Monday, June 30, 2008

Meatless at Seattle

Meatless in Seattle ; Vegetarian and vegan movements are taken to heart here
Karen Gaudette
Karen Gaudette. Seattle Times staff reporter
1269 words
25 June 2008
The Seattle Times
© 2008 Seattle Times. Provided by ProQuest Information and Learning. All rights reserved.

Seattle is famed for its natural beauty, technological savvy and sometimes paralyzing addiction to consensus. It's also increasingly known as a burgeoning paradise for those who steer clear of meat (vegetarians) and those who avoid meat, eggs, milk and other animal products (vegans).

Had Oprah spent the 21 days of her recent vegan cleanse diet around these parts, she'd have found weeks of options at her fingertips.

There's a vegan doughnut shop (Mighty-O), vegan bakery (Flying Apron), vegan grocery (Sidecar for Pigs Peace), vegan-friendly bar and ice-cream parlor (Georgetown Liquor, Molly Moon's), a vegan deli (Hillside Quickie) and nearly a dozen vegan restaurants. And that's just in Seattle proper.

Restaurants that cater to vegetarians and vegans keep sprouting around Puget Sound, particularly in Seattle, the Eastside and Olympia. Many others offer vegetarian or vegan options. Most of those that don't are willing to omit or add a few ingredients, or at the very least, have a working knowledge of common no-nos. VegFest, an annual festival of vegetarian cuisine and lifestyle organized by the advocacy group Vegetarians of Washington, drew 15,000 this year.

"It's definitely one of the top five vegetarian cities, and maybe even higher," said Joseph Connelly, a big Mighty-O fan and publisher of San Francisco-based VegNews, a magazine devoted to all things vegetarian and vegan.

How is it that Seattle became such a ground zero for folks who eat to the beat of a different drummer?

The region's liberal-leaning politics play a major role, says Michael Hughes, owner of vegetarian eatery Carmelita in Seattle's Greenwood neighborhood. He and his wife, Kathryn Neumann, moved here from Chicago in the early 1990s in part for the political climate.

"It almost seems like Seattle and its environment are a magnet for people who are thinking more environmentally conscious and health conscious," Hughes said. "Seattle's a progressive town, and people can feel comfortable and safe and make a lot more choices and find a lot more choices to make here."

That open-mindedness prompted Jennifer Katzinger and her father, Bill Dowd, to open Flying Apron vegan bakery six years ago. Seattle and the West Coast in general are more open to alternatives of all sorts, and that includes eating habits and cuisines, she said.

Stewart Rose points to the region's immigration patterns and religions. The vice president of Vegetarians of Washington and longtime vegan notes that newcomers from Buddhist and Hindu nations brought their traditional meat-free or low-meat diets, including engineers who came in droves from Asia to work for Microsoft, and other tech hubs. The Northwest also is home to a large population of Seventh Day Adventists, many of whom are vegetarian. These groups opened stores and restaurants to cater to their tastes and needs, Rose said.

"You had the immigration of different ethnic groups, you have homegrown groups that took on everything from yoga to health food," said Rose. "And then you have something else that has been growing in interest and that is the animal-rights movement, which has a very strong presence in the Northwest."

That's what drew Maria Johnson to vegetarianism and, for the past 12 years, veganism. The webmaster for says it's amazing how few people think about what they're eating, how it was raised and where it was raised.

Some local vegans are against killing animals at all; others oppose the way conventional livestock is raised. Both groups keep finding more and more places to sit down together over dinner, Johnson said.

"When I started doing the site, there weren't many options. Now it seems like there's a new option almost all the time," she said. "I think at one time it was kind of believed [veganism] was extremist. Now people are choosing it for different reasons."

Health is a big reason, said Dani Little, a registered dietitian at University of Washington Medical Center. Vegetarians and vegans who follow a proper diet have a lower-than-average risk for obesity, cardiovascular disease, high cholesterol, hypertension, Type 2 diabetes, cancer and diverticular disease. And when they do contract such ailments, she said, they have a lower risk of dying from them. She's noticed a steep increase in plant-based diets over the past two decades, across all ages and ethnic groups. Embracing healthy options is easier here than elsewhere, she says.

"What I notice when I leave Seattle and head east is that the food quality is not as appealing. I feel like we're very fortunate for the produce that comes through here. The quality is nowhere near parallel," Little said.

Nat Stratton-Clarke of Seattle's Cafe Flora agrees that access to fresh ingredients and artisanal breads, cheeses, tofu and other products enabled the movements to easily catch hold. The vegetarian restaurant has held court in Madison Valley for 17 years and was among the first to receive fresh produce deliveries from Carnation's Full Circle Farm.

With so much infrastructure in place, Seattle's communities were ripe for growth as interest in veganism and vegetarianism blossomed across the country.

Alternative diets have gone mainstream as food allergies and intolerances, high blood pressure, obesity and diabetes grow more prevalent. The National Restaurant Association reports that 8 of every 10 restaurants now offer vegetarian options. Books that promote veganism as a path to wellness, including "Quantum Wellness" and "Skinny Bitch," rank high on best-seller lists. Celebrities from Clint Eastwood to Natalie Portman advocate the benefits of a vegetarian diet. The American Dietetic Association has created a vegetarian food pyramid and offers vegetarianism and veganism as heart-healthy options.

And increasingly, folks interested in the globe's changing environment are seizing on their eating habits as yet another way to effect change. A 2006 United Nations report on global warming named cattle rearing as a top source of air, land and water pollution.

Connelly of VegNews pegs the recent boom in local options to the Northwest's prominence as an epicenter for green, or environmentally conscious, living. Many folks going green tend to eat less or no meat, due to the vast amounts of land and energy it takes to feed and raise livestock, he said.

"People are definitely becoming more educated. They are getting an understanding of these issues. And as the people become more aware, businesses respond to that," he said.

Longtime vegetarians and vegans, like Maria Johnson, say it's nice not having to explain themselves as often anymore when they order, and to have more places where friends and family can gather and all find something to eat.

"I remember there was a time when you'd ask, `Can you tell me what's in this salad?' or something pretty basic, and it's amazing how people didn't know. And it's like, `But aren't you making it?' " she said.

"Now, a lot of restaurants actually want to let people know that they have something that's vegan. I've had more people contacting me. Before they just didn't think about it. Now there's competition."

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Oasis of calm at Lumbini

Stupa at the sacred pool
948 words
28 May 2008
Hindustan Times
(c) 2008 HT Media Limited. All rights reserved.

piya bose Hindustan Times

NEW DELHI, India, May 28 -- Nestled in the foothills of the Himalayas in Nepalis a stretch of lush gardens, in the tiny town of Lumbini, the birthplace of Gautam Buddha. Till 1896, the town that is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site was neglected and lost for centuries.

The only references to it were found in ancient texts that called it heaven on earth, and described a beautiful garden studded with stupas and monasteries, with views of snow capped peaks in the distance. The general area was known, but it was German archaeologist Dr Alois Anton Fuhrer who identified the exact location of Lumbini after he chanced upon a stone pillar erected by Emperor Ashoka.

An ancient script inscribed on the pillar confirmed beyond doubt that

this was indeed the place where Buddha was born. Further excavations revealed the remains of a brick temple and a sandstone nativity sculpture that confirmed Fuhrer's claim. Before long, Lumbini began attracting tourists from around the world.

Located a short distance from the India-Nepal border at Sonauli, Lumbini is easily accessible from India by road, train or air from India. The rickety bus that took me to Lumbini, was a time machine that transported me back to an age when the entire town was a beautiful garden, shaded by Sal trees. This tranquil environ was owned by the Shakya and the Kolia clans, and it was here that Maya Devi, wife of King Suddhodhana, gave birth to Prince Siddhartha, (later known as Buddha) under the shade of a Sal tree.

With efforts by local and international communities, the Lumbini gardens and its excavated ruins have been preserved well enough to showcase their archaeological and historical value.

Sacred bathing pool

I hired a cycle rickshaw through the gardens, the monasteries and the excavation sites. It was a pleasant journey and along the way I caught sight of Nilgai and deer. The gardens are also home to rare birds like the Black Ibis, Asian Magpie Robin and the Blue Tailed Bee Eater.

My first stop was at the temple of Maya Devi, the most important place in the gardens. It is believed to have been built over the foundations of more than one Ashokan stupa. A bas relief depicts Maya Devi with her right hand holding on to a Sal tree with a newborn child standing upright on a lotus petal, an oval halo around his head. Currently, due to ongoing excavations, this nativity scene has been moved to a separate shrine.

On the south of the temple is Puskarni, the sacred bathing pool where Maya Devi is believed to have taken a bath before giving birth to the prince. It is also where the newborn had his first bath. Architecturally, the pool has amazing brick masonry with projecting terraces.

The most important place in Lumbini is the sanctum sanctorum, a stone slab foundation containing a set of foot imprints that pinpoints the Buddha's exact place of birth, and draws thousands of pilgrims from around the world.

A leisurely walk through the gardens took me to the bazaar area which sell colourful thangkas (Buddhist paintings), prayer wheels, singing bowls and funky junk jewellery. Pause for chai and a snack before proceeding further.

I visited the beautiful monasteries built by Buddhist nations like Korea, Japan and Burma. Each monastery reflected a unique architectural style through intricate carvings and statues of the Buddha. The stark white Thai monastery commands particular attention, with its pristine interiors and attention to detail.

The Chinese monastery has a large statue of Buddha and is built like a forbidden city. The Myanmar pagoda is built in the style of the Shwedagon temple in Yangon (Rangoon).

Living quarters

For those interested in archaeology, the museums within the gardens are a must visit. The Lumbini Museum located in the Cultural Zone was funded by the Indian government and contains Mauryan and Kushana coins, religious manuscripts, terracotta fragments, and stone and metal sculptures. It also possesses an extensive collection of stamps from various countries depicting Lumbini and the Buddha.

Opposite the museum, the Lumbini International Research Institute provides research facilities for the study of Buddhism and religion. It contains some 12,000 books on religion, philosophy, art and architecture.

To study the ruins further, a visit to Kapilavastu, 27 km away, is recommended. The museum there has a rich collection of pottery, coins and other artefacts.

Scattered across the gardens are excavation sites, mostly kiln brick-and-mortar foundations of groups of stupas and viharas built in the Mauryan, Kushana and Gupta period (between the third and second centuries BC), which probably indicates that devotees of the time wanted to lived close to the Buddha's birth place.

For those who come here for religious reasons, the ideal time to visit is April or May, when Buddha Jayanti, or the birth anniversary of the Buddha, is celebrated. This is also the time, on full moon nights, when Hindus flock to worship Maya Devi as Rupa Devi, the Goddess of Lumbini.

The area outside the garden has several small villages, where the local life of the Terai region can be sampled at close quarters. There are several archaeological sites in this area, as well as a few lakes that are a bird watcher's paradise. Visit the Crane Sanctuary, home to sarus cranes, the tallest flying birds in the world.

As my bus trundled back to the Nepal border, I was overcome with a profound calm that can only come from a visit to the birthplace of the Buddha.

What is lotus theraphy?

So, What Is 'Lotus Therapy,' Anyway?
1398 words
29 May 2008
NPR: The Bryant Park Project
Copyright 2008 National Public Radio, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

(Soundbite of people meditating)


Mindfulness meditation, closing your eyes, clearing your head of all thoughts, and only noticing how you feel as you breathe in and out. It's become a popular psychology tool. Talk therapists of all varieties are encouraging patients to try meditation to help them manage flash floods of emotions during a therapeutic process. The National Institutes of Health is financing about 50 studies to learn whether meditation techniques do, in fact, help things like stress, addiction, depression, hot flashes, and the propensity to buy Bowflex systems off the TV at night. I made that last one up.

So we learned all this stuff this week from a New York Times story we ripped from the headlines. It's a little easier than doing the work ourselves. We - I guess we outsourced it to New York Times reporter Ben Carey, who joins us now to talk about his story, "Lotus Therapy." Hey, Ben.

Mr. BEN CAREY (Reporter, New York Times): Hello.

PESCA: So, you know, was I practicing therapy there without a license there when I was describing how mindfulness meditation works? Just clearing your head and only noticing your breath? Is that about it?

Mr. CAREY: It's pretty bare-bones stuff, and I think that, of course, has been around a lot longer than therapy and pretty accessible to anyone. So I think it could be allowed to describe it in that way. It's pretty close.

PESCA: And how does it work as a therapeutic tool?

Mr. CAREY: Well, I mean, it's used in a whole different bunch of ways, like, for example, one of the most promising ways is to prevent relapse in depression for serious depression. And so what they try to do there is get the person to essentially practice, you know, the pretty basic meditative technique, and once they feel they've sort of mastered the basics then they encourage them to, in effect, sort of let themselves feel, you know, sort of troubling emotions or sort of look at a sort of a soured relationship. And the idea is when you're in this meditative state you kind of just observe this effect on you kind of without fighting it, without trying to, you know, rationalize it or change it or whatever, and you kind of let the feeling pass.

PESCA: Well, that's the idea. So what's the evidence that it works?

Mr. CAREY: Well, there's not a lot of evidence yet. There are a couple studies that have come out of a group that's centered in Toronto that show that, you know, if you incorporate this into some therapy for relapse prevention with people with depression, if they've had three or more, it does seem to cut the risk that they'll relapse again. However, for people who have only had one or two relapses, it's not clear that it's helping them. It might even be making them a little worse than what's happening there. But anyway - so that's still - but it's still early. You know, they're looking at this, and like you say, you know, the NIH is interested in this for a whole bunch of different things.

PESCA: Why would it be harmful? Why would it make it worse? Just that it's not - the underlying problem's not being treated in another way?

Mr. CAREY: Well, no. I mean, that's possible, because you're sitting there, you know, meditating and you're not getting any other kind of therapy, but you know, I mean, it's not always a good idea for people who, you know, have mental issues to have them sort of sit with their mental issues.


Sit with their thoughts.

PESCA: Yeah. Simmer.

Mr. CAREY: Yeah. So you simmer, or they call it rumination, you know, whatever. I mean, so, this might work for some people. You and I might be able to sit there sort of guru-like and watch, you know, our troubles pass before our eyes, but someone else, essentially, if they're in the middle of an acute problem, might just make it worse and they get nothing out of it.

PESCA: To try to understand what mindful meditation was I went to Wikipedia. First, I tried Googling it and other ways, but I guess my non Zen-like brain couldn't understand tons of these descriptions on these Zen sites and these meditation sites. It kind of seemed like gobbledygook to me. So I went to Wikipedia, not Buddhapedia (ph), and there's a description there, but tell me how well this nails it.


PESCA: Quote, "One is free to release a thought, let it go. When one realizes that the thought may not be concrete reality or absolute truth, thus one is free to observe life without getting caught in the commentary." Is that about right?

Mr. CAREY: You know, you could...

PESCA: And that's the non-gobbledygook version.

Mr. CAREY: You know, you're just being so western about this, basically.

PESCA: Yeah, I know.

Mr. CAREY: It's pretty close. I mean, so...

MARTIN: Non-attachment. It's about non-attachment.

Mr. CAREY: I'm looking at this from the - it's pretty close. I mean, you really - that's it. They want you to sort of be in the moment. Now, just excuse that phrase and, you know, that's a phrase like "inner child," where people just sort of snort when they hear it.

PESCA: I snorted. I just snorted. I don't know if you could hear that. Sorry.

Mr. CAREY: Well, you did, anyways. So the idea is to, you know, relax, you know, sort of really concentrate on your sensations, your breathing, be in the moment, just sort of - and if you try this and you practice this, you do kind of get into a different kind of state, which I did, by the way, when I was doing this story.

PESCA: That's good reporting. And was that the first time you tried it?

Mr. CAREY: Oh, yeah. No. This is not - I have no cultural connection with this kind of stuff, but it was the first time I tried it. So you get into this, and then you're supposed to sort of just watch without judgment sort of what happens as you're sitting there, and so that's just it, really. There's not a lot more to say about it.

MARTIN: But the danger's that when you start thinking about nothing, and especially if you're a reporter, and then you're analyzing your non-thinking-ness.

PESCA: And the danger is you're paying a therapist how much money to do that?

Mr. CAREY: Well, you know, keep in mind a couple things. Number one, yes, thinking about not thinking, as a reporter, you're definitely wasting deadline time on something like this, but you know, usually it's incorporated into other therapy. Well, like, you know, therapies like cognitive therapies, for example, which is a very common sort of answer for depression, where they try to reshape people's assumptions and thoughts...

MARTIN: It can augment therapies. It's not a therapy in and of itself.

Mr. CAREY: No. It's usually part of - that's part of a therapy. Yeah. And so they would teach it to you as a technique, and in some cases, in some people who work with very troubled people, you know, I mean, they're just kicked around by, you know, their anxieties and their memories so much that - I mean, they can't sit still practically. And so, you need to figure out a way of getting them just to tolerate, you know, sort of what their internal psychology is turning.


Mr. CAREY: And so that just makes it a supplement to usually a broader approach to, you know, solving a problem.

PESCA: Got it. Ben Carey of the New York Times, thank you and thanks for that article.

Mr. CAREY: Sure.

MARTIN: Stay with us. Coming up, San Francisco dump, the artist in residence. Curious? Stay with us. We'll talk about it. This is the BPP from NPR News.

Hindu karma not the same as buddhist karma?

Guardian Saturday Comment Pages
Questions, questions: What is karma and how does it work?
361 words
31 May 2008
The Guardian
© Copyright 2008. The Guardian. All rights reserved.

The actor Sharon Stone is not the first public figure to have invoked the concept of karma. Radiohead, Boy George and John Lennon have all trodden the same path, yet her ill-advised usage of the word has had a far greater impact.

Stone's suggestion that the devastating Chinese earthquake was brought about by Beijing's nastiness to her "very good friend" the Dalai Lama infuriated a top fashion and cosmetics firm - Dior reacted by dropping her from its Chinese advertising - and an economic superpower in one fell swoop.

Karma is a complex idea that is important to Buddhists, Hindus and Sikhs. The word means simply "action", but its meaning is connected with the causes and effects of the choices we make. Our minds are like a blank piece of paper and every action we perform makes a stamp on that piece of paper. The marks become impressions and these grow and develop into experiences. Tibetan Buddhists believe that actions lead to effects and that all our experiences are the effects of previous actions.

Kama Tobgyal, from the Tibetan Buddhist centre Kagyu Samye Dzong London, says: "If you watch a violent movie before you go to bed, you may have nightmares. If you have a warm, intimate conversation with your partner before you sleep you may have a pleasant dream. But these experiences may happen in another life. The idea is to avoid negative actions. From the Buddhist point of view, everything is karma."

Stone is not the first person to fall foul of a skewed interpretation of karma. The former footballer Glenn Hoddle lost his job as England manager for saying that disabled people were being punished for sins in a previous life. "The karma is working from another lifetime. It is not only people with disabilities. What you sow, you have to reap."

Stone and Hoddle may have thinking of Hindu karma, which is different to the Buddhist one. In the Hindu tradition, broadly speaking, beneficial effects are the result of beneficial actions and negative effects are the fruit of negative actions. Riazat Butt

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

A hippie to a buddhist monk

An American monk in Charleston Buddhist went from hippie life to spiritual awakening
Bill Lynch
1045 words
4 April 2008
Charleston Gazette
(Copyright 2008)

Over the telephone, Buddhist monk Bhante Yogavacara Rahula sounds a little like a stranger in a strange land. There's a faint accent that suggests he learned English later in life and, of course, there's his name.

Bhante means "venerable sir," and is the polite way to address a Theravedan Buddhist monk. Rahula is a common name in India and Nepal and refers to the historical Buddha's only son. He is not, however, a stranger in a strange land.

Bhante Rahula was born Scott Joseph Duprez in 1948. He grew up in California, attending a Methodist church with his parents. His first Buddha statue decorated the top of an old television set. He used to hang a hat on it.

He went to junior college, smoked marijuana, then joined the military. After his tour in Vietnam, he wore his hair long, grew a beard, chased girls and did just about any drug he could get his hands on.

"Sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll," said the monk, who visits Charleston today through Sunday to give several public presentations.

Bhante Rahula's story of how he went from typical hippie to clear-headed Buddhist monk is chronicled in his book, "One Night's Shelter: Autobiography of an American Monk." Two versions of the book exist. There's the "green" version, which catalogs his extensive drug use and sexual escapades. It details his time as a drug dealer, mentions his time in the Army stockade for being AWOL, as well as his arrest and detainment in an Afghan prison after trying to smuggle drugs into India.

"That's the toned-down version," said the 59 year-old monk, laughing. "The other version is much juicier. More sex, more drugs, more rock 'n' roll."

Bhante Rahula doesn't celebrate who he was in the 1960s, but he's not afraid of it. He's at peace with it. If not for the constant craving for chemically induced experiences, he might not have found his way to the dharma, the teachings of the Buddha. Wishing now to have been different then is pointless.

"It's all just grist for the mill," he said. "Taking all of those drugs. I didn't know any alternative."

He acknowledges that he got off pretty easy. He made it out alive.

Becoming a Buddhist, then a monk started with his craving. He was always on the lookout for the next high, the next profound experience. While he was traveling in the mountains of Asia, he heard about a meditation course in Katmandu. He went looking for another experience, but stayed for the enlightenment.

"That was the turnaround for me," he said. "I had this very deep insight, and I just wanted to pursue meditation and the dharma."

It didn't happen overnight, but in 1975, he was ordained as a monk in Sri Lanka. He lived in caves and huts, avoiding wild animals and poisonous snakes. He meditated to train his mind to shed fears and to focus his attention.

In 1985, Bhante Rahula heard about another monk's plans to build a Therevadan Buddhist monastery in the hills of West Virginia. He saw it as an opportunity to come back to the United States and bring some of what he'd learned.

He wrote to the monk, an internationally known meditation teacher named Bhante Gunaratana, who told him he should come. Rahula began to help build the monastery in 1987 on a plot of land in the Hampshire County backwoods.

Life at the Bhavana Society Forest Monastery near Wardensville is not entirely different from the simple life he lived in Sri Lanka. He continues to live in a small hut - called a 'kuti' - without electricity or running water (the main hall does have both).

He meditates, studies the Buddhist Sutras and books related to Buddhist thought and helps lead meditation retreats to people who come from around the world to Bhavana.

"We study and read some of the contemporary readings," Bhante Rahula said. "How science is relating to dharma teachings and Buddhism. We could read other things, I suppose, but I do not. We don't want to fill our minds with anything not on the dharma."

Occasionally, he does read a little about hiking in the Himalayas. He's been to Mount Everest several times with friends and gotten as far as the Everest base camp. "I do it mainly for the exercise, but also to push the envelope of discomfort."

He hikes some in the United States and usually takes a camping trip to Dolly Sods about once a year.

Bhante Rahula isn't the only American-born Buddhist monk. He wasn't even the first. Although he stops short of calling the vocation rare in this country, he agrees there aren't many.

"There are perhaps several hundred," he said. "Some stay with it, as I have. Others dabble with it for a few years."

Living in the United States again, Bhante Rahula is better able to keep in contact with his family and a few old friends. He visits his mother in California, where he also sees his brother and sister. His sister is a fundamentalist Christian, he says, and visits with her used to be tense.

"She's mellowed out, and I think she accepts what I am and what I do."

Living at the monastery affords him more opportunities to travel. Groups from different parts of the country and around the world sometimes invite him to visit with them and lead retreats.

The Meditation Circle of Charleston has been host for Bhante Rahula's visits in Charleston a few times, including a visit this weekend at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship Building. The visit will include talks about meditation, Buddhism and a slideshow of his spiritual trekking in the Himalayans.

He believes meditation is helpful for anyone, regardless of their particular spiritual path. Meditation helps people draw on resources they aren't even aware they have.

"It's a way to develop the mind," he said. "It can help you develop acceptance, patience, loving kindness toward others and deal with life on a more even keel."

Deepak on spiritual healing

Deepak Chopra provides different take on Jesus ; Best-selling author looks at Jesus as a spiritual guide whose teachings embraces all humanity
Tania Fuentez / The Associated Press
803 words
5 April 2008
The Grand Rapids Press
All Editions
© 2008 Grand Rapids Press. Provided by ProQuest Information and Learning. All rights reserved.

NEW YORK -- Before he became known for promoting holistic health and spirituality, Deepak Chopra adhered to traditional Western medicine as an endocrinologist in Boston. He eventually questioned this approach, returning to the centuries-old Indian system of Ayurveda to find a balance between faith and science.

"I wanted to extend my idea of healing," Chopra said in a recent interview. "If you don't understand spiritual experience, you'll never understand healing."

Now, at 61, the physician and best-selling author hopes to extend conventional thought again -- even more controversially -- in "The Third Jesus: The Christ We Cannot Ignore" (Harmony Books). Chopra challenges Christian doctrine while presenting an alternative: Jesus as a state of mind, rather than the historical rabbi of Nazareth or son of God.

The third perspective -- which Chopra calls "a cosmic Christ" -- looks at Jesus as a spiritual guide whose teaching embraces all humanity, not just the church built in his name. Chopra argues that Christ speaks to the individual who wants to find God as a personal experience.

"I said to myself, 'Why not write a book that takes Jesus' teachings -- and it doesn't matter if you're Christian or not -- and learn from this and improve your life,"' he said at the Chopra Center and Spa in midtown Manhattan.

Fascinated with Jesus' life

Considered a pioneer of mind-body alternative medicine, Chopra is president of the Alliance for a New Humanity and he has been listed among Time magazine's top 100 heroes and icons of the 20th century. His books have been translated into dozens of languages, with topics that range from aging and sexuality to golf and Buddha's path to enlightenment. In 1995, he co-founded the Chopra Center for Wellbeing with Dr. David Simon, which officially opened the following year.

Fascination with Jesus' life began during his lessons while attending a Roman Catholic school in India, Chopra said. Though his parents were from Hindu and Sikh families, "if you were relatively affluent, education was always in the Christian school because of the missionaries."

He moved to the United States in 1970 after graduating from the All India Institute of Medical Sciences. Chopra did his internship in New Jersey, and residency and fellowship at various institutions including Boston, Tufts and Harvard universities. He also was chief of staff at Boston Regional Medical Center for two years.

His interest in Hinduism and medicine evolved while observing a mind-body connection in his research, and an encounter in 1985 with the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi at a conference in Washington, D.C.

"I first leaned toward Ayurveda medicine and then actually went on to study other wisdom traditions of the world ... this happened during my training in neuro endocrinology where I saw what happened in consciousness in biology," Chopra explained.

"I was just extending my understanding of healing from physical to mental to social to environmental," he said. "That's what the 'Alliance' is all about ... healing the body politic, healing the world."

Chopra devotes substantial time to his own spiritual development. He meditates and exercises daily, though he occasionally enjoys a triple hazelnut latte.

25 years in the making

During the interview, Chopra switches his Blackberry, covered in an orange case, to vibrate as he speaks on faith, politics and a list of projects like a new comic book launched with his son and Sir Richard Branson. The in-demand speaker is at ease quoting Scripture or talking quantum physics. He has studied the Bible closely, reading it hundreds of times.

Though "The Third Jesus" was on his mind for 25 years, it took him six months to complete once he began writing. The next book will be a fictional account of Jesus' missing years.

"Where else do you read a story of the Son of God being executed by their own?" he said. "It is dramatic. It's three years of his teaching and it has shaped the world for 2000 years."

In a review, Harvey Cox, Hollis professor of divinity at Harvard, said "The Third Christ" is "bound to provoke both admiration and condemnation." Chopra references the New Testament and Gnostic Gospels to deconstruct church doctrine and conservative Christianity on issues such as war, abortion and homophobia.

"I see blogs every day that are negative and very nasty because this is not a literalist interpretation of Jesus," Chopra said. "My book is about Jesus as a state of consciousness. If I can aspire -- maybe not achieve -- but aspire to be in that state of mind and if a lot of people were aspiring to be in that state of mind this would be a better world."

The next Dalai Lama?

Tibetan Buddhism's next leader? After the Dalai Lama
By Barbara Crossette
The New York Times Media Group
776 words
8 April 2008
International Herald Tribune
© 2008 The New York Times Company. All Rights Reserved.

The recent outburst of Tibetan rage against the Chinese government not only demonstrated once again the fear and anger among Himalayan Buddhists living under the cultural insensitivity of Beijing, it also illuminated the crucial role of the Dalai Lama, navigating skillfully between restive Tibetan exiles and an Indian government under Chinese pressures to stifle their protests. What will happen when he is gone?

The West is about to get its first glimpse of that possible future.

In mid-May, a serious young man of 22 who is revered as the 17th Karmapa - now the second-most-important figure in Tibetan Buddhism - will make his first visit to the United States. The trip comes eight years after his dramatic flight to India from a monastery near Lhasa at the end of 1999, when he was just 14 years old. This is the first time that a skittish India has allowed him permission to travel abroad. His flight from Tibet was a considerable embarrassment to China.

The Karmapa Lama, spiritual head of the Kagyu order of Tibetan Buddhism, is now the only major Tibetan lama recognized as a reincarnation of his lineage by both the Dalai Lama and the Chinese government since it overran Tibet in the 1950s. The Panchen Lama, the third of a triumvirate and previously the second-highest ranking among the three lamas, vanished into Chinese custody as a boy in 1995 and has been replaced by Beijing's own political appointee.

In a thriller that is already a legend among Buddhists, the Karmapa and two fellow monks drove in secret from Tsurphu Monastery, north of Lhasa, to the remote and rugged border of Mustang, a former Buddhist kingdom now part of Nepal. From there he and his companions made a dash by horseback to the nearest Nepali airport, from which they were able to fly unnoticed via Katmandu to Delhi. The Karmapa, born Ogyen Trinley Dorji, arrived unannounced in Dharamsala, the Dalai Lama's base, in January 2000, and has remained under the watchful eye of the Tibetan leader since.

Because of fears in the United States that India, bowing to Chinese pressure, will prevent this trip abroad at the last moment, the Karmapa's visit is expected to be low-keyed and not political. His comment on a pre-trip video that ''The United States is one of the world's most powerful countries'' has been excised from an online transcription of his remarks, which dwell instead on his hope of meeting ''many American friends.'' The trip was planned before the protests in Tibet.

This is a significant milestone for Tibetan Buddhists and a momentous one for Western practitioners. The young lama's predecessor, the 16th Karmapa, visited the United States on numerous occasions and had established in the 1980s a part-time American seat in Woodstock, New York, at the Karma Triyana Dharmachakra center. After the young Karmapa's flight from Tibet, the Woodstock monastery immediately geared up to welcome him, even designing furniture to match his sturdy frame. Then they waited, and waited and waited. He will now finally get to see their work. The Karmapa's American followers would like to have him establish his base in the United States, making him the first Asian religious leader of that magnitude to live in the West.

The Karmapa could serve as a possible unofficial, transitional successor to the Dalai Lama, who is now in his 70s. Because the Karmapa leads a different order of Tibetan Buddhism - the Dalai Lama is a Gelugpa monk - the young Karmapa cannot inherit his title. A future reincarnate to that position has yet to be born after the Dalai Lama's death.

The young Karmapa, who is described by those who have met him as a serious, even stern, young man, is also recognized as a compelling religious teacher and budding literary scholar, even without the Dalai Lama's magnetic charm and sense of humor. The Karmapa could well be the stopgap spiritual leader Tibetan exiles will someday need to hold together their fragmented diaspora, while at the same time assuming a larger role as a religious teacher for Buddhists of all nationalities and schools.

For the moment, these two Tibetan leaders are a complementary pair, the wise older man and the vigorous young lama who now has the chance to show the wider world if he can muster a universal appeal.

Barbara Crossette, a former New York Times correspondent in Asia, is the author of ''So Close to Heaven: The Vanishing Buddhist Kingdoms of the Himalayas.''