A Western Buddhist's Travels

Sightseeing & detours on the path of enlightenment

Archive for the tag “United States”

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


Boston Marathon Bombings

Boston Marathon Explosion

Image source: The Boston Globe

I had a post planned for today, using yesterday’s humorous post as a starting point. However after yesterdays tragic events in Boston, I have decided to respond to the atrocity. As I write this post, the headline of The Boston Globe online edition, reads ‘We will go to the ends of the earth’. Yes the perpetrators of this horrific act must be found and punished according to the law. However, at the same time we must realize that placing all of a certain religious group, or nationality into the same category will only continue the senseless violence. Every nationality, every culture or religious group has people who feel the world should be exactly like them. To borrow a concept from Star Trek, “Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations, is not something that they can accept. Today many people will be screaming for more violence, and feel justified in demanding every action possible, regardless of the cost or consequences. They will listen to anyone who says what they wish to hear, ignoring the calls to not only right this wrong, but to find lasting ways to ensure this never happens again. In the next while companies around the world will offer us new solutions, a billion dollars here, another several hundred million there. Others will demand that our rights, be further curtailed in the name of safety. Fingers will be pointed, this country or that is responsible for what happened, as has happened since terrorism emerged was a political tool.

The second sentence of the American Constitution has some of the most profound words ever crafted: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” Today just after other terrorist attacks, the world needs to remember those words. These truths to be self evident, tells us that the wisdom to follow needs no explanation, or apologetic statements to defend them. All men are created equal, does not mention race, creed, color, heritage, or any of the other ways we have started to hyphenated people. You hear the terms African-American, Irish-American, Native-Canadian, and many other terms around the world these days. America was founded as a melting pot, where people could come and peacefully develop a more peaceful and enlightened way of life. Many nations under despots, have seen the demands from their citizens to achieve some if not all that the west has achieved. Living in a country where women don’t have the same right’s and freedom as men, where your class determines your value and quality of justice, has spawned demands for change. Today with the internet, people have a voice, from the citizen with the cell phone posting the illegal actions of the police to sites such as Youtube. To the ability of news services to stream live coverage to everywhere in the world of breaking events. Governments are now using actions such as yesterdays atrocity in Boston, to curtail our rights, the rights that America proclaimed at it’s founding, then proceeded to promote to, and educate the world about. The founding of the U.S.A. as a moral statement, as well as a political one.

The second sentence of the American Constitution are probably, one of the most universally known words around the world. Having inspired countless impoverished and marginalize people to strive to bring about meaningful change to their countries. These words were so powerful, that they helped from the basis for, the French “Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen” in 1771. The list of countries which had their principles written to incorporate these ideals include, Venezuelan Declaration of Independence, the Proclamation of Independence of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam. Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Columbia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Grenada, Haiti, Honduras, Hungary, Mexico, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay, and many others.

The words about equality of all men, formed the basis of the civil war in America over slavery, and have helped inspire oppressed people around the world. Those words helped the citizens of South Africa bring down the barriers of apartheid. They also formed the basis of the women’s suffrage movement, the forerunner of women’s liberation movements. The concept that all men and women are equal in the eyes of the law, sprung from these words, and the liberty to see a just and equal world for all.

Let us balance justice, with the changes needed to promote peace through the promotion of those values that made the U.S.A. a leading nation of the world, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” These words will lead to peace among people, and peace should be everyone’s goal. Here are some words about peace to consider, from people much wiser and eloquent than I am.

“An eye for an eye will only make the whole world blind.”

“Be the change that you wish to see in the world.”

“You must not lose faith in humanity. Humanity is like an ocean; if a few drops of the ocean are dirty, the ocean does not become dirty.”

“There is no ‘way to peace,’ there is only ‘peace.”


Mohandas Ghandi

“If everyone demanded peace instead of another television set, then there’d be peace.”

“You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one. I hope someday you’ll join us. And the world will live as one.”

“I used to think that the world was doing something to me, that the world owed me something. And that either the conservatives or the socialists or the fascists or the communists or the Christians or the Jews or the fascists were doing something to me. And when you’re a teeny-bopper, that’s what you think. I’m 40 now, I don’t think that anymore—because I found out it doesn’t fucking work. I am part of them. There’s no separation. Were all one. “Give peace a chance,” not “Shoot people for peace.” “All you need is love.” I believe it. It’s damn hard, but I absolutely believe it.”

John Lennon

“We often think of peace as the absence of war, that if powerful countries would reduce their weapon arsenals, we could have peace. But if we look deeply into the weapons, we see our own minds- our own prejudices, fears and ignorance. Even if we transport all the bombs to the moon, the roots of war and the roots of bombs are still there, in our hearts and minds, and sooner or later we will make new bombs. To work for peace is to uproot war from ourselves and from the hearts of men and women. To prepare for war, to give millions of men and women the opportunity to practice killing day and night in their hearts, is to plant millions of seeds of violence, anger, frustration, and fear that will be passed on for generations to come. ”  From, Living Buddha, Living Christ

Martin Luther King Jr. and Thich Nhat Hanh

Thich Nhat Hanh 

“Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred.”

Martin Luther King Jr.

“It is impossible to build one’s own happiness on the unhappiness of others. This perspective is at the heart of Buddhist teachings.”


Daisaku Ikeda

“Without inner peace, outer peace is impossible. We all wish for world peace, but world peace will never be achieved unless we first establish peace within our own minds. We can send so-called ‘peacekeeping forces’ into areas of conflict, but peace cannot be opposed from the outside with guns. Only by creating peace within our own mind and helping others to do the same can we hope to achieve peace in this world.”


Geshe Kelsang Gyato

May we find the right balance between liberty and security. May the legacy of this senseless act be the start of a new peace among all beings in the world.

Daily Prompt: Judgment Day

If you were to judge your favorite book by its cover, would you still read it?


I had to think long and hard about this topic, before choosing one book. I chose one that I first read over 35 years ago, and have re-read several times. I have given this book to friends, and used it as the basis for ESL lessons. It was first published in 1926, by George Samuel Clason. George was born, in Louisiana, Missouri, on November 7, 1874. Graduated from the University of Nebraska, served in the United States Army during the Spanish – American War. You might say he saw the future before many of his contemporaries, as he founded the Clason map company and published the first road Atlas of Canada and the USA. The book I am going to mention started as one of a series of pamphlets, freely distributed by banks, trust companies and insurance companies. They used parables set during the time of Babylon to teach us basic economics, and how to maximise our economic resources.

This book won’t tell you how to make a million dollars, it won’t even tell you a secret formula to beat the stock market with. Rather it will teach you how to use one of the most important tools, you will use on a regular basis, nay I would even say on a daily basis. It will teach you how to think about money, which is not the root of all evil. As a Buddhist, making money to provide for my family, to help my neighbors is accepted, even encouraged. It’s what I spend the money on that is important. So I am going to pass along the chance to own this valuable book, for the low, low, absolute rock bottom price of free. This offer is available from http://bizbuildersusa.org/ just visit their site click on downloads and you can be reading in moments.

So I’ll assume you have figured out if I would read this book regardless of the cover, and I hope you enjoy it as much as I have over the years.

More Daily Prompt

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