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2012-May Shinnyo-en Buddhism Introductory Extras Podcast (Bridging Beliefs)

Blending Buddhism with other Beliefs and Religions

2012-May Shinnyo-en Buddhism Introductory Extras Podcast

[audio https://jhlui1.files.wordpress.com/2012/05/201205_shinnyo_extra_bridging_podcast.mp3]

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Within our sangha (or buddhist community) there are to be found Christian Buddhists, and Catholic Buddhists, Jewish Buddhists and many other forms of post-Common Era dual-belief system alignments, sometimes even Agnostic and perhaps Atheistic Buddhists. So what’s the explanation for this? Or how do these belief systems co-exist?

Broadly speaking, and vastly simplified here for the purposes of discussion, most belief systems have historical development roots in three specific eras: Before Common-Era, Common-Era and Post Common-Era.  Buddhism and many others were organized in the Before Common-Era period, preceding the development of the Roman Empire by about 400 years, where civilization in general marked a change towards political rule over monarchies. During these monarchies, there would have been people who were questioning why things were the way they were, much as we continue to do today.  A few among those people chose to write down their thoughts on why the order of things and life existed, and what part does an individual play among the continually turning wheels of life as it marched on incessantly.

Some religions are centric towards a deity figure, and specific in their traditions, symbolism, and rituals towards respecting that deity.  Buddhism, similar to Confucianism following the teachings of Confucius, and Taoism regarding the teachings of Lao Tzi and Zhuangzi, follows the teachings of Shakyamuni (also known as Gautama and Siddhartha.)  These were people, not deities, and although eventually imbued with character descriptions matching how one of the purest form should be, they were and continue to be acknowledged and respected as having started out the same way you or I did – they were born, grew up and old, and eventually life passed away.  A philosophy is borne from people asking themselves, why do we live? How can we be happy? What makes us sad? And proposed answers become the fundamentals of that philosophy.  Thus, a philosophy is sort of a guidebook to how you can live your life following certain principles and having a particular positive outcome (which in Buddhism’s case is Nirvana, or a place of never-ending happiness, contentment with one’s self and others, and a sense of purity.)

As long as the way in which you exercise these principles does not conflict with your own spiritual beliefs, there shouldn’t be a conflict between them.  For example, we have laws that make it illegal and punishable as a crime to kill another person. We can abide by that law, which may not part of our spiritual belief system, and still remain true to our own beliefs. Since laws and regulations are concerned with what you cannot and should not do, philosophies provide the guidance of the complimentary – what you can and should do as a person among society. Consider a philosophy as a reinforcement to what your belief system prescribes already, in a way that can be exercised and practiced each and every day, with everyone around you, whether friend, family or even strangers and enemies.

For example, from the Bible, Matthew Chapter 7 Verse 12, “Do unto others as you would have others do unto you.”  Shinnyo-en Buddhism expresses the practice principle as, “Place yourself into the other person’s shoes.”  This applies to all actions, words and opinions that affect another person. Shakyamuni came from a wealthy family that was blind to the poverty surrounding them in their own community. That’s why he felt it was important to attempt to see what the other person sees, and let that shape your actions.

Some beliefs place an emphasis on voluntary service, that is not to seek compensation for efforts provided. Buddhism emphasizes the minimization of your own ego in your actions, so you would not be performing the voluntary service with expectations of recognition for the service by others, nor being self-serving in your motivation for why you are volunteering.  At the same time, there is acceptance for those unable or unwilling to volunteer their services, and simple hope that by providing an example of how to improve the world by making efforts, without concern or motivation for recognition, everyone can benefit and live in a nicer world.

Buddhism is basically a philosophy which encompasses a variety of traditions, practices and beliefs about how to make this world into an ultimately better place for everyone.  Buddhism strives to create harmony amid diversity – to respect and appreciate differences in others, and accept that as the way things are in Nature. These actions become a way of living, and whether that is defined as a religion or philosophy is simply a matter of definitions.


Recording Audio Podcasts (HowTo)

Besides the basic requirements to create some kind of recorded audio file (WAV/MP3), you’ll need a place on the web to share the file. It would have to be preferrably a regular public filesharing point because you don’t want search engines to miss your uploads because authentication (login) is required to access the file (the search engines can read the MP3 Tag information and add it to the search keywords to find your podcast).

WordPress provides this as an add-on annual fee for the extra storage required – video requires one additional fee, as well.  If you’re self-hosting a web site or your blog, you can probably already just store the podcasts in your existing “Media” Library folder.

For audio quality, I use a number of different recording techniques depending on what location I happen to be during production. The highest sonic quality used for recording the intro and outro mix segments of my podcasts come from a high-quality large diaphrame condenser microphone (Audio-Technica AT4050) at close range with a pop screen.

Here’s an example of that microphone’s recording quality:

2012-January Shinnyo-en Buddhism Monthly Focus Podcast

For remote recording in quiet surroundings, I have been using a binaural microphone set from Sound Professionals MS-TFB-2 – these intra-ear microphones are good to use in situations where you want to capture exactly what your own ears are hearing (and will record your voice through your own bone structure, as well).

A sample of this recording technique, fed into a EDIROL R-09HR digital recorder with built-in condenser power (not phantom power – it’s a smaller voltage required by ultra-mini condensers) sounds like this – note a slightly more hollow sound:

2012-February Shinnyo-en Buddhism Monthly Focus Podcast

Most recently, I’ve been experimenting with an Andrea Electronics SB-205B (Ear bud with stereo “beam” microphones).  When combined with the free downloadable software, they do a pretty good job of rejecting ambient noise, though there is still a less full sound to the vocal timbre even when using low-power settings for the “beam” control and noise reduction activated (without the noise reduction, they will pick up all your ambient noise quite well).

IOUG Podcast 04-MAY-2012

Recording and actual post-production is using open-source Audacity, which has easy-to-use plugins for Noise Reduction, a reasonable Compressor (equalizes volume and peaks), and a Normalizer (for setting the overall peak volumes to standard zero decibel (0db) levels).  Occassionally, I use the Echo filter to add ambience to a segment. Audacity can produce the final MP3 with all of the text tag fields completed, but you’ll need an MP3 tag editor to add the associated graphic icon that is used by many mobile Podcast players and iTunes. Otherwise , you’ll always see a generic Avatar icon next to your podcasts. Also, don’t forget to upload this to the same Media Library section of your blog, and set it as the Featured Image of your podcast blog posting. This step will assist in maintaining a consistent image for search engines and iTunes album art purposes.

Finally, I employ Google’s FeedBurner.com to provide a multi-source compatible RSS feed (and optimize Search Engine results) for the resulting WordPress feed (which is simply a filtered feed for the Category “Shinnyo Podcasts.”) That allows easier and formatted submission to publication sites like iTunes, and maintains a consistent subscription presence for all supportable podcast reading methods (Google Reader, Microsoft Live, browser-based RSS readers, etc.)

For this site, I’m using the native WordPress plugin support for Audio files – you just insert a plain string into your post, and it produces a small Java player instead of the string – “<left bracket> audio http://pathname/filename.mp3 <rt bracket>” I include a direct-link to the MP3 file as well, which allows search engines to read the tags.

[Addendum 23-May-2012] Noting ADA-compliance would be useful, I have added the text transcripts of my audio podcasts to the blog posts. Thanks to http://www.smartpassiveincome.com/podcast-video-transcripts/ for pointing out the benefits.

Tuesday’s Here! It’s Geeks! The Podcast! (MP3 – 1 minute)

Geeks! The Podcast!

It’s stereo-rific!


(note to self: getting an MP3 on a WordPress blog is easier to do it as a Google Site page attachment than a Google Doc requiring 3 fewer clicks)

Cleaning up the IOUG Blog Site

Results from the Dashboard

You may or may not have visited http://blogs.ioug.org which is powered by stand-alone WordPress.  But after learning how WP works with my own blog, I volunteered to start cleaning up the Independent Oracle Users Group’s blog site and low and behold, lots o’ spam.

Don’t leave the Comments door open for unregistered users to post automatically-approved comments.

Face-lift in-progress for IOUG

The blog is being re-formatted to adopt the new contemporary IOUG website look-and-feel as well as make it more useful to users.  Feel free to leave any feedback you have about what you would like to see on the site, or here.