Heartfelt tributes are arriving as friends and sangha members mourn the passing of Ven. Bhante Suhita Dharma on December 28 at the Chua DieuPhap Temple in San Gabriel, CA. Bhante, as he was affectionately known, led a dharma life distinguished by firsts: he was the first monastic disciple of Ven. H. T. Thích Thiên Ân (himself the first Patriarch of Vietnamese Buddhism in America) and was the first African-American ordained as a Buddhist monk in any tradition. Bhante’s ecumenical monastic career began well before that. He was in the last group of “child monks,” entering the Catholic Trappist order at age 14 in his native Texas. At least one account says he also held a position in the Eastern Orthodox Church and underwent further ordination ceremonies in the Theravada and Vajrayana Buddhist traditions. Read More
Documentary filmmaker Edward Burger (Amongst White Clouds) has announced a new project to take viewers into the contemporary life of one of China’s most ancient and austere Chan (Zen) monasteries. One Mind is set in Zhenru Monastery, where the great master Empty Cloud spent much of his time before passing away at age 120 in 1959. “In One Mind,” says the promotional material, “myths will be dismissed, as audiences can see that robust spiritual communities committed to strict adherence to tradition are thriving, whilst remaining somewhat hidden, at the core of China’s spiritual landscape.”
Burger is currently crowdsourcing funds at Indiegogo through January 15 to complete the film. Contributors of $75 or more will receive a digital copy of the film once it’s released. Visit the site for full details, and see the trailer here:
Rangjung Yeshe Institute (RYI) has conducted study programs in Nepal for more than 25 years. Since 2002 RYI has partnered with Kathmandu University in offering academic credit for those study programs. In 2009 RYI launched its online learning program. Our aim is to utilize our expertise and experience to enable students from around the world to study Buddhism and Himalayan languages with us. Classes are held within the Ka-Nying Shedrub Ling Monastery, situated a few minutes’ walk from the Great Stupa of Boudhanath, in the Kathmandu Valley. Read More »
Myogen Steve Stucky, former abbot of San Francisco Zen Center, passed away this morning, just a few months after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Our thoughts and our condolences go out to his family, his students, and everyone in the SFZC community.
On his passing, zazen was held at San Francisco Zen Center in his memory while the the bell was rung 108 times. His body has been prepared for cremation, at his request, clothed in a robe recently sewn for him by his friends. An account by his son, James Stucky, of his final hours, as well as the dedication of merit read at SFZC, can be found here.
Many thanks to Renshin Bunce, who offers the following remembrance of her teacher: Read More »
Having screened to enthusiastic audiences in Europe this past November, the documentary Monk with a Camera will premiere in the United States next month at the 25th Annual Palm Springs (CA) International Film Festival. You can catch it January 11 and 12 at the Palm Springs Regal 9 (details here).
As we reported, Monk with a Camera tells the unlikely story of how the grandson of New York fashion editor Diana Vreeland emerges from that high-society world as a renunciant in the Himalayas, under the tutorship of the aged Tibetan lama Khyongla Rinpoche. It traces Vreeland’s single-minded dedication to restoring Rato Monastery and his historic appointment as its abbot. In the larger context, Monk with a Camera’s producers describe it as being “about life in the monasteries, about the future of the Tibetan communities, about the impact of Buddhism on American society, and about pursuing art in a world of impermanence.”
Our warm congratulations go out to our good friend and regular Buddhadharma contributor Narayan Helen Liebenson for recently being honored by the Cambridge (Massachusetts) YWCA at its annual Tribute to Outstanding Women, which “recognize[s] the strong, successful women among us.” Liebenson is a guiding teacher for the Insight Meditation Society and the Cambridge Insight Meditation Center. The YWCA included Liebenson in this year’s awards, they said, “for her leadership as a Guiding Teacher of the Cambridge Insight Meditation Center over the past 28 years, and for her work in Metta in Action, a grassroots organization which offers financial and emotional support to disenfranchised girls in Burma. She was also recognized for her efforts to foster anti-racism and diversity by aiming to create dharma centers in which all beings can flourish.”
Read how Narayan Helen Liebenson, in our past two Ask the Teachers columns, responded to the following: “Is meditating addictive?” and “How does a meditator deal with episodes of major depression?”
- Rangjung Yeshe Gomde California, affiliated with Chokyi Nyima Rinpoche, has spiffed up its site. “Gomde’s many teaching programs explore the entire Buddhist path,” they say, “as it is included within the supreme vehicle of Dzogchen. Stabilize your meditation…deepen your understanding of the Buddhist Dharma…discuss your practice with modern-day meditation masters.”
- The Northwest Dharma Association site, supporting “Buddhist teachings, practice, and community in the Pacific Northwest,” has also undergone a radical upgrade this month. Check out teachings on “Karma and Loving Kindness” from Garchen Rinpoche and a special section on “arts as Buddhist practice.”
- Against the Stream, offering “a subversive path that is against greed, against hatred, and against delusion,” has ginned up a daily news aggregator page. Currently you can get the skinny on screenings of Brad Warner’s Hardcore Zen and find the intersection between Buddhism and the Harlem Shake.
- Finally, enjoy Chenrezig: The Mandala of Compassion, a recently uploaded short film about monks from Tashi Lhunpo monastery creating a sand mandala at Glastonbury in the UK.
In late November, the Tibetan Gallery & Studio in Sebastopol, California, continued its lecture series on Tibetan art with Nicholas Egan. Hand gestures, implements, and hidden teachings spring to life; we begin to understand what this ancient art conveys.
Click on the following links to view excerpts on YouTube: In Part 1 Nicholas talks about the importance of these three attributes and focuses on Chenrezig, or Avalokitsehvara, the Buddha of Compassion. Part 2 focuses on Manjushri, the Buddha of Wisdom, and Part 3 focuses on Vajrapani, the Buddha of Power.
The Tibetan Gallery & Studio in Sebastopol is the only place in the world outside of Tibet where you can watch a Tibetan master create a giant ceremonial thangka, known as thanbhochi. The two-story canvas comprises 37 Buddhas, deities, and teachers.
Nicholas Egan is a Dharma teacher in the Nyingma tradition and has a Ph.D. in Buddhist Studies. A student of Anam Thubten Rinpoche and Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche, he is known for his clear and accessible teaching style and is the founder of the Advaya Institute. He has been leading pilgrimages to Asia since 2005 and has led groups to Tibet, Bhutan, Nepal, India, Mongolia, China, and Thailand.
Learn more at www.PreserveTibetanArt.org.
Will you find yourself in New York City in the new year? Consider taking in Mandala: Locus of Thought, an exhibit at Tibet House of fifteen New York-based artists and their take on this ancient, idealized depiction of the outer and inner universe. “Locus” in the exhibition title, say the curators, indicates the artists’ broad exploratory parameters, considering the mandala as “both a locality and an abstract center of power.” This power may be understood as the purifying influence on the beholder of spiritual symbol and metaphor. See two more examples from the exhibition after the jump. Read More »
Elder Tibetan monk self-immolates to protest Chinese policies, leaves explanatory note; other monk-scholar beaten to death by Chinese police
Radio Free Asia and other sources report that a respected 43-year-old Tibetan Buddhist monk named Tsultrim Gyatso burned himself to death Thursday at a crossroads in Gansu province, in protest of Communist China’s oppressive policies in its ongoing occupation of Tibet. By RFA’s count, Gyatso was the 125th Tibetan since 2009 to use the extreme method of protesting China’s harsh measures through self-immolation. Gyatso’s body was taken back into his Achok Monastery, after which Chinese police reportedly disrupted the prayers of about 400 monks. Other monks continued the prayers in a different part of the monastery.
It’s notable that Tsultrim Gyatso left a carefully handwritten note explaining his action. Buddhadharma received a rough translation of the note, which was entitled “Golden Tear Drops” (shown after the jump).
San Francisco Zen Center’s Central Abbot Myogen Steve Stücky, who we reported in October as having been diagnosed with stage IV pancreatic cancer, formally stepped down from his SFZC position in a ceremony conducted December 15. The ceremony, traditionally performed publicly, was condensed and conducted via computer in consideration of Stücky’s fragile health, allowing him to participate from home.
“During the ceremony, Abbot Steve gave his full energy to the moment,” it was reported at SFZC’s Sangha News site, “sitting upright with joyful attention throughout.”
Stücky used the occasion to issue a formal statement, the essence of which led the report: “My death asks so much of you. Please accept this as a teaching for yourself and for our Sangha. Accept with gratitude.”
The other participating SFZC teachers made their own statements of appreciation for Stücky’s service and spiritual example. Click here to read full transcripts of those statements, as well as other details from the order of service.
Eijun Linda Cutts has assumed Stücky’s responsibilities and will be installed as SFZC Central Abbess early in the new year.
A special blog, Subtle Eye, has also been set up to apprise those concerned with the progress of Stücky’s condition.
Rangjung Yeshe Institute‘s Centre for Buddhist Studies is pleased to announce its 11th Summer Studies Program, offering intensive language training and Buddhist Study courses for international students. The language programs offer full immersion into Tibetan, Sanskrit, and Nepali. Classical Tibetan gets students reading on their own after only a few weeks. The Buddhist Studies program is a living exposure to Buddhist philosophy and a practical introduction to the richness of personal meditation practice.
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Widely reported claim for discovery of earliest Buddhist shrine labeled “fantasy” by Oxford Buddhist scholar
Several weeks ago, the global press (including Buddhadharma News) reported on the announcement of British archaeologist Robin Coningham, backed by the imprimatur of National Geographic, that he had found evidence pointing to a much earlier date for the Buddha’s birth than is generally reckoned, while digging at Lumbini, the site of the Buddha’s birthplace. Almost all of the reporting was uncritical of this claim. Tricycle magazine, however, has reproduced on its blog the withering scrutiny of Richard Gombrich, historian of early Buddhism and editor of the Journal of the Oxford Centre for Buddhist Studies. Gombrich doesn’t mince words: “The entire story presented to us in the headlines is a fantasy,” he says, “and I feel sad that the only time when my subject, the history of early Buddhism, makes the news, it is because of self-serving hype, more worthy of a politician than of an academic.” Read More »