Zen teacher Kyogen Carlson passes away suddenly from heart attack

kyogen-carlson-sweeping-zen-interviewIt is with shock and sadness that we hear of the sudden death of Kyogen Carlson, co-abbot of Dharma Rain Zen Center and pioneer in the transmission of Zen to the West. He collapsed of a heart attack this morning on his way to eat breakfast with his community.

Kyogen ordained in 1972 under Jiyu Kennett at Shasta Abbey, later serving as her personal attendant for many years. He and his wife, Gyokuko, later left Shasta Abbey to work with the Zen community in Portland, OR. They eventually established Dharma Rain Zen Center, a community that continues to flourish as it builds a large-scale practice and residential complex in Portland. Before his passing, Kyogen had just seen the walls go up on the community’s new meditation hall.

The author of Zen in the American Grain, Kyogen was a strong supporter of lay practice even while championing high standards of monastic training. Among Western Buddhist centers, Dharma Rain has long been considered a leader in developing programs for families and children.

An obituary by Sallie Jiko Tisdale follows:

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Bhikkhu Bodhi: Mobilizing for People’s Climate March

Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi

With less than a week remaining before the People’s Climate March in NYC, Bhikkhu Bodhi speaks to the urgency of the problem and the need for us to take action.

Moving from a Culture of Death to a Culture of Life

On September 21, concerned citizens from all across the United States, and from many other lands, will be converging on New York City for the People’s Climate March, billed to be the biggest climate march in history. The immediate occasion for the march is the gathering of world leaders at the United Nations for a summit on the climate crisis being convened by the UN Secretary General. The march’s purpose is to tell global leaders that the time for denial and delay is over, that we have to act now if we’re going to secure the world against the ravages of climate change.

If we’re going to emerge intact, what we need at minimum are binding and enforceable commitments to steep cuts in carbon emissions coupled with a mass-scale transition to renewable sources of energy. However, while clean energy policies are clearly essential in combating climate disruption, a long-term solution must go deeper than adopting new technologies and such pragmatic measures as cap-and-trade or a carbon tax. The climate instability we are facing today is symptomatic of a deeper malady, a cancer spreading through the inner organs of global civilization. The extreme weather events we have experienced come to us as a wake-up call demanding that we treat the underlying cause, the paradigm that underlies our industrial-commercial-financial economy.

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Thich Nhat Hanh’s new translation of Heart Sutra

Thay-Teaching-whiteboard-chineseThich Nhat Hanh on Sept. 11 released a new English translation of the Heart Sutra, titled “The Insight That Brings Us to the Other Shore.”

In a letter to his students explaining the necessity of the new translation, he states, “the patriarch who originally compiled the Heart Sutra was not sufficiently skillful enough with his use of language. This has resulted in much misunderstanding for almost 2,000 years.” Among other changes, Thich Nhat Hanh as added the words “no being, no non-being” immediately after “no birth, no death” in the hopes that “these four words would help us transcend the notion of being and non-being, and we would no longer get caught in such ideas as ‘no eyes, no ears, no nose, no tongue…’”

Click here to read the letter in full. The full translation follows, after the jump.

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Sylvia Boorstein, Tara Brach, and Tim Ryan at DC Mindfully, Sept. 18

DC-mindfully_homepage_banner_550On Sept. 18, the Peace Alliance, in celebration of its 10th anniversary, will host an evening with three renowned advocates for achieving peace through mindfulness: Sylvia Boorstein, Tara Brach, and Congressman Tim Ryan.

Questions to be explored include mindful activism, stopping violence and building peace both locally and globally, cultivating inner peace through mindfulness practice, and moving beyond divisive political discourse.

For details and registration information, click here.

Readers of Buddhadharma and Shambhala Sun will also have the opportunity to practice alongside Sylvia Boorstein next summer at the first annual Shambhala Sun retreat, “Waking Up in Every Moment,” at the Omega Institute next August 26-30. Look for details in the next issue of either magazine.


Buddhist Peace Fellowship protests Urban Shield, police militarization in Oakland

oakland-2014-eatonStory and photos by Joshua Eaton (Click here to view full photo set)

Lifelong Oakland resident Maurice Johnson was leaving Starbucks on Sunday, Aug. 31, when he heard drumming and the sound of Japanese monks chanting the first line of the Lotus Sutra. Johnson then saw nine members of the Buddhist Peace Fellowship (BPF), all in meditation posture, risking arrest by blocking the Oakland Marriott City Center’s main entrance. A banner at their feet read “Evict Urban Shield.” On the other side of the hotel’s front driveway, about 25 other BPF members meditated silently with signs that called for an end to police militarization.

The protest’s Buddhist packaging surprised Johnson at first, but he understood its message instantly. “They’re protesting the hotel giving them room, giving the police room,” said Johnson, 40, who is African-American. “And they’re training them — excessive training, actually. Sort of like an army, you know. Not police training, sort of like army training. It’s a big difference.”

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Anonymous: Contemporary Tibetan art at Queens Museum

Larson_Prayer-Wheel-by-Nortse_Shelley-and-Donald-Rubin-Private-CollectionAnonymous, an exhibit by modern Tibetan artists exploring self-expression, attribution, and identity in contemporary Tibet, will open at the Queens Museum Sept. 21 and run through Jan. 4, 2015. An opening reception will be held on opening day, 4-7 pm.

In her review in the summer issue of Buddhadharma, Kay Larson explains the exhibition’s title:

“Artist-monks wielding brushes in the monastery workshops would never have signed whatever thangka they were working on; the idea would be preposterous. But for the twenty-seven artists in this show, which originated at the Samuel Dorsky Museum of Art and is traveling to other locations, anonymity carries a different weight; it recalls how Tibetans have been deliberately silenced in the twenty-first century. Weingeist at first thought she would play with this theme by making everyone in the exhibition anonymous, but Western-oriented artists vehemently opposed the idea. Even so, some artists need to mask their names because they risk punishment for speaking out.”

Click here for Kay Larson’s full review of this remarkable collection.



Josh Bartok — Zen teacher and dharma-book editor — hangs a new shingle

JoshBsmallHe’s been an editor and co-author of many books for Wisdom Publications, a photographer, and is the abbot of Greater Boston Zen Center in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Now Josh Bartok adds “Contemplative Therapist” to his resume, having just launched his own practice in Cambridge’s Central Square.

As he explains on his new website, “As I practice it, contemplative care is a variety of Buddhist pastoral support deeply informed by the evidence-based treatments of psychology (especially acceptance-based cognitive behavioral therapy), as well as the wisdom traditions of Buddhism. Yet you don’t have to have to be Buddhist to benefit from contemplative therapy.” Though for those who are, he adds, “Another area of specialty for me is helping people with transitions out of monastic practice settings.”

If you’re in the Boston area and feel you’d benefit from investigating contemplative therapy with Josh, you can visit him online.

Dalai Lama says there is no need for a successor; China disagrees

dalai-lamaIn a recent interview with German newspaper Welt am Sonntag, the Dalai Lama stated clearly that he saw no need for a 15th Dalai Lama to succeed him after his passing: “We had a Dalai Lama for almost five centuries. The 14th Dalai Lama now is very popular. Let us then finish with a popular Dalai Lama,” adding, “If a weak Dalai Lama comes along, then it will just disgrace the Dalai Lama.”

Analysts appear to disagree on the true meaning and import of the statement.

Al Jazeera quotes Richard Barnett, a leading Tibet scholar at Columbia University, as saying, “The Chinese have a real chance of winning over the Tibetan population if they allow the Dalai Lama to come back and treat him well, and he acknowledges them for doing that. This remains the main bargaining chip for the Dalai Lama — it’s hard for the Chinese to see a way forward without him, but it’s difficult to see a way with him.”

However, Ganden Thurman, Executive Director of Tibet House US, told the Huffington Post that the Dalai Lama may simply be laying the ground for a more democratic Tibet: “His Holiness is looking for the resolution to the China issue and for [the Tibetan people's] own governance. Both of those issues are looking for what’s best for the Tibetan people.”

UPDATE: Following the Dalai Lama’s statements, Chinese leaders commented publicly that the Dalai Lama is obligated by history and culture to continue the traditions of Tibetan Buddhism, including his own reincarnation. A Foreign Ministry spokeswoman said, “The (present) 14th Dalai Lama has ulterior motives, and is seeking to distort and negate history, which is damaging to the normal order of Tibetan Buddhism.”

There has long been concern among Tibetans that China will attempt to use the issue of the Dalai Lama’s succession for their own gain, most likely by attempting to appoint the 15th Dalai Lama independently.

Be part of the Buddhist showing at People’s Climate March in NYC, Sept. 20-21

Buddhist organizations, groups, and sanghas are being encouraged to send representatives this September 20-21 to the People’s Climate March in New York City — expected to be the largest climate march in history — where they can join such Buddhist leaders as Bhikkhu Bodhi, Rev. Dr. T. Kenjitsu Nakagaki, Ayya Santacitta, Ayya Santussika, and Thanissara in advocating for serious action on climate change.

You can sign up for the march and learn about other avenues of participation at One Earth Sangha. It is recommended to commit to the March through New York Insight’s page here.

If you cannot make the trip to NYC, you can still act locally with your sangha. For helpful hints, click here.

54th Tibetan Democracy Day

Schoolchildren perform in Dharamsala on the 54th Tibetan Democracy Day.

Schoolchildren perform in Dharamsala on the 54th Tibetan Democracy Day

Yesterday, September 2, marked the 54th Tibetan Democracy Day, celebrated by Tibetans in exile worldwide.

Tibetan political leaders in Dharamsala issued statements affirming their resolve to bring freedom and dignity to Tibetans in Tibet and their support for the Dalai Lama’s Middle Way Approach in dealing with China.

Mr. Penpa Tsering, speaker of the Tibetan Parliament in Exile, delivered a speech in which he said the following of China:

“The government of China does not look upon Tibetans as a people endowed with dignity rightfully due to a human being. All its actions, wherever profitable, are geared towards benefiting and ensuring the well being of the communist Chinese government. In doing so, it ignores and tramples on every provision of the international bill of human rights. …[W]e take this opportunity to call on the government of China to reform in a positive direction its extremely leftist way of thinking on the issue and, like the societies of the progressive and morally upright countries of today, urgently and spontaneously lead Tibet too to a new path of becoming an exemplary society of peace in coexistence with China, rooted in a foundation of harmony and stability.”

The full text of the speech, which also clearly outlines the history of democracy in Tibet, can be found here.

Nalanda University reopening after 800 years

12817090It appears that Nalanda University, the academic and symbolic center of Buddhist scholarship founded in the 5th century AD, is opening its doors again for the first time since its destruction 800 years ago.

According to Vice-Chancellor Gopa Sabarwal, only fifteen students have been selected for the first term, out of more than a thousand applicants. More students are expected to enroll this month.

The new campus, in the state of Bihar, is located about nine miles from the site of the original university.

Click here for more on this story.



Geshe Sopa Rinpoche (1923-2014)

g-sopa-copy-2We have received word that Geshe Sopa Rinpoche has recently passed away. Born in Central Tibet, he became a monk a the age of 9. His teaching career began early; he was chosen to be one of the Dalai Lama’s debate examiners even before he had completed his own formal studies. That aptitude led him to eventually serve as a professor of Buddhist Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where from 1976 he taught Tibetan language, Buddhist philosophy, and specialized courses in Indo-Tibetan Buddhist thought.

In 1979 Geshe Sopa founded the Deer Park Buddhist Center and served as its spiritual head and director. The center later became host to the first ever Kalachakra initiation to be offered in the West by the Dalai Lama.

Geshe Sopa influenced many of today’s Buddhist scholars. Roger Jackson, a professor of Asian Studies and Religion at Carleton College in Minnesota, studied under Geshe Sopa both at university and at Deer Park. Jackson wrote in Mandala (2013) of his experiences as a student; read an excerpt after the jump.

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Trial under way for murder of Akong Rinpoche

20130902145445-Akong_Rinpoche_IITrial proceedings began yesterday in the Chinese city of Chengdu for he stabbing deaths of three men last October, among them Akong Tulku Rinpoche, a well-known teacher and the founder of the West’s first Tibetan Buddhist center in Scotland.

It appears from preliminary investigations that the murders may have stemmed from a monetary dispute. One of the accused, Tudeng Gusha, had spent five years sculpting Buddhist statues at Samye Ling in Scotland, but there is disagreement over whether he had been promised payment or was working as a volunteer.

Whatever is determined by the courts, Akong Rinpoche’s brother, now the abbot of Samye Ling, and the Karmapa have stated that it is not their wish for the death penalty to be imposed on those convicted of the murders.

For more on this story, click here.