said, “The Hippies Were Right All Along About Happiness.”

But now the Easterlin paradox is under attack.

(…)

Two economists, Betsey Stevenson and Justin Wolfers, argue that money tends to bring happiness, even if it doesn’t guarantee it. They point out that in the 34 years since Easterlin published his paper, an explosion of public opinion surveys has allowed for a better look at the question. “The central message,” Stevenson said, “is that income does matter.”

(…)

Economic growth, by itself, certainly isn’t enough to guarantee people’s well-being – which is Easterlin’s great contribution to economics. In the United States, for instance, some big health care problems, like poor basic treatment of heart disease, don’t stem from a lack of sufficient resources. Recent research has also found that some of the things that make people happiest – short commutes, time spent with friends – have little to do with higher incomes.

(…)

Today’s Question by Aart Hilal

In your novel “The Valkyries” the main character is Paulo Coelho. Is this book autobiographical?

So it is in “The Pilgrimage”, and in a paragraph in “Veronika decides to die”. When writing, you have to base your work in something that you experienced, although inspiration plays a very important role.

Quote of the Day

By Paulo Coelho

Love is an untamed force.
When we try to control it, it destroys us.
When we try to imprison it, it enslaves us.
When we try to understand it, it leaves us lost and confused.
(The Zahir)

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Irrational vs Rational

By Paulo Coelho

Recently I read in an article by David Mehegan in The Boston Globe about the release of the book “Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions.” by Dan Ariely, a behavioral economist at MIT.

This book seemed very appealing to me because the author proves, by a series of behavioural experiments, that humans tend to act much more irrationally than rationally.
Indeed, as the journalist puts it:

“Ariely’s book explores the varieties of nonsensical economic thinking, such as:

We value things more when we pay a higher price for them. The Bayer aspirin and the Rolex watch
seem valuable because of how much they cost, not because they’re better in practical terms than a generic aspirin or a Timex.

Relativity distorts reality. We might be earning 10 times more money than we earned for the same work a decade ago, but we’re convinced that we’re underpaid if the people around us are earning more.

Easy choices make decisions difficult. The more nearly equal two alternative products, jobs, or presidential candidates are, the more agonizing the choice between them.

We’re hopeless suckers for the word “free” on an item for sale, even if there’s a hidden cost and the product is something we don’t need or even like.”


Indeed, how many times the power of the word “free” plunges us into an unnecessary buying spree of things that as soon as we leave the store we already regret?

Why do we keep on postponing decisions and most importantly let ourselves be guided by this illusion of abundance?

If the reasons of this irrationality are impossible for us to see, at least, Ariely’s book seem to give some sort of comfort.

We can learn from our mistakes and refrain from making the same irrational gestures that we afterwards we feel bad about.

The solution then lies in our ability to bypass our “wired-in tendencies”.

Ariely’s book is interesting in the realm of economics. It not only reveals that much of our “rational” decisions are actually irrational, but also that our rationality can guide us to step away from a vicious circle.

I believe nevertheless that when one gets away from this economic perspective – this tendency is reversed.

Sometimes it is by letting our irrationality take over that we actually manage to see our true path.
What’s your take on that?

Love
Paulo

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How the path was forged

By Paulo Coelho

In issue nr. 106 of Jornalinho, (Portugal), I find a story which teaches us much about that which we choose without thinking:

One day, a calf needed to cross a virgin forest in order to return to its pasture. Being an irrational animal, it forged out a tortuous path full of bends, up and down hills.

The next day, a dog came by and used the same path to cross the forest. Next it was a sheep’s turn, the head of a flock which, upon finding the opening, led its companions through it.

Later, men began using the path: they entered and left, turned to the right, to the left, bent down, deviating obstacles, complaining and cursing – and quite rightly so. But they did nothing to create a different alternative.

After so much use, in the end, the path became a trail along which poor animals toiled under heavy loads, being forced to go three hours to cover a distance which would normally take thirty minutes, had no one chosen to follow the route opened up by the calf.

Many years passed and the trail became the main road of a village, and later the main avenue of a town. Everyone complained about the traffic, because the route it took was the worst possible one.

Meanwhile, the old and wise forest laughed, at seeing how men tend to blindly follow the way already open, without ever asking whether it really is the best choice.

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