Ven. Priyadarshi to offer first lecture in leadup series to Dalai Lama’s Alabama visit

Ven. Tenzin Priyadarshi

Ven. Tenzin Priyadarshi

The Dalai Lama’s visit to Birmingham, Alabama, may not be until October, but preliminary events kick off this week. This Friday, April 4, Ven. Tenzin Priyadarshi — founding director of the Dalai Lama Center for Ethics and Transformative Values at MIT and a recipient of Harvard’s Distinguished Alumni Award — will offer the first of a series of lectures thematically linked to the Dalai Lama’s life and legacy. Ven. Priyadarshi will join others at the Birmingham Museum of Art’s Steiner Auditorium to address “the history of civil rights in Birmingham, and how it relates to human rights efforts around the world,” according to the Birmingham News. See full details here.

Tibetan nun self-immolates to protest Chinese rule, 130th since 2009

drolma -- self-immolationA Buddhist nun named Drolma became the 130th Tibetan to use self-immolation to protest Chinese rule in Tibet since such protests began in 2009. Radio Free Asia reports that Drolma set herself ablaze about 3 p.m. local time, outside the Ba Choede monastery in Bathang County. RFA heard from local sources that Tibetan witnesses put out the flames and took her to the hospital. Drolma’s condition is unknown; Chinese police have forbidden anyone access to her in the hospital. The police have also detained six other Tibetan nuns connected with Drolma. Their whereabouts are currently unknown. Read More »

Singapore: All safe after fire at Buddha Dhamma Mandala Society

Image via Channel NewsAsiaTwenty people, gathered at Singapore’s Buddha Dhamma Mandala Society, narrowly escaped injury Sunday morning when a fire in the coffee shop below them quickly got out of control. The center is run by long-time Australian monk Sravasti Dhammika, author of the Dhamma Musings blog. Channel NewsAsia quotes him as saying, “One person very bravely ran downstairs [and] opened the door, and by opening the door, cleared all the smoke from the stairwell, and we managed to get out that way. If it hadn’t been for that, we might have had to jump out the window.” While the coffee shop was reported to be gutted, there was no word yet on damage to the center, which houses many of the books on basic Buddhism that Ven. Dhammika gives away for free, such as the widely translated Good Question, Good Answer. Read More »

Tzu Chi Buddhist relief in news: New Canadian office, comforting Malaysian families, embracing innovation in social media

Tzu Chi volunteer comforts family member of missing Malaysian flight passenger

Tzu Chi volunteer comforts family member of missing Malaysian flight passenger

The Taiwan-based Buddhist volunteer relief organization Tzu Chi has been much in the news lately, from expanding its Canadian operations to helping families of passengers in Malaysia cope while the search continues for flight MH370, and featuring in a study of how innovations in social media use are allowing its reported 10 million members to stay connected.

Last week Tzu Chi members joined Richmond, BC, Mayor Malcolm Brodie and other officials to cut the ribbon on their new headquarters, an upgrade from 800 to 3,000 square feet. The Richmond Review reported Mayor Brodie as saying, “Anytime there is any kind of disaster, you can count on the Tzu Chi organization to be of great assistance.” The report also noted that Tzu Chi’s activities were not limited to disaster relief: Read More »

Construction of Moscow’s first Buddhist temple complex slated to begin this year

The main temple in Elista, the capital of Kalmykia, Russia.

The main temple in Elista, the capital of Kalmykia, Russia

After nearly a decade of planning and approval delays, construction of the first Buddhist temple in Moscow, Russia, will begin this year. It’s no small project; besides the main temple, the 3,000-square-meter complex will also house “cultural and medical centers, a conference room, and a soup kitchen,” according to the Voice of Russia. The article also points to the challenges of reconciling the ideas of the various groups under the umbrella of the Moscow Buddhist Community, the organization responsible for overseeing the construction. Read More »

New Buddha Mind Monastery in Oklahoma designed in spirit of outreach

Photo via ctbuddhamind.orgWhen your dharma center is housed in a small, old church, you might not get a second glance, even in Oklahoma City. But erect a $4 million, 18,000-square-foot annex, and that will draw some attention. So says an Oklahoman feature on the newly expanded Buddha Mind Monastery, which now houses five Taiwanese nuns who practice in the Chung Tai Zen tradition and boasts a new meditation hall, library, reception space, and classrooms. The abbess, Jian Mao Shifu, told the Oklahoman that “the monastery, which draws so much curiosity, has a gray exterior with a curved shape in the front to symbolize open arms…because the nuns reach out to the community in many ways [such as through] meditation classes, Zen Buddhism classes, vegetarian cooking classes for children and adults, dharma lectures, sutra study, ceremonies and other activities.” The article says that part of the interior features a display of the Four Tenets of Chung Tai: “to our elders be respectful; to our juniors be kind; with all humanity be harmonious; in all endeavors be true.”

Read the full piece here and see a short video and eleven  photos of the Buddha Mind Monastery. More images and information about the monastery and its public programs may be found here. Read More »

“The Fourth Noble Truth,” a Buddhist love story, to premiere April 3

Fourth Noble Truth“There are a lot of unhappy people out there and I think this film points them in the right direction to overcome that unhappiness.  If it succeeds, we will have made a difference.”

Such is the aspiration of screenwriter/director Gary T. McDonald. His latest film, The Fourth Noble Truth, is a kind of Buddhist love story, fraught with the complications of worldly life. It emerged from his experiences sitting with the All One Dharma meditation group in Santa Barbara, CA, and will be screened in a world premiere at the Sonoma International Film Festival April 3 and 5 (see the trailer at the end of this post). Read More »

Khyentse Foundation, Dharma Drum announce partnership to translate Tibetan Buddhist texts into Chinese

khyentse foundationEarlier this month, Khyentse Foundation unveiled yet another ambitious project in its quest to make the Buddha’s teachings fully available in modern languages: a partnership with Taiwan’s Dharma Drum Buddhist College (DDBC) to translate and publish literature from the Tibetan Buddhist canon in Chinese. “Once they are translated,” Khyentse Foundation’s announcement said, “the Tibetan and Sanskrit Buddhist texts will complete the missing sections of the Chinese canon, a welcome addition to the Chinese cultural heritage…[B]ecause of many historical, geographic, political, and cultural factors, some Buddhist texts are available only in Tibetan or only in Chinese. More than a thousand Buddhist sutras and commentaries are not available in the Chinese Buddhist canon, not counting the tantric texts.”

The one-year pilot project aims to take advantage of the DDBC’s “decades of training and cultivating Buddhist scholars and translators in Taiwan.”

Click here to read the full announcement.

Syllabus Announced: Core Texts of Secular Buddhism

The Interdependence Project is offering a unique new series exploring the core teachings of the Buddhist tradition, from the Pali Canon through contemporary interpretations by modern teachers. This course is available for Home Study via the Internet, and each class will include 30 minutes of meditation and discussion. Click here for more information. Read More »

Shinnyo-en Buddhists pledge $6.6 million to support Japanese cultural studies at USC

Her Holiness Shinso Ito, current head of the Shinnyo-en Buddhist order.

Her Holiness Shinso Ito, current head of the Shinnyo-en Buddhist order

The University of Southern California last week announced a major gift from the Shinnyo-en Buddhist order to dramatically broaden its offerings in the study of Japanese culture. Because of Shinnyo-en’s historic pledge of $6.6 million, USC has renamed its three-year-old center for such scholarship the Shinso Ito Center for Japanese Religions and Culture, honoring Shinnyo-en’s current leader, Shinso Ito. In a USC press release, the Rev. Minoru Shitara, director of Shinnyo-en’s international affairs department, said, “Shinnyo-en deeply appreciates the commitment of the USC Center for Japanese Religions and Culture for its deep and sensitive explorations of many aspects of Japanese culture through the study of international relations, society, the arts, media, and religion.” Read More »

Dalai Lama Center conference to explore educating children through “Science of Kindness”

heart mind logo“The Science of Kindness” will be the theme for the Dalai Lama Center for Peace and Education’s children-focused Heart-Mind conference, to be held May 8-10 in Vancouver, BC. Nearly a dozen speakers will guide participants in exploring the various ways in which adults can foster the qualities of compassion, empathy, altruism, and kindness in the children they influence. These discussions will be informed in particular by contemporary scientific research demonstrating the positive effects of such cultivation. Registration is open, and the deadline for early-bird package discounts is April 1. Visit the DLC site for all the details.

Dharma Rain Zen Center begins restoration of contaminated Portland acreage for new home

Artist’s rendering of Dharma Rain Zen Center’s new meditation hall

Reclaiming contaminated Portland acreage and transforming it into an ecologically sound neighborhood resource, wildlife-friendly green corridor, and its new home is the ambitious goal of the Dharma Rain Zen Center. According to a story published last week in the Portland Tribune, the long-standing Soto Zen community has begun restoration work on a 14-acre parcel in Siskiyou Square it purchased in 2012. The site was a gravel pit for much of the twentieth century, then a landfill capped since 1983 with clay and topsoil and designated a “brownfield…requiring an environmental cleanup before it can be reoccupied.”  This is a natural undertaking for Buddhists, said Dharma Rain monk and arborist Kakumyo Lowe-Charde in the article, an outer reflection of the practice: “The inner work of Zen is becoming aware and more ethical and taking bad patterns and making them more wholesome.” Read More »

The Fire This Time: A look at the religious violence in Burma, by Hozan Alan Senauke

Burma Conflict 1

Buddhadharma  recently asked Hozan Alan Senauke, Soto Zen priest and longtime peace activist, to offer some insight on the current conflict between Buddhist and Muslim ethnic groups in Burma. Below is his response — an excellent explanation not only of the conflict itself but of how we, as Western Buddhists, might try to make a difference.


Hatred is never appeased by hatred in this world; by non-hatred only is hatred appeased.  This is an unending truth.  — Dhammapada, 5

On February 27, Doctors Without Borders (MSF) was ordered to close all its long-established clinics in Myanmar/Burma. They were accused of giving preferential treatment to Muslim Rohingya people. This was in response to statements by MSF about what they saw as ongoing and systematic attacks on Rohingyas in vulnerable communities of Burma’s western Rakhine state. According to UN documents, the latest of these attacks — in Du Chee Yar Tan village this January — left forty-eight Rohingya dead, mostly women and children, at the hands of Buddhist-based rioters and state security forces. MSF, with numerous clinics in the area, publicly reported that they had treated at least twenty-two victims.  The government of Myanmar has denied claims of these abuses, asserting that the UN’s and MSF’s facts and figures were “totally wrong.”

After negotiations, the government stepped back a little, allowing MSF to continue its HIV/AIDS work and other activities in Kachin and Shan states, as well as in the Yangon region. Rakhine state remains off-limits to MSF, despite the pressing needs of thousands from all religions and ethnicities who depend on their clinics.

Before going much further, I should say that nothing I write can convey the complexity of issues or the passion and fear that fire both sides. From my distant vantage point in the United States, I know that I can’t see the whole picture, which includes colonial history and geopolitics, along with regional and ethnic tensions within modern Myanmar.

Read More »