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 »

Sakyadhita calls for conference papers and panel proposals, unveils upgraded website

sakyadhitalogoSakyadhita, the international association of Buddhist women, has issued a call for papers and workshop/panel proposals to be considered for its next biannual conference, to be held June 23-30, 2015, in Yogyakarta, Indonesia. The conference theme will be “Compassion and Social Justice,” with the aim of fostering “dialogue about creating better connections and to explore how compassion and spiritual development can help shape a more just and peaceful world.” To read more about the conference, including a full list of panel and workshop suggestions, click here. The deadline for panel and workshop proposals is April 15, 2014, and the deadline for submission of papers is June 15, 2014.

Sakyadhita has also expanded and upgraded its website, which you may visit here.

Settlement favors Buddhist boy bullied in Louisiana school; ACLU filed suit, lauds decision for “religious liberty”

The ACLU lawsuit filed on behalf of the parents of “C.C.,” a Buddhist sixth-grader allegedly bullied for his beliefs by Christian teachers and administrators at Negreet High School in Louisiana, has been settled in favor of the parents. According to the AP, the settlement details the ways in which teachers and school officials must refrain from promoting religious beliefs and practices in the public schools. It also orders financial remuneration for the boy’s parents, who relocated C.C. to another school much farther from their home to escape the harassment.

An ACLU blog post on the settlement says the order also “mandates in-service training for school staff regarding their obligations under the First Amendment.” The order “took the form of a ‘consent decree’ agreed to by the school board, [which] ensures that these unlawful practices will be discontinued in Sabine Parish and brings the case to a close. We applaud the board for doing right by C.C., his siblings, and all district students.”

The ACLU post also says the family was subjected to profane racial slurs shouted at them in a KKK-style drive-by.

See Buddhadharma News’s original coverage of the ACLU suit here.

Zen Mountain Monastery remembers senior monastic Mary Kaijun Mold

Mary KaijunThe community at Zen Mountain Monastery in Mount Tremper, NY, has posted a poignant memorial of one of their senior monastics, Mary Kaijun Mold, who passed away March 10 at the age of 86. She had been ordained as a monastic for the last 15 years, following a long life of global travel and spiritual seeking.

The memorial intersperses photos of some of Kaijun’s last days with short poems she composed in the weeks leading up to her death.

Read the remembrance here, which includes details about a cremation service March 17 and a traditional funeral to be held at the monastery April 27, as well as links to an interview with Kaijun and a recording of her last dharma talk. A full biographical obituary of Kaijun may be found here.

Buddhists, Muslims, other faiths united in prayer for missing Malaysia Airlines flight

Penang Police Prayer

Muslim members of the Penang, Malaysia, police force kneel in prayer for missing Flight 370

In contrast to the many media stories appearing lately about Buddhist-Muslim conflict in south Asia, the anxiety surrounding still-missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 has united the two faith groups, along with Christians and Hindus, in prayer for the passengers and their loved ones, reports USA Today. Mass prayer services were held in Malay mosques, temples, and churches, including one for more than 1,500 members of the Penang police force. Shopping malls in the cities have also become outlets for people’s feelings: Read More »

Lama Tsultrim Allione to launch two-year Dakini Wisdom project with talk in NYC; documentary of her life to have US premiere two days later

tsultrim allioneOn March 24, Lama Tsultrim Allione will give a talk on “Dakini Wisdom” at the NY Shambhala Center, which, according to her Tara Mandala organization, will initiate “a multi-lineage collaboration seeking to enhance the understanding of the sacred feminine as expressed through Buddhism’s female heritage, the feminine principle of wisdom, female deities, and the Dakinis themselves.” The plan is to conduct workshops through the United States, leading up to a conference to be held in July 2016 at Tara Mandala’s primary retreat center in Pagosa Spring, CO.

After the “Dakini Wisdom” talk, a documentary about the life of Lama Tsultrim Allione, Feeding Your Demons, will have its US premiere March 26 at New York’s Rubin Museum, with Allione conducting a Q&A session after the screening (see the video trailer after the jump). Future screenings have been scheduled for Los Angeles, the San Francisco Bay Area, Seattle, and Boulder, CO.

For more information about the “Dakini Wisdom” talk, click here; about the Feeding Your Demons premiere, click here.

For more background on Lama Tsultrim Allione and the Dakini Wisdom project, see Michaela Haas’ recent piece at the Huffington Post.

See the Feeding Your Demons trailer: Read More »

Eight-year Buddhist program lightens life for Florida inmates

John Kingham

John Kingham

Some inmates at the Tomoka Correctional Institute, near Daytona Beach, Florida, credit an eight-year-old Buddhist program led by two American Zen priests for helping them discover meaning and purpose in the midst of their incarceration, according to a recent feature in the Daytona Beach News-Journal. The article quotes John Kingham, who has already served 30 years of a life-without- parole sentence, as saying, “I don’t think I could have maintained my sanity and sense of humor without [Buddhism].” Kingham has gone so far as to be ordained as a monk by one of the priests, Paul Cummins of the Soto Zen Center in Cocoa Beach, and has been allowed to wear the black robes of that order during meetings.

The inmates interviewed express appreciation for the benefits of their meditation and study: transforming potential aggravations into gratitude, letting go of violent impulses, and seeing that their lives have value and that compassion for others is possible.

Read the full article here.

Image via Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Dalai Lama interview with Larry King online: Same-sex marriage, universal values, China, the new Pope, and more

Same-sex marriage, the new Pope, Sino-Tibetan relations, the need to teach universal ethics in public education, and more feature in a relaxed, wide-ranging conversation between the Dalai Lama and Larry King, uploaded yesterday to Larry King Now on ora.tv. Here is a preview clip in which the Dalai Lama addresses the possibility of a future reincarnation in female form (“Yes! That’s very possible”):

Thai monk protest leader: “It’s better to care for people on the street”

buddha issaraLast Friday, the monk who has taken a leadership role in anti-government protests in Thailand, Buddha Issara, sat down for a short interview with the Wall Street Journal. When questioned as to whether monks should involve themselves in worldly affairs, he insisted that not only is it necessary when those in power are behaving in ways that harm the population, it is “nothing new” in the history of Thai monasticism; only in recent history have they been sidelined as political advisors. He also urged a shift toward street-level activism for the monks:

“I think most people who visit temples or monasteries are good anyway. It’s better to care for the people on the street. Even those who come to the temple, you have to wait for them to arrive before you can teach them. There is also an emphasis on being neutral. Monks these days can’t clearly say what is wrong and what is right. The country has to reform its religions as well as its politics, and we have to change the way that Thai monks think, how to apply the principles of the Lord Buddha’s teachings to the everyday life.”

Read the full interview here.

Dalai Lama to offer prayer in US Senate Thursday

dalai-lama-231x3001US senators will be treated to a taste of dharma Thursday morning, as the Dalai Lama will offer the opening prayer for the day’s session. It’s the first time he has been invited to do so, the Washington Post reports. Though the Dalai Lama abdicated his political role in the Tibetan government-in-exile in 2011, he still meets regularly with political leaders worldwide in his capacity as an international religious figure and Nobel Peace Prize laureate. As part of his current US tour, he held such a meeting with President Obama on February 21.