Thai tradition monastics: England’s Amaravati Monastery to host International Elders’ Meeting; new documentary about Thai nuns online

Monks gathered for a previous meeting at Amaravati

Monks gathered for a previous meeting at Amaravati

On the cusp of its 30th Anniversary celebrations, Amaravati Monastery in Hertfordshire, England, will host an International Elders’ Meeting from May 26 to 31. These meetings of senior abbots and monastics in the late Ajanh Chah’s Thai Forest Sangha network follow ancient Buddhist tradition for collective decision-making within and among affiliated communities. An “elder” is one who has passed at least eight years as a fully ordained monastic (bhikkhu or bhikkhuni, in Pali), and Amaravati expects as many as 100 to be in attendance. Presiding will be Luang Por Sumedho, the Abbot of Ajahn Chah’s main monastery, Wat Nong Pah Pong. The latest Amaravati newsletter states, “Visitors and guests are welcome to come during this time, to meet the visiting monastics as and when they are available, soak up the atmosphere and hear the Dhamma talks that will be offered in the evenings.”

Visit here for further information about the International Elders’ Meeting and other Amaravati activities this year.

Related: Channel News Asia recently aired a documentary about the life of Thai nuns, entitled Secret Tribes: Bhikkhunis. They have made it available to view online, and you can watch it after the jump. Read More »

Join Brenda Shoshanna, Larry Ward, and Judy Lief — and us — for “Love & Intimacy: What the Buddhists Teach”

omegateachers14From July 18 to 20, the Shambhala Sun Foundation and the Omega Institute will present Love & Intimacy: What the Buddhists Teach, a weekend course perfect for anyone who wants to examine their relationships in the context of the Buddhist path. This will be our eighth annual “What the Buddhists Teach” program at Omega, and will be led by (left to right) Brenda Shoshanna, PhD, a psychologist in private practice in Manhattan and a long-time practitioner of Zen and Judaism; Larry Ward, director of the Lotus Institute and a dharma teacher ordained by Thich Nhat Hanh; and Judy Lief, teacher, author, and editor of Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche’s Profound Treasury collection.

The workshop runs from July 18 to 20 at the Omega Institute in Rhinebeck, New York, and is open to all. Complete information can be found here. Click here to register.

Openly gay Thai Buddhist monk concerns censors after TV appearance

Ven. George chanting with other monks.

Ven. George chanting with other monks

Thai censors recently delayed an episode of the popular television interview program Woody Talk when the subject turned to one of Thailand’s only openly gay Buddhist monks who has been willing to discuss his life and choices publicly, reports Gay Asia News. Venerable Tanaisawan George Chandha-dhammo, 28, was a medical student and part of Thailand’s cross-dressing underground before deciding to take ordination as a monk, and taking up practice in a southern forest monastery. In the lively program, the host provokes critical and accepting opinions from laypeople, fellow monks, and scholars about Ven. George being a monk. He also speaks with Ven. George himself at length. At one point, Ven. George asks rhetorically about the people in the village near his monastery, “Do they criticize?” He answers, “I practice and propagate the dhamma, so everyone pays respect.” When pressed later, he says, “Can you cease it in your mind? A gay is a gay. Let it be. I am what I am.” See part two of the five-part series after the jump. Read More »

Bachelor of Arts in Buddhist Studies, with Himalayan Language

Rangjung Yeshe InstitutePosted by Rangjung Yeshe Institute

Did you know that the Centre for Buddhist Studies at Rangjung Yeshe Institute offers a four-year program in Buddhist Studies with Himalayan Language, leading to the degree of Bachelor of Arts?

The courses in the BA program fall within two main areas of study: Buddhist Philosophy, History, and Culture, and Himalayan Language. For the BA degree, approximately two thirds of the courses concern Buddhist philosophy, while the remaining third are courses in Himalayan languages such as Tibetan, Sanskrit, and Nepali. Students can choose to emphasize philosophy over language or vice versa.

By the end of the BA program, successful students will have developed a broad knowledge of the Indo-Tibetan Buddhist tradition and its historical and philosophical development, and a deep knowledge of the Tibetan approach to Buddhist philosophical study. In terms of language ability, depending on the emphasis placed by each student, he or she will be conversant in modern Tibetan and Nepali, able to read classical Tibetan and Sanskrit, and able to follow teachings directly in Tibetan, or possess some combination of these skills.

Applications are open — apply now and start in Fall 2014. Read More »

Against the Stream setting up new San Francisco center, help needed before July opening

Progress being made on Against the Stream's new San Francisco location

Progress being made on Against the Stream’s new San Francisco location

Against the Stream, — the network of meditation groups founded by Dharma Punx author Noah Levine — has announced plans for opening a new center in San Francisco. Intending to open doors to the public at its Folsom Street location in July, organizers have put out a call for volunteers to help with demolition and construction, especially to render the center fully handicapped-accessible, and to assist in other ways. Click here for a full update on Against the Stream SF’s progress, as well as a short teaching on how “The Mind is a Problem-Solving Machine.”

Learn to Translate

Option 2Posted by Rangjung Yeshe Institute

With one year of intensive training, Rangjung Yeshe Institute’s Translator Training Program can take you from basic competence in spoken and dharma Tibetan to translating dharma teachings into English.

Entry into the program requires one year’s prior study of spoken and classical Tibetan, and a basic understanding of Buddhist philosophy. The program begins each June, and by September students begin practicing their translation skills in class, five days per week. In addition, they study spoken Tibetan, classical Tibetan, Buddhist philosophy, and translation methodology. Classes are small, and a number of sessions are one-on-one with native Tibetan speakers. Translation practice classes use Tibetan Lopons, Lamas, and Khenpos as the teachers, in a setting similar to what one would encounter as a real-life translator. The program is intensive, and you should expect to work hard. But the reward is commensurate with the effort — graduates from the program are currently translating in the United States, Mexico, Nepal, India, and other countries.

If you dream of translating but are completely new to Tibetan, you can study for a year in our undergraduate program to learn what you need to know in order to join the Translator Training Program.

Applications for 2014-2015 are closing soon. Visit our website for more information.

Karmapa’s first European visit announced

karmapa europeThe Karmapa Office and Karmapa Europe have just officially announced that the 17th Karmapa, Ogyen Trinley Dorje, will make his first-ever visit to Europe from May 28 to June 9. On this brief tour, the Karmapa will offer teachings and transmissions at his main European seat, Kamalashila Institute in Langenfeld, Germany, followed by public talks and cultural events in Germany’s capital, Berlin. Visit here for details about the program and how to attend.

American Himalayan Foundation creates fund for families of Sherpa avalanche victims

An honorary procession in Kathmandu for eight of the Sherpa victims of last Friday's Mt. Everest avalanche preceding their Buddhist cremation. Photo © Thomas Kelly.

An honorary procession in Kathmandu for eight of the Sherpa victims of last Friday’s Mt. Everest avalanche, preceding their Buddhist cremation

Buddhist cremation ceremonies were conducted Monday for eight of the thirteen Sherpa mountaineering guides who were killed on Friday, April 18, in an avalanche on Mt. Everest while making advance preparations for foreign climbers. The bodies were transported in an honorary procession through the streets of Nepal’s capital, Kathmandu, culminating in the cremation at the religious complex surrounding the Swayambhunath stupa. Three other guides were hospitalized with critical injuries, while a search continues for a further three who are unaccounted for.

The American Himalayan Foundation has created a Sherpa Family Fund, promising that “100% of donations will go directly to help the families of the deceased.” See their announcement here.

Special thanks to Kathmandu-based photographer Thomas Kelly for providing the image above. It’s from a series of ten he took during the funeral procession, and Kelly intends to donate the proceeds from any sales of these images to support the children of his friend Ang Kaji Sherpa.

Further images and story details may be seen here. Read More »

Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche in New York: New film “Vara” to screen online for free next week; public talk webcast Friday night

Dance sequence from Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche's new film, "Vara: A Blessing".

Dance sequence from Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche’s new film, “Vara: A Blessing”

Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche, the Buddhist teacher whose ventures into filmmaking to date — The Cup and Travellers and Magicians — have focused on his native Bhutan, has ventured into new cultural territory. His latest film, entitled Vara: A Blessing, was shot in Sri Lanka and is a spiritually-infused love story based on a special style of Indian classical dance. And now, in conjunction with its North American premiere next week at New York’s Tribeca Film Festival, US residents will have the chance to screen Vara online for free and participate in the festival’s audience award competition.

From 9 pm on Monday, April 21, to 3 pm on Wednesday, April 23, viewers may visit the festival’s online audience page, select Vara, and halfway through the film, click to rate it on a scale of one to five stars.  Be aware that only the first 1,500 viewers will have access to the film. Read More »

UPDATED: Two-week Mongolian monastery retreat program offered to foreigners

Pethub Monastery in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia.

Pethub Monastery in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia

A dharma adventure for foreigners is on offer in Mongolian monasteries just prior to the Dalai Lama’s conferral of the Kalachakra initiation in the capital Ulaanbaatar, beginning August 1 [UPDATE: the Dalai Lama's visit to Mongolia has been postponed until 2015]. From July 14-30, retreat participants will stay in Mongolian Buddhist monasteries in both Ulaanbaatar and the ancient capital of Genghis Khan, Kharkhorin. They will meditate and take meals with the resident monks, and receive teachings from some of the most learned of the elder Mongolian lamas, focused on Mongolian commentaries to Shantideva’s Way of the Bodhisattva. There will also be plenty of free time for guided exploration of traditional Mongolian culture. For further information, visit here and click on the PDF link at the bottom.

Reuters wins Pulitzer for reporting on Myanmar’s Buddhist/Muslim conflict; signs of hope appear amid ongoing violence

Youth activists with Myanmar's new "Flower Speech Movement" spreading their anti-hate speech message at the recent Water Festival

Youth activists with Myanmar’s new Flower Speech Movement spreading their anti-hate-speech message at the recent Water Festival

This past Monday, Reuters reporters Jason Szep and Andrew Marshall won the Pulitzer Prize for International Reporting for their two-year series of articles from Myanmar — whose inhabitants mostly self-identify as Buddhist — raising international awareness of the sometimes violent persecution of that country’s Rohingya Muslim minority, as well as their susceptibility to human trafficking in their desperation to escape these conditions. For an example of Szep and Marshall’s reporting, see “Apartheid tactics separate Myanmar’s minority Muslims from majority Buddhists” from May 2013.

Other news from Myanmar this week draws attention to a more positive trend. Read More »

PBS NewsHour Tuesday: “Culture at Risk” segment to examine tourism vs. preservation at Myanmar’s ancient Bagan Buddhist site

Tourists pay $350 for a 40-minute balloon ride at sunrise over the temples and pagodas in Bagan. Photo by Mary Jo Brooks/PBS NewsHour

Tourists pay $350 for a 40-minute balloon ride at sunrise over the temples and pagodas in Bagan

PBS NewsHour will launch its “Culture at Risk” segment today, April 15, with a report from Myanmar, including an examination of the efforts to restore Bagan, “the site of what’s said to be the highest concentration of Buddhist architecture of any place in the world.” Will the site — with more than 2,000 temples and pagodas, some of which are more than 1,000 years old — be preserved according to its original spiritual vision? Or, as PBS correspondent Jeffrey Brown asked while researching the piece, will the lure of tourist revenue result in Bagan being “turned into a kind of theme park…’loved to death,’ as has been the fate of some other great archaeological sites”? Tune in tonight, or watch the episode once it’s uploaded here. Read More »

NYT editorial urges Nepal to cease China-influenced mistreatment of Tibetan refugees

Tibetan Buddhist nun detained by Nepalese police during protests as the Chinese Olympic flame reached Lhasa, Tibet.

Tibetan Buddhist nun detained by Nepalese police during protests as Chinese Olympic flame reached Lhasa, Tibet

The repression of Tibetan refugees by authorities in their temporary Nepalese home, and Chinese influence in provoking it, has garnered serious international condemnation this month, including a New York Times editorial this past Sunday. The Times’s editors referenced findings detailed in a Human Rights Watch report released in late March, entitled Under China’s Shadow: Mistreatment of Tibetans in Nepal.

“In effect,” they said, “Nepal has turned itself into a partner of China’s anti-Tibetan policies.” Read More »