Monthly Archives: August 2008

Does a Tiger Have Buddhanature?

Tiger and Monk

Tigers, roaming free at the Pha Luang Ta Bua Yannasampanno monastery in Thailand, live in harmony with monks and tourists. People even pet and play with these tigers, yet no one has ever been attacked.

Contrary to what you might assume, the temple tigers are not drugged. They have simply accepted humans as a part of their lives because they’ve been reared with compassion by the monks

The first cub arrived at the monastery in 1995 after it was injured and its mother was killed by a poacher. Unfortunately, that cub died, but since its death local people have brought the monastery other orphaned cubs to look after. Taking in these tigers is important work. Over the past century, the world’s tiger population has dropped from over 100,000 to a measly 5,000 to 7,000.

Heading to the Democratic Convention?

If you’re attending the Democratic convention in Denver next week and you’re in need of some mindful breaks, drop by Fishback-Landing Park (just 10 minutes from the convention site) where Don Morreale is heading up Meditate ’08, a meditation and yoga retreat. More than 30 presenters have been invited to give talks and lead sessions, from a variety of faiths. Morreale, who is the author of The Complete Guide to Buddhist America, explains, The last thing you’d expect to see at a national political convention is a group of delegates sitting down in the midst of the clash and clamor for a few minutes of silent meditation. But that’s exactly what a group called ‘Meditate08′ hopes will happen at the Democratic National Convention this summer.” The retreat begins on Saturday, Aug. 23 and runs through Aug. 28. It’s free and open to all — delegates, volunteers, press, visitors, etc. If you do drop by, send us a photo at You might also want to do some tonglen practice for the unity of the Democratic Party while you’re at it.

Thanks to Holly Gayley who first brought us this story in the Denver Spiritual Examiner. You can find out more about the retreat at the Meditate ’08 official website.

Moments with Master Sheng Yen

Buddhist blogger They Call Him James Ure offers a review of the forthcoming book, “Footprints in the Snow: The Autobiography of a Chinese Buddhist Monk” (Doubleday, in October)—the monk being Ch’an Master Sheng Yen. Says Ure, “Just one of the profound parts of the book occurs while Sheng Yen is in the military in Taiwan… Continued »

China Blocks Pro-Tibet Album

The Times Online reports that China has blocked Apple’s online music store, iTunes, after a bunch of Olympic athletes downloaded a pro-Tibet album from the site. Produced by the band The Art of Peace Foundation and promoted by International Campaign for Tibet, the album features 20 songs from some pretty harmless artists –including Sting, Moby, Damien Rice and Alanis Morissette.

The Paper Elephant in the Room

On my desk here at Shambhala Sun, I have a cute, little box of elephant dung paper. Yep, that’s what I said; the paper is made out of elephant excrement. A friend brought me back the surprisingly non-smelly box when she visited The Millennium Elephant Foundation (MEF) in Sri Lanka. She also brought me a pamphlet explaining that the paper was made from the dung of the five elephants that the foundation provides a home for. At the turn of the 20th Century, there were more than 12,000 elephants in the jungles of Sri Lanka. Now it is estimated that there are only between 2,500 and 2,800 living in the wild and 192 living in domesticity. MEF provides sanctuary for retired and injured elephants and it treats wild elephants using a mobile veterinary unit—the only one of its kind in Sri Lanka.

New Ways of Thinking in New Shambhala Sun

In the new (September) issue of Shambhala Sun magazine, senior editor Barry Boyce speaks with “big thinkers” Adam Kahane, Thomas Homer-Dixon, Paul Hawken, and Meg Wheatley about new ways of thinking to address old, recurring social ills. We offer you the full article here.

Abstract Expressionist Agnes Martin

Work by the late artist Agnes Martin is subtle and precise. She did not identify as a Buddhist, but she had a penchant for quoting the Buddha and Buddhist philosophy greatly influenced her work. A Canadian-American, her paintings have been featured in Shambhala Sun and have been exhibited in such prominent galleries as the Whitney Museum of American Art. Funny that I had to go all the way to Dublin to discover her.

The Story of Stuff

Thanks to‘s Buddhist Economics /Voluntary Simplicity page for tipping us off to this wonderful, fast-paced 20 minute video by Annie Leonard that “looks at the underside of our production and consumption patterns.” Continued »

Something for your (family) baggage

I confess I’m not a big fan of Buddhist psychology books or anything with a self-help flavor, but one such book recently caught my eye and I’ve since ordered copies for two family members and plan to order a third (as a birthday gift). The book is titled When the Past is Present: Healing the Emotional Wounds that Sabotage Our Relationships by David Richo. You can read a description of the book on Shambhala Publication’s website. I haven’t exactly read the book, but I’ve flipped through it enough to recognize some familiar dysfunctional behavior and Richo’s insights seem helpful. The real acid test will be the reaction of those I’ve sent it to.

Louise Erdrich: Two Languages in Mind, But Just One in the Heart

Photo by Bettina Strauss

Author of the novels Love Medicine and Tracks, Louise Erdrich is widely recognized as being one of today’s most important Native American voices. But I would say she is simply an important voice. I first discovered her writing when I was in high school and, so taken with the gorgeous rhythm of her words, I would hide her books under my desk and read through trig. I loved the way her stories dreamily flitted through time and from character to character and in that way told the story of a whole community and all its connections. Still an admirer today, I interviewed Erdrich for the November issue of Shambhala Sun. While you’re waiting for it to hit the stands, check out her essay Two Languages in Mind, But Just One in the Heart.

What’s it like being the Dalai Lama’s kid brother? Find out in the new issue of Buddhadharma

In the Fall issue of Buddhadharma: The Practitioner’s Quarterly, Tendzin Choegyal talks with author Lisa Katayama about his struggles with rebellion, alcoholism, and depression, and the big brother who has stood by him through it all.

Buddhadharma is the other magazine we publish, intended for anyone with a serious passion for Buddhist study and practice.

Healing Zen from John Tarrant

For me, Zen teacher John Tarrant is one of the most interesting minds in Western Buddhism, and one of its best writers. A couple of years ago he found out he had prostate cancer (he’s doing well, by the way) and that led to an invitation to teach physicians and executives at Duke Integrative Medicine, where he was treated. At his Pacific Zen site, he has an excellent piece on meditation and healing. Also on this page you’ll find his extraordinary piece “5 Reasons to Get Cancer,” which we published in the Shambhala Sun and which I included in the  2007 edition of Best Buddhist Writing. Both essays and other essays and talks by John are at

Meditating through Mental Illness

At the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto, psychologist Zindel Segal is in the midst of a $2.5-million clinical trial to assess whether mindfulness-based stress psychotherapy can prevent relapses as effectively as antidepressant medications. Segal is co-author of the practical and helpful book, The Mindful Way Through Depression.

Buddha Bar Not Up to Par

The Buddha Bar that opened in July in London just got two thumbs down by Fay Maschler, reviewer for the city’s Evening Standard. Music, lighting and ambience were not up to par. Founded by entrepreneur Raymond Visan, Buddha Bar London is the company’s sixth site following launches in Sao Paolo, Brazil, Dubai and in Kiev, Ukraine. The next in this chain of gilded, opulent eateries will open December, in Prague.

Show us Your Buddhist Body Art

Barbara O’Brien, who blogs on Buddhism for, has only just learned that jewels, lotuses and other Buddhist symbols are plastered all over people’s bodies. She’s put out the call to readers to “submit awesome photos of your awesome body art” to her Buddhism Body Art Project photo gallery.

The ins and outs of Buddhist body art are already well-documented over at Worst Horse , on their Body Vows page.