Patriarch of Vietnamese Buddhism dies, Dalai Lama sends special letter to mourners

thich tri tinhThe Patriarch of Vietnamese Buddhism, Most Venerable Thich Tri Tinh, passed away last week on the day before his 98th birthday, prompting Tibet’s spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, to write a special letter directly to the National Vietnam Buddhist Sangha. In the letter, reports phayul.com, the Dalai Lama expressed his sorrow and sympathy, saying “the best way to pay tribute to him would be to do whatever we can to implement the Buddha’s message of inner peace, non-violence and compassion in our own lives.”

Mourning among Vietnam’s Buddhists has continued throughout the week, with memorial events attended by high government officials. The official funeral was held April 2.

Writer, Zen master Peter Matthiessen dies at 86

Peter Matthiessen hands foldedPeter Matthiessen — towering literary figure, passionate naturalist and environmental activist, ex-CIA agent, and Zen master — passed away April 5 after a year’s struggle with leukemia. He was 86.

Matthiessen was on the cusp of publishing the 33rd book of his 60-year writing career, In Paradise, a novel based on his experiences in three “Bearing Witness” meditation retreats at the Nazi concentration camp at Auschwitz-Birkenau with Bernie Glassman’s Zen Peacemakers. In Paradise will be released by Riverhead Books on April 8.

Said Bernie Glassman about his dharma successor Matthiessen on his Facebook page, “With much love for a wonderful, inspirational and great Zen Master, I wish to honor the passing of a dear friend, student, extraordinary Author and Socially Engaged Human Being. We will love you forever.”

Another longtime spiritual friend of Matthiessen’s, Roshi Joan Halifax, posted on her Facebook page, “My dear friend Peter, gone beyond. Offering incense and candlelight for his parinirvana………. In Kyoto and watching blossoms fall on this day of his death.” Read More »

Top jazz talent to headline Buddhist Global Relief benefit concert

Esperanza Spalding

Esperanza Spalding

Buddhist Global Relief has signed on top-level jazz talent to headline its Concert to Feed the Hungry April 25 in New York City. Triple Grammy-winning bassist and vocalist Esperanza Spalding and her long-time collaborator, pianist Leonardo Genovese, will take the top slot, sharing the bill with pianist Kenny Werner’s acclaimed quartet. Spalding brings an activist background, having lobbied for the closing of the Guantanamo Bay prison camp, alongside Herbie Hancock and Harry Belafonte.

Werner’s 2010 album-length composition No Beginning No End arose from a Buddhism-inflected poem he wrote after his daughter’s tragic death at 16. “By reconnecting with the elements of Eastern spirituality that had long guided their thinking,” wrote Giovanni Russonello in Capital Bop, “the Werners eventually began to climb out of their despair together.”

“Few albums,” declared John Kelman in All About Jazz, “have ever so clearly demonstrated the healing power of music.”

All proceeds from Concert to Feed the Hungry will support Buddhist Global Relief’s hunger-elimination projects. A special website for the concert has been set up here, and you may learn more about Buddhist Global Relief’s programs here.

Buddhist scholar Helmut Krassner passes away at 57, warmly remembered

Helmut KrassnerThe International Association of Tibetan Studies has posted a moving farewell to respected Buddhist scholar Helmut Krasser, who passed away over the weekend at age 57. IATS says that Krassner most recently served as director of the Institute for the Cultural and Intellectual History of Asia (Austrian Academy of Sciences, Vienna) since 2007, during which time he “had been increasingly involved in…groundbreaking cooperation with the China Tibetology Research Center (Beijing), a cooperation that resulted in the sensational publication of numerous works of which the Sanskrit originals had been hitherto considered lost.”

Of Krassner’s personal qualities, IATS observed that “all those who had the privilege to meet [him] were instantly charmed by his wit, the warm and vibrant expression of his eyes, his exceptional understanding of things human and social, and the unique manner in which he managed not to take himself or his research (too) seriously.” During his two years of terminal illness, they said, Krassner “exemplarily never gave up hope and never abandoned his optimism or his good mood.”

Read the full remembrance here.

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 »