Over the weekend, the New York Times published an item concerning a crowning achievement in the work of the late E. Gene Smith to preserve the vast body of Tibetan Buddhist literature under threat after the political upheavals of the 20th century: the opening of the document preservation department within the new library in Chengdu, China, that houses Smith’s archive of more than 12,000 volumes. The institution itself, created to resemble a traditional Tibetan monastic library, opened in 2011 at the Southwestern University for the Nationalities and, remarkably for the location, was named after Smith. Read More
As HH the Dalai Lama begins a short US tour this week, his office has announced free live webcasts from February 20 to 24 for many of his public talks and roundtable panels. The dominant theme for these appearances is the intersection of business and ethics, but there will also be discussion of “Unlocking the Mind and Human Happiness” and “How to Achieve Happiness.”
Full details and links to the feeds may be found here.
The Northwest Dharma Association wants you in touch with your inner creative this spring. Gatherings they will host in Portland and Seattle, on March 1 and 8, respectively, will focus on “The Arts as Buddhist Practice.” Presentations, performances, and hands-on workshops will be drawn from the aesthetic worlds of ikebana (Japanese flower arranging), Nepalese sacred dance and music, calligraphy, Tibetan thangka painting, and the Japanese tea ceremony, as well as original music, painting, poetry, and other art forms.
“The intention for this event is to provide Buddhists and the general public an interesting, fun, and spiritual gathering,” said Tim Tapping, president of NWDA, “so that we experience Mahasangha (greater community) and relate to each other during meaningful activities in a relaxed, open atmosphere throughout the day.”
Details about both events may be found here.
From April 15 to 20, Buenos Aires, Argentina, will be the site for the First Latin American Zen Conference. “Zen: Bridge of Cultures” will feature speakers, breakout workshops, group meditation and chanting, temple and museum tours, interactive arts (poetry, music, calligraphy, etc.), martial arts demonstrations, and more. Visit Zen America del Sur (Spanish only) for further information.
Of related interest: Public Radio International’s recent piece from Peru, “Lima’s Stressed-Out Are Turning to Zen Buddhism.”
On Tuesday, Public Radio International’s The World program profiled Beijing-based Tibetan writer and activist Tsering Woeser as “the voice of Tibet for China and the world.” The headline echoes the title of her recent book, Voices of Tibet, which examines the lives of the more than 120 Tibetans, including many Buddhist monks and nuns, who have protested Chinese occupation of their homeland through the extreme act of self-immolation (the first such protest of 2014 occurred just a week ago, and a second was reported on Thursday). Asked if she was managing to cut through the party line of Chinese propaganda about Tibet, Woeser replied, “You just have to keep repeating the truth and eventually, people will start to listen. Besides, what else is there to do?”
Exquisite gilt copper reliefs that adorned the special stupas at Densatil Monastery in central Tibet — nearly lost forever during the wholesale destruction of the Chinese Cultural Revolution — will feature in a major exhibit at the Asia Society in New York City, opening February 19. According to press material, “the exhibition examines the unique design of tashi gomang stupas as huge, three-dimensional mandalas, each comprising a square base supporting six tiers with a stupa at the top…Viewers move through the exhibition as one would have moved around the stupa, with the iconography of each tier detailing the path of the spiritual journey towards enlightenment taken by a Buddhist adherent.” The effect will be enhanced by photographs taken of the original stupas during Italian scholar Giuseppi Tucci’s 1948 Tibet expedition.
As part of opening the Golden Visions of Densatil exhibit, a group of Tibetan monk artisans will create a sand mandala onsite from February 19 to 23. The public may watch the mandala construction, as well as view the finished work before its ritual dismantling at the exhibit’s close on May 18.
For eight days, beginning February 15, the Mangala Shri Bhuti sangha of Dzigar Kongtrul Rinpoche will be engaged in their semi-annual drupchö (“dharma accomplishment”) ceremonies in Ward and Crestone, CO, and the public is invited to add their prayer requests.
During this practice intensive, which focuses on Longchenpa’s “Gathering of the Awareness Holders” and “Queen of Great Bliss” liturgies, prayer requests from the public are read aloud before the second session each day. Over the course of the drupchö, more than 100,000 symbolic offerings are made at the shrine, along with abundant material offerings, with the merit dedicated to those for whom prayers have been solicited, and extended to all beings. Prayer requests may be emailed (email@example.com), and if one wishes to make the traditional accompanying contribution, instructions for how to do so are here. Since many prayers must be read daily, MSB requests that they be kept brief and include one’s own name (e.g., “Jane Smith: please pray for the cancer remission of my brother Adam”).
Recently, the BBC profiled what it termed “Taiwan’s new-age Buddhists.” The piece documented a trend, on the island, away from devotional visits to the temples to improve one’s lot in this life and the next, and toward charitable works.
“The focus now is on what the Taiwanese call ‘humanistic Buddhism’ — caring for others and for society. It returns Buddhists to the core principles of Buddhism — speaking good words, thinking good thoughts and doing good deeds.”
The piece notes the influence of some Christian methodologies but cites native organizations such as Tzu Chi Foundation (known worldwide now for the disaster-relief efforts of its 7 million members), Fo Guang Shan, and Dharma Drum Mountain as tapping into a newly wealthy middle class and leading the way. Such a shift in emphasis has led to phenomenal growth in these organizations, and the BBC says their influence is now being felt in mainland China.
“Scholars believe Taiwan is playing a key role because many charismatic Buddhist leaders fled to the island after the Communists took over the mainland in 1949. Influenced by the respected late Buddhist leader Taixu’s calls for contributing to society to gain enlightenment, the masters and their disciples made the idea a reality.”
Image via www.us.tzuchi.org
Our deep sympathy goes out to the community at the Empty Hand Zen Center; their teacher and founder, Susan Jion Postal, passed away on February 7. Empty Hand’s website indicates that Jion had been experiencing a recurrent cancer for which there was no effective treatment. The New Rochelle, NY, zendo will hold special public sitting sessions today, Wednesday, and Friday to honor their teacher and to dedicate the merit to her auspicious transition. A remembrance posted on Sweeping Zen also contains links to Jion’s previous articles and teachings on that site.
Thirteen centuries of Himalayan Buddhist art will be on display at the Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena, CA, from March 28 to August 25. The centerpiece of the nearly 40 objects will be a 20-foot tall thangka depicting the future Buddha, Maitreya, commissioned in the 18th century by the Eighth Dalai Lama. For more information on In the Land of Snow: Buddhist Art of the Himalayas, including a slideshow of highlights from the exhibition, click here.
Sri Lankan Buddhist monks became the latest in Southeast Asia to conduct a mass Tree Ordination Ceremony as a unique way to add spiritual weight to environmental conservation efforts in those countries. In an event held on January 11, more than 50 monks “ordained” around 1,000 trees in the Nigala Forest, which is “under a threat due to the illegal land grabbing, proposed sugar cane cultivation and forest fires,” as reported by Sri Lanka’s Nation. The item explains that a group in Thailand calling itself the Ecology Monks initiated this movement 30 years ago, and it has also been implemented in Cambodia, Vietnam, and Burma: “The original idea behind the tradition is to use the widely respected symbol of monastic robes to make loggers hesitate to cut down trees.”
College students, recent grads invited to one-month Chan monastic retreat program in Taiwan this summer
Want to have a really different summer vacation experience to talk about when your semester starts in the fall? Fo Guang Shan Monastery in Taiwan will once again offer its one-month Buddhist Monastic Retreat program to anyone age 18-35 who’s either still in college or within three years of their graduation. Participants will be immersed in the life of Chan Buddhism (the Chinese precursor of Zen) from June 26 to July 24 by following a modified monastic schedule (no head shaving, no formal vows) including English-language Buddhist studies, chanting, vegetarian diet, a 7-day meditation retreat, an International Youth Seminar, and a tour of Taiwan. And as an added bonus, beyond getting yourself there, it’s free. Applications close April 15.
Click here to learn more about the Fo Guang Shan program, and visit the American Buddhist Perspective blog to read Justin Whitaker’s happy recollection of attending the program in 2010, with lots of photos (the image reproduced here is his).
Obituary contributed by Jundo Cohen
Gudo Nishijima Roshi passed away on January 28, 2014, at the age of 94. A zazen practitioner for nearly eighty years, he was a teacher to Zen students from around the world and a translator of Buddhist texts from Japanese and Sanskrit. A one-time student of Kodo Sawaki, the itinerant master famous for his efforts to restore zazen to its place as the center of Buddhist practice, Master Nishijima shared in that philosophy. Master Nishijima was ordained and received dharma transmission from the late Rempo Niwa, Abbot of Eiheiji temple and head of the Soto school of Zen Buddhism. Gudo Nishijima wrote and translated many books on Buddhism in both Japanese and English, including full translations of Dogen’s Shobogenzo and the Shinji Shobogenzo. Nishijima sought to bring the practice of zazen out from behind monastery walls and into our homes and workplaces, and to step through and beyond the traditional sangha divisions of priest and lay, male and female.