Twenty-five worldwide events to mark “Year of Dalai Lama”

The Dalai Lama receiving the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989.

The Dalai Lama receiving the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989

The Tibetan government-in-exile has proclaimed 2014 to be the “Year of the Dalai Lama” in honor of the 25th anniversary of his Nobel Peace Prize award. Tashi Phuntsok, Secretary of the Department of Information and International Relations for the Central Tibetan Administration (based in Dharamsala, India), announced plans for 25 celebratory events worldwide from June through December 10, the day the Dalai Lama received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989. reports that these events will “include His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s 79th birthday, Tibetan Democracy Day, [and the] birthday of Mahatma Gandhi,” with Phuntsok adding that “these events are observed annually by the Tibetan government in exile, but this year, it will be observed ‘at a larger scale and a greater scale’ with more number of participation from guests including Nobel Peace laureates.”

Read more about the 2014 “Year of the Dalai Lama” events here and here.

Clean water to Tibetan refugee children: Goal of new campaign

tibetans drinking waterFor many in the Tibetan community in exile living in India, basic elements of life, such as access to clean water, still remain a challenge, says the Tibet Fund. That organization has partnered with the Lha Charitable Trust to address this dilemma. The latter reports that “94 percent of Tibetan refugees drink tap water because few can afford to regularly purchase filtered water. Illnesses caused by contaminated drinking water include chronic gastro-intestinal problems, typhoid and cholera,” resulting in many lost work and school days. Since 2010, the organizations have installed water purification systems in seven schools and have launched an Indiegogo campaign through July 5 to fund up to ten more.  Click here to learn more.

Dharma Realm Buddhist University looking to expand into Ukiah

drbuCalifornia’s City of 10,000 Buddhas is looking to expand its Dharma Realm Buddhist University (DRBU) and has filed permit applications to use the empty facilities of the Trinity School in Ukiah in order to do that. According to a report in the Ukiah Daily Journal, “The maximum number of students at the facility, which would offer degree program classes, extension classes, certificate programs, lecture series and academic conferences, would be 160, and faculty and other staff would be limited to 25 people,” but they don’t anticipate reaching that capacity for another five years.

DRBU was founded at City of 10,000 Buddhas in 1976 by the Venerable Master Hsuan Hua. Since that time, its website says, DRBU has been “guided and informed by enduring hallmarks of a liberal arts education from both East and West, which holds self-knowledge rooted in virtue as its basis, insight and goodness as its outcomes, and benefiting others as its application.”

Sri Lanka Buddhist rally erupts into fatal anti-Muslim riot

A fire set during Buddhist-Muslim rioting in southwest Sri Lanka.

A fire set during Buddhist-Muslim rioting in southwest Sri Lanka

A Buddhist-led protest march in southwestern Sri Lanka Sunday erupted into riots targeting the local Muslim population in three towns, leaving three people dead and scores injured, according to numerous sources. The sources agree that the rally was led by members of Sri Lanka’s extremist Buddhist group, Bodu Bala Sena (“Buddhist Power Force”), and soon devolved into vandals burning and otherwise damaging Muslim mosques, prayer halls, shops, and homes, but accounts differ after that. Read More »

Zoketsu Norman Fischer’s address to Stanford grads: “How to Survive Your Promising Life”

Photo by L.A. Cicero“Today you are hurtling out of heaven. Where in the world will you land? When you get there, what in the world are you going to do? What is really worthwhile and what is just a distraction — no matter how much people tell you it’s not?”

So offered Zoketsu Norman Fischer as contemplative questions to graduates at Stanford University this past Saturday, according to the Stanford Report. Fischer, founder of the Everyday Zen Foundation and former abbot of the San Francisco Zen Center, spoke on “How to Survive Your Promising Life” at the Baccalaureate, part of Stanford’s graduating ceremonies that is “a student-led commemoration acknowledging the spiritual contribution to the education of the whole person, organized under the auspices of the Office for Religious Life.”

Known for his sly wit, Fischer explained the way in which spiritual practices are “absolutely useless,” yet indispensable and limited only by the extent of our imagination, and sustained by a fearless kind of love and compassion.

Read the full account of Norman Fischer’s Stanford address here. Read More »

Harvard Library to upload ten-million-page archive of Tibetan Buddhist Resource Center

Photo by Nina Menconi, via TBRCThe Harvard Library has announced a collaborative project with the Tibetan Buddhist Resource Center (TBRC) to upload more than 10 million pages of Tibetan Buddhist literature into its Digital Repository System as a means to provide a “safe haven” for the TBRC’s archive. The TBRC was founded in 1999 by the late Gene Smith, with a mandate to digitally scan and catalog his private collection of the more than 12,000 volumes from the Tibetan Buddhist canon he had acquired from Tibetan refugees fleeing the political turmoil in their homeland. Harvard Library experts will begin the upload in July and estimate it will take a year to complete. Afterward, the collection will be made available to Harvard Library users through its HOLLIS catalog. Dan Hazen, associate librarian for collection development, called the partnership with TBRC to preserve Tibetan literature one of Harvard Library’s “hallmark projects.”

Read the entire article in Harvard Magazine.
Read More »

George Takei to be keynote speaker at “Being Gay, Being Buddhist” seminar in Berkeley

George TakeiActor, activist, and humorous social media powerhouse George Takei is scheduled to be the keynote speaker at “Being Gay, Being Buddhist: The LGBTQ Community and Shin Buddhism,” a seminar being organized by the Buddhist Churches of America on Saturday, June 28, 10 am to 3 pm, at the Jodo Shinshu Center in Berkeley, California. Other speakers will include Pieper and Lois Toyama on “Parenting our LGBTQ Children” and Rev. Kiyonobu Kuwahara, who “will provide an overview of Buddhist, particularly Jodo Shinshu, doctrinal views relevant to the LGBTQ community.” (See Rev. Kuwahara’s article “Is My Sangha Inclusive?” from the Buddhadharma archives.)

George Takei, best known for his role as Mr. Sulu in the original Star Trek television series, grew up attending Senshin Buddhist Temple in Southern California, and as a UC Berkeley student he attended the Berkeley Buddhist Temple. He and his partner, Brad, were married by Rev. William Briones, resident minister of the LA Hompa Hongwanji Buddhist Temple. Last month he was the recipient of the GLAAD Award in New York, for his role in fighting for equity in the media field. Read More »

Shamar Rinpoche dies suddenly at age 62

shamarpa7We are sad to report the passing of Shamar Rinpoche, the 14th Sharmapa. His death was announced by Trinley Thaye Dorje, whom Shamar Rinpoche recognized as the 17th Karmapa. His death occurred in the last few days, though details have not yet been made available.

The Shamarpa is the second-highest position in the Kagyu lineage after the Karmapa. The first Shamarpa (1283–1349) received a red crown — an exact replica of Karmapa’s black crown — from the 3rd Karmapa. The 14th Shamarpa, Mipham Chokyi Lodro, was born in 1952 in Tibet and was trained in the Kagyu teachings by the 16th Karmapa in India. Shamar Rinpoche founded the Bodhi Path Buddhist Centers, which employ a nonsectarian approach to Buddhism, in 1996. In 2005 he established Shar Minub, a retreat center stressing vinaya practice, in Kathmandu, Nepal. And in 2009 he founded the Infinite Compassion Foundation for the promotion of animal rights. He was the author of Boundless Awakening, a meditation manual, and A Golden Swan in Turbulent Waters, a biography of the Tenth Karmapa, Choying Dorje.

Following the death of the 16th Karmapa in 1981, Shamar Rinpoche was one of four important tulkus who took control of the Kagyu lineage and led the search for the Karmapa’s reincarnation. While the vast majority of Kagyu leaders and the Dalai Lama recognized Ogyen Trinley Dorje as the 17th Karmapa, Shamar Rinpoche and his supporters promoted Trinley Thaye Dorje.

Click here to visit the Shamarpa’s official website.


UN convention in Vietnam abruptly cancels Ajahn Brahm’s speech on gender equality in Buddhist sangha

Ajahn BrahmRev. Danny Fisher, at his Off the Cushion blog, has assembled a roundup of news and opinion concerning the abrupt cancellation of Australian monk Ajahn Brahm’s delivery of a paper on gender equality in the Buddhist sangha. He was to give the speech at the 11th Annual UN Day of Vesak Convention in Vietnam last month. The convention was organized as a way to share “Buddhist perspectives towards achieving the UN Millennium Development Goals.” According to the Federation of Australian Buddhist Councils, Ajahn Brahm’s paper in support of the third of those goals “presented a solid case for the full ordination of women in the Theravadin tradition, supported by references from the Buddha and the Vinaya rules that govern Buddhist monastic life.”

The paper had apparently been preapproved by the convention’s organizing committee in February, with Ajahn Brahm receiving an official invitation to present it that same month. He traveled to Vietnam for the convention and was notified of the cancellation only the day before he was due to deliver his speech. Read More »

Largest Thai temple outside of Bangkok opening in MA; new temples, major historic renovations also in NJ and Alberta, CA

Wat NawamintararachutisCeremonies will be held all this week in Raynham, MA, to celebrate the grand opening of Wat Nawamintararachutis, the largest Thai Buddhist temple outside of Bangkok. Construction on the $60 million, 110,000 sq. ft. structure, with a spire soaring 187 feet high, began two years ago. Enough work had been completed by last November for seven monks and three visiting teachers to move in. The temple will house twenty monks altogether.

According to a report in the Taunton Gazette,

“The events and ceremonies this week will take place from June 11 to June 15, starting with a gathering of monks and the 38th general annual meeting of the Council of Thai Bhikkhus in the US. Members of the public are invited on June 14 to attend a ‘Pattasima’ ceremony to mark the completion of the Ordination Hall, the holiest of prayer rooms in the building, and then festivities will continue on June 15 with a celebration of the opening of the meditation center.”

Spokesmen for the temple stressed that it was not just for the local Thai community. Read More »

UC Berkeley exhibiting 1937 Tibet photos of “first white lama,” Theos Bernard

theos bernard photoThose who find themselves in the San Francisco Bay Area this spring have the opportunity to encounter something of Tibet as it was before the Communist Chinese occupation. UC Berkeley’s Institute of East Asian Studies has organized an exhibit of photographs from its archives, taken by Theos Bernard on his 1937 expedition into Tibet. Bernard, the first American to write a dissertation on Tibetan Buddhism, an early popularize of yoga, and the subject of latter-day controversies over apparent fabrications in his books, called himself “the first white lama.”

The photographs, according to text accompanying the exhibit, “capture images of a Tibet steeped in Buddhist tradition and feudal custom. Photographs include images of the monasteries, monks, and rituals of Tibetan Buddhism, as well as life in the villages and countryside.” The exhibit continues through July 24 and includes a public lecture, “In Search of the Divine,” on June 26, in which Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive curator Julia White “will speak about Bernard’s quest in the context of American Orientalism and fascination with Tibet.”

For more details about the exhibit, visit here.

Evam Institute completes move to new urban center

Traleg Khandro

Traleg Khandro

The E-vam Institute, founded by the late Traleg Kyabgon Rinpoche, has completed its move from its upstate New York location to a more urban center in Long Island City, according to a recent message from his wife, Traleg Khandro. “I wish to thank all for the support I and others involved in this transition received not only from the membership of E-Vam but also from the Buddhist community broadly,” Traleg Khandro said. Programs in the new center begin this week and include Buddhist philosophy and meditation instruction from respected teachers in the Nyingma and Kagyu traditions of Tibetan Buddhism, as well as yoga, neuroscience, and sacred art workshops. Visit here for further details.

John Stapleton Driver dies, one of first Westerners to receive teachings from Tibetan lamas in exile

John Stapleton DriverJohn E. Stapleton Driver, one of the first Westerners to form a relationship with the Tibetan Buddhist lamas fleeing the Chinese occupation of their homeland, passed away May 28 in England at age 83. According to a biography posted to the Facebook page of Dilgo Khyentse Fellowship – Shechen, Driver was a gifted linguist who taught himself Tibetan at an early age. Studies in Classical Chinese at Oxford sparked an interest in Tibetan and Sanskrit, and especially in the Buddhist teachings preserved in those languages. Doctoral field research in India, focused on the Guhyagarbha Tantra, led him to Kalimpong in the mid-1950s and encounters with some of the most respected Tibetan lamas of the twentieth century: Jamyang Khyentse Chokyi Lodro, the Fourth Dodrupchen Rinpoche, and especially Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche.

In addition, “[Driver] was instrumental,” the biography states, “with Freda Bedi, in getting a scholarship to Oxford for Trungpa Rinpoche and continued to help him with his studies in England.”

While working for the London Stock Exchange, Driver continued translation work of seminal literature about Tibetan civilization and deepened his relationship with Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche. See the full announcement here.