Monthly Archives: January 2009

Explosion at Thai temple, Choosing a Dalai Lama successor, and other Buddhist world news

Top Buddhist news from recent days:

Explosion in Buddhist temple in Thailand kills 8 people and wounds many others

A look at the Dalai Lama’s choices for choosing (or not) his successor, from today’s New York Times

Shaolin kung fu ‘action meditation’ tradition, rooted in Chinese Chan Buddhism, gains followers in the West

Chinese authorities continue ‘strike hard’ campaign, heightening tensions in Tibet

Asian art and its impact: two great exhibits in New York

Lovers of Buddhism and art will want to get to New York to catch two exhibits.

Now at the Metropolitan Museum are some of the earliest surviving Indian manuscripts that were painted on palm leaves. Early Buddhist Manuscript Painting: The Palm-leaf Tradition centers on the Mahayana text, the Ashtasahasrika Prajnaparamita Sutra (‘Perfection of Wisdom’), illustrated through the Museum’s rare holdings of eastern Indian and Nepalese palm-leaf manuscripts, book-covers, initiation cards, thankas, and sculptures. Exhibit on through March 22.

John Cage, New River Watercolor Series I, #5, 1988.

From January 30 to April 19, the Guggenheim Museum presents The Third Mind: American Artists Contemplate Asia, 1860–1989, an exhibition that “illuminates the dynamic and complex impact of Asian art, literature, music, and philosophical concepts on American art.” Featured are some 250 works by more than 100 artists across a broad range of media—from James McNeill Whistler to Robert Rauschenberg and Ezra Pound to Allen Ginsberg. Continued »

Learning “The Rules of Victory”

When life leads us into disagreements and conflicts, as it always does, we need a way to reach our goals without creating unnecessary harm. Here, James Gimian and Barry Boyce show us how we can use the principles of Sun Tzu’s Art of War to work skillfully with the underlying energies that give rise to effective action.

Nancy stared out her office window into the cold twilight. Everyone had already gone home from the progressive day care center she founded almost two decades before. Another restless sleep loomed. The center was in crisis. The administrator she hired five years ago had started out strong and made many improvements. The workers and parents liked him, but of late they had turned against many of his decisions. His recent moves were met with vehement resistance. A “tone” had crept into his messages to parents and staff. The atmosphere was toxic. Continued »

Can Buddhism “work” for Josef Fritzl?

The European tabloids are abuzz with the news that Josef Fritzl, who infamously raped his daughter, imprisoning her in his cellar for 24 years, has “converted to Buddhism.” The Sun (absolutely not to be confused with the Shambhala Sun!) reports that Fritzl “hopes to be reincarnated as a decent person in his next life if he can help stop other weirdos copying his crimes,” and “wants experts to quiz him to work out the root of his evil.”

The monstrosity of his crimes can, of course, not be denied, and people are expected to “take sides.” One person I know even told me “you shouldn’t even report on that. He’s the sickest @#&*%@ on the planet.” On the other hand, the mighty Konchog Norbu reminds us that things aren’t so clear-cut, saying, simply, “It worked for Angulimala.” And we all know the great work and change that the dharma has affected in so many prisoners’ lives.

What’s your reaction to this news?

Meditation reduces pain… and here’s how

Today in Health Day News and on CTV.ca: Well-trained meditators appear to be less sensitive to pain, Canadian researchers report. “Previous studies had shown that teaching patients with chronic pain to meditate seemed to help them, but no one had examined how these effects might come about,” said study author Joshua A. Grant. His study (with co-author Dr. Pierre Rainville) is reported in the January issue of Psychosomatic Medicine.

Their findings: meditators are less sensitive to heat pain; pain reduction was related to how many hours of meditation practice the people had done during their lifetime; meditators seem to breath  more slowly than non-meditators—providing some of the first hard proof that the cardio-respiratory system may be the underlying mechanism by which meditation promotes pain control.

In the Shambhala Sun we’ve featured many articles over the years highlighting the ways in which meditation works with stress, pain, and overall mind/body health. Find a short list here… Continued »

Sit Every Day! Advice, plus “Ten Suggestions for Having a Regular Daily Practice Even if You Would Rather Be Thrown into a Shark-Infested Ocean”

By Diana Winston

Look familiar?

Look familiar?

Your unforgiving alarm rings for all it’s worth. It’s 7AM. You crash out of bed, slamming your toe on your bedside table. You fumble for your zafu in the dark. “It’s over here somewhere,” you mumble. Hearing you awaken from the dead, your cat runs screeching. You are about to plant your still-zombiefied-self on the cushion when nature calls. Three minutes later your mother calls too, and you know you really shouldn’t answer it but she does have that crucial bit of information about the results of American Idol, and… that’s it, the day has started. You’re late for work, the shower’s running cold again, your toothbrush bristles are thoroughly chewed through, the cat is ripping apart your sofa, blackmailing you for food, and of course, as always, despite hundreds of clothes in your closet, you have nothing to wear. You leave the house agitated, jangled, caught in another shouting match with yourself: “You lazy… you didn’t meditate! Again. You’ll never change!”

Sound familiar? Sure it does. Despite all those resolutions, post retreat, New Year’s, and otherwise, another day has gone by without sitting. You know it’s good for you, you know it’s probably the best thing you’ve ever done in your life and ever could do, but it’s really hard to do it. Continued »

Homelessness, Buddhism, and a call to take the ‘plunge’

Thanks to Danny Fisher, who pointed me to Tom Armstrong—a Buddhist who blogs about his experience of being homeless at Homeless Tom. I appreciated the comment that Tom just left, in response to Danny’s post:

“I recommend that readers of your blog do a “plunge,” as they call it: Spend a day or two, or a week or two, in the Homeless World in your city or one far enough away that your co-workers won’t see you and worry….Yes, ‘pretending’ to be homeless is far from BEING homeless, but it gains you a lot of appreciation about what goes on in Homeless World. You’ll learn how nice and worthy so very many people are. You’ll also gain a sense of the frustrations and the Great Inescapable Bear Trap that makes getting out of the circumstance near impossible.”

Being from nowhere & practicing dharma: sound like you?

Monica Sanford, whose “Buddhist in Nebraska” blog has drawn attention from the Buddhist blogosphere, writes that learning and practicing dharma in the absence of sangha is a tricky thing. See her story below, then tell us your own: How have you been able to study and practice dharma, while living on the fringe?

There are six Christian churches within six blocks of my home. There is a single English-speaking Buddhist temple in my entire state and it’s Zen, a tradition whose approach to meditation always sounded as interesting to me as marine boot camp. Continued »

Reverend Joan Hogetsu Hoeberichts to Receive Award

The Heart Circle Sangha announced on January 26 that its spiritual director Reverend Joan Hogetsu Hoeberichts Sensei of Ridgewood, New Jersey, was selected by a committee of Buddhist scholars and practitioners as an Outstanding Woman in Buddhism for 2009. Rev. Hoeberichts, along with nineteen other Buddhist women, will be honored at an award ceremony held at the Association for the Promotion for the Status of Women in Bangkok, Thailand on March 6.

The award recognizes Rev. Hoeberichts’ ongoing aid work in Sri Lanka which began after the 2004 tsunami. Rev. Hoeberichts co-founded the Psycho-Spiritual Healing Program to provide relief to tsunami survivors in Sri Lanka in 2005. The program trains local counselors to deliver mental health services and trauma relief through Sarvodaya which is Sri Lanka’s largest non-governmental organization. Continued »

Buddhist Military Sangha: Reconnect with the Three Treasures

Lt. Jeanette Shin

Today, in honor of the new year, Shin encourages us to notice the markers of stability and change, and to reconnect with the Three Treasures:

“In chaplaincy work, I’ve encountered many of two types of persons searching for a type of stability in their personal lives, and are curious about Buddhism. Although this is very simplistic, I can classify this into two types:
1) Persons interested in Buddhism, out of basic curiosity or looking for a “new” religion, philosophy, peace, “answers,” etc. Continued »

Noah Levine: “It Takes a Sangha”

Our 10th Annual All Buddhist Teachings issue is shipping to subscribers now. (You’ll find it at newsstands as of February 2nd.) Contributions to this year’s issue come, as always, from many of your favorite teachers and writers, including Alice Walker, Tulku Thondup Rinpoche, Karen Maezen Miller, Sakyong Mipham, Joan Sutherland, and still more. Like each All Buddhist Teachings issue before it, this one’s a keepsake.

Among the pieces is a new one from DharmaPunx founder Noah Levine. The piece, “It Takes a Sangha,” is an examination of the gifts that community brings to us, and those we can and should give in return. It’s now available for online reading, so check it out here.

And: if you’re not yet a subscriber and would like to have the Sun delivered to your home, that’s easy. Just click here, and you’ll save 50%.

“The Dharma of Martin Luther King” workshop with Alan Senauke in NYC

On January 31 at the Village Zendo in New York, Hozen Alan Senauke will give a one-day workshop on “The Dharma of Martin Luther King.”

From the Zendo website: “[Dr. King's] pluralistic religious faith and his immersion in the rich philosophy of active non-violence expresses spiritual understandings that we share at the heart of Buddhist practice: that together we co-create the world for better and worse; that there is truly no separation between self and other.

“In this day-long workshop, we can begin to remind ourselves about King’s time and place in America and consider how that history is alive today. Continued »

Freegan life beyond capitalism

[by Sun staffer Cecelia Driscoll]

In a time of economic uncertainty, many of us are searching for ways to minimize our spending…some have taken minimization to its limit and formed free-distribution groups. Take the freegan movement in New York, where the aim is to avoid buying anything and instead to recycle, live simply, and boycott the world’s economic system and associated vices.

I ask you: is anti-consumerism part of the mindful living path, or is this an extraneous, fringe idea? Comments, please.

From Mara’s Desk, courtesy of Abhayagiri Monastery

Mara's assault on the Buddha (the Buddha is only symbolized by his throne), 2nd C. CE, Amaravati (India).

Mara's assault on the Buddha (with Buddha symbolized by his throne), 2nd c. CE, Amaravati, India).

Fearless Mountain Newsletter is the latest offering from those digital- and design-savvy monastics at Abhayagiri, a monastery in the Thai Forest tradition of Ajahn Chah, nestled in the hills of beautiful Redwood Valley, CA.

As I read their Winter edition, of course what lured me was the column “From Mara’s Desk.” A catchy concept, so I dove in for the full seduction. Here’s a snippet:

“I am Māra, king of deceit, deception, fear, pride, ego, vanity and delusion; master of suffering, of inducing the desire for having things one does not have and getting rid of things one does not want. Aging men and women elders are the perfect target for my products. With the aging baby boomers I can acquire trillions of dollars without entering those pesky unstable housing, insurance and stock markets. …”

Go on, read the rest—you KNOW you want to… Continued »

Strike hard campaign in Tibet

Chinese authorities in Tibet have launched a 42-day “strike hard” campaign in the Himalayan region. According to a translation of the Chinese-language state-run Lhasa Evening News, which was posted on the website of the Tibetan Center for Human Rights and Democracy (TCHRD), the police have rounded up 5,766 suspects for questioning focused on last year’s March 14 demonstrations which turned into rioting in Lhasa. In addition, the Lhasa municipal government is now requiring all outside visitors wishing to stay for more than three days and less than a month in Lhasa to apply for a temporary residence permit from the police. Continued »