Monthly Archives: November 2008

Transcending Madness in Halifax

It was a splendid weekend here in Halifax. Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche spoke to a crowd of 550 on the bardos of experience and how to “transcend the madness” of it all, as Chogyam Trungpa liked to say.

To preview the event for the local Chronicle Herald, reporter Jon Tattrie spoke earlier by phone with Rinpoche and dove straight into the bardo message, giving all of Nova Scotia a thin but deep slice of vajrayana view. Here’s a snip, or read the full story here:

Wandering through the market in Marrakech, Morocco, long after the sun has set, Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche says taking reality as real will drive you mad. Speaking over a crackling line to his cellphone, the Buddhist lama, filmmaker and author describes our ordinary lives as a “big sleep” — we get scared by what we dream up.

“Reality is not what we think it is,” he explains … “We have to tran­scend it.” Continued »

Meditation Research Roundup

The Buddhist Channel directed us to a story on by Michael Haederle, who just wrote a wonderful piece in the January Shambhala Sun (on newsstands in about a week) about practicing with 100-year-old Sasaki Roshi, a rabid traditionalist who is also a principal teacher of Leonard Cohen. In the piece on Miller-McCune, Haederle heads in a trendier more modern direction to report on various research projects on the benefits of meditation:

For thousands of years, Buddhist meditators have claimed that the simple act of sitting down and following their breath while letting go of intrusive thoughts can free one from the entanglements of neurotic suffering.  Continued »

John Welwood on Spiritual Practice and Relationships

John Welwood is not a prolific writer but when he’s ready to say something, it’s important. If you’re not familiar with his work, John is one of the leading exponents of a Buddhist-based approach to psychology and psychotheraphy. We have an outstanding new essay in the November Shambhala Sun that I’ve found both impressive for its view and directly applicable to my own life. Called Intimate Relationship as a Spiritual Crucible, it shows us how our relationships can help our spiritual practice, and vice versa.

The Delicious Music of Kesang Marstrand

Bodega Rose is the debut album of singer-songwriter-guitarist Kesang Marstrand (daughter of artist and activist Marianne Marstrand and Ngoedup Tsering, who translated for the 16th Karmapa back in the day). Kesang’s is a relaxed and delicious voice—have a listen to

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

“. Says one fan, the music blogger Songs:Illinois: “There’s an exotic nature to her songs that goes far beyond just her unusual name. She seems as comfortable with jazz as she does with folk, which gives her music an appeal similar to that of Norah Jones… I have tremendous respect for music like this; music that is beautiful, effortless and almost floats on air.”

What Price Beauty?

I’ve always dismissed beauty pageants as sexist events that treat women like poodles at a dog show. But Emily Wax, writing for The Washington Post, gives an interesting look at the pros, cons, and complexities of having a Miss Tibet.

Miss Tibet, a Pageant Loaded With Controversy and Drama

DHARMSALA, India — For Buddhists, the first noble truth is that all life is suffering — and that apparently applies to beauty pageants, too.

The Miss Tibet pageants, seen by many as a showcase of feminine beauty, have been fraught with controversy and drama. Even though the contests take place in a drowsy Himalayan town in India — home to the Dalai Lama and other Tibetan exiles — the Chinese government and some Tibetan Continued »

The Most Buddhist American Holiday

Appropos the day, Doug McGill writes in the print newsletter of the New York Buddhist Church:

“Thanksgiving is the most Buddhist American holiday, because its name describes a human virtue that is universally valued across all Buddhist traditions: gratitude.

Gratitude is everywhere one looks in Buddhism, and for a simple reason. Thanks to the law of dependent origination, we owe our lives to literally every other being in the universe. Our very bodies are composed of atoms that were forged in stars now twinkling billions of light years away. Continued »

Papa Christos: The Full Story

A village priest/shaman enters into spiritual battle with the demons who haunt the soul of Zen cynic George Crane. That’s the dramatic stuff of Crane’s story Papa Christos, which is in the November issue of the Shambhala Sun. The issue is still on the newsstands for another week or so, but we’ve decided to post the complete Papa Christos story here.


As I listen, read, and look at the news these days, I’m served a steady diet of panic and fear. Freaking out is assumed to be the appropriate way to deal with threats to our security, but Buddhism rather sees it as an opportunity to not be so hung up on our security. Even in evolutionary terms, humans did not get to the top of the chain, so to speak, through their powers of freaking out. It’s rather through resilience and adaptability. Things are changing rapidly. Guess it’s time to do some changing.

Business reporters in particular have a knack for spreading fear. And there is never–and can never be–a hint of humor or relaxation. Government spokespeople respond to the lugubrious reports with confident reassurance and the promise of bold saving-the-day action. As I begin to bounce up and down and back and forth with the alternating panic and reassurance, I find it helpful to remember that fear provides a tremendous opportunity to find what some teachers call our “original mind,” the one that is alive and well without regard to conditions. The Sun has published many pieces over the years on fear and fearlessness. One of the most recent is based on a seminar we sponsored at Omega Institute. The first piece is by Judy Lief, and it begins:

It helps to explore how we can work with fear from the point of view of the path, the student’s journey. How do we walk the path of fear? Fear is not a trivial matter. In many ways, it restricts our lives; it imprisons us. Fear is also a tool of oppression. Because of fear, we do many harmful things, individually and collectively, and people who are hungry for power over others know that and exploit it. We can be made to do things out of fear.

Fear is a very tricky thing.

Continued »

Writer of Oliver Stone’s “W” to speak at LA Shambhala Center

The LA Shambhala Center (Westside) is hosting a panel discussion with Stanley Weiser, writer of Oliver Stone’s film “W” (and “Wall Street”) on Sunday, December 7 at 5 pm. He will be discussing how his Buddhist meditation practice has influenced his career (his talk is titled “Searching for Sanity in Show Business”). This is a free event. For more information, visit the LA Westside Shambhala Center’s website.

Conference on Happiness Wraps Up in San Francisco

Author, editor and advisor to the Buddhist Channel Gary Gach reports from the Happiness & Its Causes conference that just ended in San Francisco:

Have you heard? “Positive psychology” is a term for a deep shift in thinking among some in the psychology community—which, until now, has focused largely on treating neurosis. There’s a new emphasis on discovering our great potential for true contentment and happiness. And, a shift from focusing on the negative framework of “fight-or-flight” response to “tend and befriend,” an equally important survival trait. Cognitive scientists are finding that compassion is hardwired into our brain; it’s not just a learned response. And as we’ve all heard by now, training the mind can change the brain. Fortunately, such breakthroughs don’t occur in complete isolation, as I can report from the floor of the Happiness & Its Causes conference here in San Francisco. Continued »

It’s Confirmed: Matter is Merely Vacuum Fluctuations

Stephen Battersby, writing for the New Scientist, summarizes recent research on quarks and the quest for matter. “Matter is built on flaky foundations,” he says. “Physicists have now confirmed that the apparently substantial stuff is actually no more than fluctuations in the quantum vacuum.” Read the story here.

In a recent Shambhala Sun story on Mind, Matter or God, senior editor Barry Boyce reports on the ‘middle way’ of embracing both reason and the reality beyond it.

Happiness is a Warm Government

In March, the Buddhist-inspired kingdom of Bhutan became a constitutional monarchy. Jigmi Y. Thinley, the country’s first democratically-elected leader, spoke to the Wall Street Journal and said he’ll continue to support the government’s renowned policy of “gross national happiness.”

Happiness is not hedonistic, he said, “it is not the kind of fleeting pleasures that we seek.” It has to do with “being able to balance material needs of the body and the spiritual needs of the mind.” Thinley thinks his people are happy if 4 conditions are present: equitable and sustainable growth; conservation of the economy and environment; cultural preservation and promotion; and good governance. Read the story here.

It’s Not How You Lean, It’s How You Use It

Like many of us, Shin Buddhist blogger “Gerald Ford” can’t quite grok how Californians could usher in the progressive Obama while ushering out the people’s right to same-sex marriage. In an attempt to explore the issue of ‘gay sex’ from a Buddhist perspective, he cites a few sutras and argues that “if we look at Buddhism and the issue of sex, it does not matter what one’s sexual orientation is, but how one chooses to use it.”

Sanctuary: Global Oases of Innocence

Sanctuary: Global Oases of Innocence, written and photographed by Michael Tobias and Jane Gray Morrison, is a gorgeous book that explores two-dozen extraordinary animal and habitat sanctuaries throughout the world. From orangutans in Borneo to butterflies in Malaysia to cheetahs in South Africa, Sanctuary gives us a stunning glimpse of nature across the globe. This coffee-table treasure will be featured in the Books in Brief section of the upcoming December/January issue of Shambhala Sun. Until then, click “read more” to see a few photographs from the book. Continued »

Dalai Lama may appoint a successor

The London Times Online reported today that the Dalai Lama is considering appointing a regent to succeed him in the event of his death (until his reincarnation is old enough to take over). The front runner for the position, according to the sources who spoke to the Times, appears to be the 17th Karmapa. The Karmapa was recently featured on the cover of Buddhadharma: The Practitioner’s Quarterly. Check out the magazine’s indepth article about him by Barry Boyce.