Author Archives: dhammakaruna

A Reflection on my Social Media Project about AIDS and the Five Precepts

AIDs in Thailand

I created my Midterm Project this semester using social media. My project is called “Helping Those Living with AIDS.” I got eleven comments from people who participated. Some people  just agreed with my project and gave me advice on how to improve  the article such as the comment from thesilverbodhisattva who said,

“Another point to consider is that some people can acquire the disease through means unknown to them, in cases of unintentional contamination. Without proper medical precautions or sanitation in a variety of medical fields, an aid has the possibility to spread through transfusions, shared needles, and even instances of dental operations. There is also the possibility for those who are born HIV positive.”

This comment reminds me and other people to be careful when we use syringes because penetration and blood transfusion can put people at risk for contracting the AIDS virus.

However, I want those who have not been infected with the AIDS virus to be aware of this point as well. There are many other ways of being at risk of contracting the AIDS’s virus. The AIDS’s virus is a serious issue for the homeless and those on skid row. When society or families ignore people who have AIDS, they end up on the street, become homeless, and live on skid rows throughout the country. Therefore, the Thai monks of the Phrabatnumpu Temple are helping the people who have the AIDS’s virus in Thailand. The abbot organized the temple by himself and it is supported by donations. He provides food, clothing, shelter, and medicine for people with AIDS. The important thing is he has instructional media for people who do not have AIDS. He is teaching about Buddhism and offering counseling for individuals and groups concerned about AIDS. He teaches the way we use precept training to protect sangha from AIDS. He talks about the Five Precepts as a very good way of reducing one’s risk of contracting AIDS. A comment from SmartDC was,

“AIDS is one kind of serious diseases in the world. One of the solutions is to avoid from sexual misconduct and honestly observe Five Precepts (Sila). Taking the Buddha’s teachings into practice, we will be happy without any trouble.”

Therefore, the Five Precepts, especially, the third precept, are a very important way to reduce the prevalence of AIDS virus infections. Just like this comment from Humble Monk:

“There is reason to blame the people who’ve gotten infection, but there are many reasons to blame the people who knew AIDS and didn’t protect themselves. Sexual desire is one aspect of desires caused suffering. Being honest with one’s couple under sexual conduct isn’t enough to stop AIDS completely. The way how to completely stop AIDS is to stop one’s desires.”

This is a very good comment and I agree with his comment. If all of us practice the five precepts, especially the third one, I think we can live without fear and worry as well.

Finally, I would like to thank you very much for all of the comments from both people whom I know and I do not know. Your comments helped influence my work and my ideas. I hope my social media project will help our society in many ways. For instance, by helping people become aware of AIDS and understand the victims of AIDS too. More than that, I hope we can stay happily together. Without loving-kindness and compassion our society would be like Hell.

May all being be happy and peaceful in body and mind,

Dhammakaruna.

Please visit my Facebook Page and my original post here at Dharma Dialogue.

AIDs patient and Theravadin Monk.

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Helping Those Living With AIDS

English: The Army in conjunction with the Thai...

The Army in conjunction with the Thai Ministry of Public Health, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, the National Institutes of Health, Sanofi Pasteur and Global Solutions for Infectious Diseases have uncovered successful results for an AIDS vaccination. The study was conducted at the Armed Forces Research Institute of Medical Sciences in Thailand. (USAMC-AFRIMS photo) *Do not reproduce image, for DOD use only. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Problem:

AIDS has become a major problem within Thailand in the last twenty years. The disease has taken so many lives that the amount has become immeasurable. The main problem is that Thai society has felt animosity towards the people affected by this disease. The people affected with AIDS are mostly shunned and turned away. Society lacks acceptance of this particular group of people. Because we cannot control the spread of the disease, there are more than 1 million Thai people affected with AIDS. Most of the people are not even aware that they are infected. Because they are unaware of their sickness, this disease is continually spread through the population. Another problem with AIDS is the lack of knowledge and awareness about the disease. The population of Thailand is careless due to this fact. They take fewer precautions, especially in the teenager and college student population. There has been an increase of infection by 35% in the past few years. This is the worst problem within Thailand in the present time.

Plan and Explanation:

Those infected with the disease become so usually due to their sexual behaviors or the sexual behaviors of their partners. For example, it could be due to alcohol, drugs, prostitutes and etc. The increase in the infection rate is also due to sexual misconduct (which is the third precept within Buddhism).  Monks perform the teachings of good moral conduct for the entire Buddhist community. This project is to prevent the further spread of AIDS and spread the awareness within society to be accepting of those living with the disease. This project would also teach kindness and understanding.  This basic teaching of the Buddha is necessary for us to live together and to not shun those with the disease. Most important, this is for the motivation to show those living with AIDS that they are not alone. The Buddhist religion teaches that we should have kindness for each other. This project is intended to be the medium to show this kindness, to spread the awareness of AIDS, and provide a support network for those living with AIDS.

The three rules that have to be remembered:

1. The way to understand those living with AIDS: We have to understand that those living with AIDS have been rejected from society and they live in emotional turmoil due to this neglect. Thus, monks have to be the leaders by showing compassion from the heart. They must fill in the gap where society can not. The things that must be provided for the population living with AIDS are clothes, food, shelter and medicine. This also includes schools, hospitals and employment for this particular population. This is to help those living with the disease go on with their normal lives. They must also be provided with love and kindness so their morale increases.

2. The correct method of living with those who have AIDS: We have to set an example using our practice of the Buddhist religion.  This includes showing kindness, be caring of other people, especially those with the infection who are sick. There has to be no animosity and disgust between anyone.

3. Method of educating about AIDS and the prevention of AIDS: This is a way to teach the morality and ethics that could not only contribute to the prevention of AIDS but helping the AIDs victims gain the approval of society. The main teachings are those of the Five Precepts are: to not be greedy, to not envious, be happy with what you have, do not lie, and have awareness of the present time.

My purpose:

  • This is to provide an action plan on how to solve this terrible problem.
  •  To decrease the spread of infection within Thailand and the world.
  •  To build an awareness and kindness for those living with the disease.
  • To provide a resource for world organizations on how to handle and solve this important problem.
  • To be a prime example on how to solve this problem by using the teachings of Buddhism as the base of understanding.

Expected results:

  • The population would have a better understanding of how to prevent the spread of the disease.
  • The decrease in the percentage of people contracting the infection and disease.
  • Society and family members would be able to live in harmony with those infected by the disease.
  • Organizations would put a further emphasis on the prevention of AIDS.
  • An increase in support for those affected by the disease.
  • Monks would have the responsibility of spreading awareness to Thai society as well as kindness to those affected.
  • The image of Thailand would improved throughout the world.

My Facebook Page can be found here.

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Compassion on Skid Row

On March 19, 2013, Spiritual Leadership class instructor Rev. Dr. Danny Fisher and sixteen other students had a field trip to Skid Row in downtown Los Angeles. On 9:00 A.M., I met with the group in Pershing Square Garden. I was very excited because I never walked in downtown Los Angeles before. I have been living in Los Angeles for seven months after I moved from West Palm Beach, Florida to continue a master degree at the University of the West.  Before this I spent many years as a Buddhist monk in Thailand.

During the trip to Skid Row, the teaching of the Buddha arose in my mind. The teaching is about a method to practice with each other the four sublime states of mind or we call Brahmavihāra. The Brahmavihāra is loving-kindness, compassion, sympathetic joy and equanimity:

  1. Loving-kindness (Mettā): I wish that all of the people will be well. I hope that all human beings without any exception will be happy also.
  2. Compassion (Karuṇā): I wish that a person’s found to be free from suffering and will be diminish from suffering.
  3. Sympathetic joy (Mudita): I sympathetic joy in the accomplishments and pleasure on the well-being of person oneself or each others.
  4. Equanimity (Upekkhā): Learning to be neutral and confidence between love and hate, praise and blame, achieve and failure, good and bad emotions. It is not a wrong course in behavior between friend, enemy or stranger, but regards every human being as equal.

So the Brahmavihāra is the Buddha’s way to share with each other and to be in harmony. I saw people in skid row all around the street. I wish all of them to be well and to be free from suffering.

We walked through Skid Row together. We had Ray and Jason as security behind the group. During the walk, I saw many people; some were sleeping on the sidewalk, standing and talking to each other and many others were sitting in wheelchairs. It was nice to hear that some of them greeted us, too. “Oh Monks! You must be monks, how are you?” They spoke with happily sound to me and my monk friends. Between the various areas, Professor Fisher stopped and explained to us what is going on here at Skid Row.

The term “skid row” originated in the following way:  a 1931 dictionary of American Tramp and Underworld Slang gives the earliest evidence for skid row, “the district where workers congregate when in town or away from their job.” From that it is easy to derive the modern meaning of “a squalid district inhabited chiefly by derelicts and vagrants” in the words of “The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Third Edition.”

Why do people live in Skid Row? I think it is because of alcohol problems, drug problems and maybe mental illness. People end up on Skid Row because they do not have family to help them pull themselves back up the right way. Therefore, they go along and not take care of themselves because of alcohol problems, drug or maybe mental illness. They are living and sleeping on the street. The people who have been there so long and they don’t want to move away. They also get used to their living style. Luckily, there are many Missions in Skid Row. Therefore, when the weather becomes cold and wet, they can go inside to a mission. The mission is run by Private Christian groups by donations from individuals and the government. The missions act as shelters by providing help to the homeless. When we walked nearby the San Julian Park, the Professor said “This Park is in the center of Skid Row, but the gate is closed to during parts of the day to cut down on the drug problem.”

The drugs and alcohol destroy their mind, thinking and the ability to work. So they can not find a job, work or start a business. And also, a lot of people live there because they may have had mental illness when were younger. Their family should be taking care of them.  If the children have a mental illness and nobody takes care of them they end up walking on the street.  This is not a simple problem, and there are a lot of reason why people end up on Skid Row. But I believe the main reasons are drug abuse, alcohol abuse and mental illness. This is what contributes the most to people  living on the street in  Skid Row.

After we walked around to visit Skid Row, we did a ten minute meditation before we gave reflection about what our thinking and feelings were when walking in Skid Row.    During the meditation, there are many things arising in my monkey mind. For instance; “What happens to them? Why doesn’t someone help them? How is it possible to have a Skid Row in the richest country in the world? ” Actually, I liked this trip, because this trip teaches me many things. And when I seen the people on Skid Row, I have grown my compassion for them in my mind. As a Buddhist monk, I will try to help as much as I can. Let us give our compassion, loving-kindness to our friends who are here on Skid Row. I would like to thank  Professor Rev. Danny Fisher and all of my classmates for this trip. I learned a great deal.

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