A Western Buddhist's Travels

Sightseeing & detours on the path of enlightenment

Archive for the tag “India”

Thinking outside the housing box!


Cities around the world are struggling with growing populations of homeless individuals and families. Also there is a large number of couch surfers, and young people moving back home, after having lived independently. In some cultures the tradition was to remain at home until marriage, but even that has begun to change in many countries. The challenge is providing a place where these people can live that is affordable.

Affordable housing is not emergency shelters, hostels or rooming houses in most countries. What is affordable housing defined as, depends on the country, Canada and the USA commonly defines it, as housing that does not exceed 30% of a families gross income. Australia defines it as a minimum of a 20% discount to the prevailing market rate for the area, for lower or middle income earners. The United Kingdom defines it as those households whose needs are not met by the market. India sets the definition at 40% or less of the household income.

Here in Vancouver Canada and indeed most of the major cities of Western Canada affordability comes at a high price. In February 2012 the Burn’s Block was renovated into micro lofts, of approximately 226 square feet each, which is considered small here in Canada, they were quickly snapped up at a price of $850/month utilities included for furnished suites.  The median cost of a 1 bedroom apartment within Vancouver is $1350/month utilities not included.

At the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, BC Hydro showcased a home of the future with energy saving ideas and efficient design features. This inspired Atira a social housing society in Vancouver to think outside the box, in providing social housing at a cost of $82,000/unit for hard construction costs. This compares to $220,000 for just slightly larger units built by Atira in Vancouver, using more traditional methods. How did they keep the costs down, well they used standard shipping containers as the basis. Yup those ones you see around businesses, on trucks, trains and ships around the world as the building blocks. They have been used as site offices on construction sites for years, so it’s not that much of a stretch to imagine them as a shell for a house.

Could this be a way to help those in the lower income brackets of our societies have safe, affordable accommodation, time will tell, however it is a step forward.

For more information please visit the links below:

Story on the Burn’s Block

Containers as homes

Cost of living comparisons

The middle of the road approach to a safer and happier society

“Human beings the world over need freedom and security that they may be able to realize their full potential.”. 

said by, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, who I have admired for years, and have written about in myPeople who inspire me series“. 

This is one of those posts that started as a middle of the night AH-HA moment. Have you ever had one of those where you go to bed thinking about something, then wake up at 2:54am looking at the clock, going why am I awake, then it hits you. Luckily with smartphones, it’s easy to leave yourself a voice message. The harder part is actually getting the simple idea written out, so everyone else can understand it.

A few days ago I was reading on the LA-Times website about how video showed one of the suspects of the Boston Marathon bombings, dropping his backpack then moving away. This has resulted in the Police Department of Louisville Kentucky banning backpacks, duffel bags etc for the upcoming Kentucky Derby. Reading this I started to think about how many other times I have read about other situations where people have witnessed a crime, accident or other situation and just kept on going about their daily life. I was staring to wonder do we all have little flag persons, who show up to direct us away, saying “move along nothing to see here”. You can read stories from around the world of people who are pleading for help and have drivers ignore them, here are just a few I found, I’m sure you know of others closer to where you live.

Father in India unsucessfuly pleads for help from passing motorists

Calgary drivers swerve around woman on road.

Also look at societies attitude towards youth crimes. Yes many teenagers push the boundaries and some cross over the line to a minor degree. This doesn’t mean they need to pay for the rest of their lives for the transgression. Canada is one of the countries that treats those who haven’t become responsible adults to a lesser punishment, in hopes of allowing them to go onto lead productive normal lives. Canada brought in the young offenders act in 1984, and  in 2003 updated it with the Youth Justice Act, which reduced the age for treatment of the suspect as an adult to as low as  14 for violent offences, and for those who have shown a habitual predisposition towards crime. Societies around the world turn a blind eye towards this issue, as shown by this article from Britain. Public Ignores Crime by Teenagers

The there is the other side of the coin, where people physically intervene in situations. Just yesterday the story of a Samurai sword wielding Mormon Pastor who intervened. In another incident the actions of the passengers of United Airlines flight 93, on September 11, 2001 prevented further tragedy when they attempted to regain control of the aircraft from the hijackers on that fateful day. Tragically they lost their lives, but prevented many more deaths and injuries.

The edge between the two sides is people who are so wrapped up in their own little slice of the universe, that everything else is passes by like a ship sailing through a fog bank without a lighthouse beacon to warn it of impending dangers. You have seen these people, walking into other people, street poles or into traffic while chatting on their mobile phones. Others are plugged into the rhythm of their life with their mp 3 player through noise cancelling headphones.

With a minor change in our attitudes, to any of these three situations we can all contribute to the freedom and security that Aung San Suu Kyi speaks of. Imagine a world where citizens raise their voice and cellphones to record and post videos of criminal acts to law enforcement agency. Where we see someone injured and stop to render aid, and call for more help. A world where it’s safe to walk to the store at night in our own neighborhood, because we know our neighbors, not just their apartment addresses.

How can this be done, you ask. By applying the wisdom that the Buddha taught us almost 2600 years ago. The bold are his words, while the writing after each is how it applies today in our modern society.

Pain is certain, suffering is optional.”  In that yes people get hurt, but we can help stop suffering. We can’t prevent everyone we meet from suffering pain, not even our own families. This is not assigning blame to anyone or any entity, rather dealing with the reality in front of our senses.

“If we fail to look after others when they need help, who will look after us?” However when we encounter suffering we can take action to reduce it, through our words and actions, or we can continue to do as many and ignore anything outside our own world, until we are the one crying out in the crowded wilderness.

“A generous heart, kind speech, and a life of service and compassion are the things which renew humanity.” Let us go forth with compassion, understanding and love, while speaking kindly. Let us help those around us, not because we have to, but because we choose to. We have all had someone help us at some point, let us pass this along to those we meet.

“As you walk and eat and travel, be where you are. Otherwise you will miss most of your life.” Pay attention to what is happening right now where ever you are. If your driving, you shouldn’t be reading this. If your drinking coffee, remember what happens when it is spilled onto the keyboard. If your shopping for fresh fruits and vegetables at the market, choose those perfect papayas you went for, not the blackened bananas you will end up making a cake out of. If your at your child’s first baseball game, cheer like they just won the world series, and if they strike out, tell them not even Babe Ruth got a hit every time he was at bat. If you are talking with the person you married, then to what they have to say, they may not even want you to fix everything,they just need you to listen to them.

“Kindness should become the natural way of life,not the exception.” Or in the music of Louis Armstrong


Are you a diamond or a rose?

If you had to choose a symbol of either a diamond or a rose to describe you which would you choose?


They say diamonds are forever, while a rose by any other name would smell as sweet has been with us since Shakespeare wrote “What’s in a name? that which we call a rose By any other name would smell as sweet” in Romeo and Juliet.

Looking at some of the history and mythology around diamonds, we find that they have been admired and desired in almost every culture around the world. The earliest mass production of diamonds was in India, where they call the stone, “varja” meaning lightening, referring to the strength of the stone as well as the flashes of light from the facets. However it wasn’t until the 1500s that cutting the stone, came into practice. In ancient Judiac practice diamonds were thought to be lie detectors, where the brighter the brilliance the more truthful the wearer. This was still a common into the 14th century when the author Jean de Bourgoigne more commonly known as Jean De Mandeville wrote “It happens often that the good diamond loses its virtue by sin and incontinence.” During the middle ages, diamonds were thought to have the power to cure diseases, the clearer the stone the more powerful. This was thought to happen because of the purity of the stone, drawing the disease out of the sufferer. Also if you wore a diamond, it was thought to make you immune to poisons. In romance, almost 4000 years ago diamonds were first recorded as a sign of love between a husband and wife. The earliest writing recording this was one from the Roman poet Plautus who wrote about this. So guys, it’s not modern marketing that is causing you to buy a diamond for the love of your life, however it has only been since the 1930s that two months salary has become the guideline. It was in the 1930s that DeBeers suggested that a man should spend one months salary on the ring, and shortly afterwards was amended to two months, due to the success of the campaign in increasing the sale of diamonds. So diamonds are thought to be a symbol of clarity, purity, and forever. What makes them forever is their hardness, their keeping the same shape and instead cutting most other materials they come into contact with instead. Why diamond tipped drills and blades were used to cut many materials before the advent of lasers, and why even today the largest market for diamonds is for the industrial market, for the production of cutting edges.

The symbolism of the rose as a sign for love is ancient as well. In fact the term rose means pink or red in the Romance languages. In ancient Egypt the rose was the symbol of the Goddess Isis, and the Greeks and Romans later associated the flower with the Goddess of love. The petals of the red rose became associated with the five wounds of Christ, and later as a symbol for the Virgin Mary. Today a bouquet of red roses means love in most countries around the world. Today with the flower rose, different colors have different meanings, for a very detailed list visit RoseforLove.com.


When it comes to love, which symbolizes you more? The cool. sharp edged diamond that shapes others around you, forever holding firm against all that buffets you. Your passion lasting forever. Perhaps you are more like the rose, alive you are plucked, the person looking past your thorns, to hold and admire your beauty, to inhale your fragrance, knowing that the beauty you offer will eventually fade. Yet still they choose you, to have and enjoy for the time available, then living with the memories of those precious moments.

Both are but two of the symbols we use to show someone how we feel, both equally important, they are used only to illustrate how we approach the ones we love.


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