Author Profile: Rod Meade Sperry

Video: A Buddhist temple, on the rocks

ripplesWe’ve all seen variations of the cliched “water droplet and ripples” image that’s been used to sell so many spiritually minded products — many of them Buddhist (or at least quasi-Buddhist). Here’s an unusual twist: in this video, which does begin with the usual droplet-and-ripples affair, Kyoto, Japan’s Kinkaju Zen Buddhist temple is carved out of ice to sell… SunTory Whisky? Strange, but true:

It’s hardly the first time that the cachet of Zen and/or Buddhism have been used to sell liquor. For example, there’s Lucky Beer (the “Enlightened Brew”), or “Zen” liqueur, or Pyrat Rum, whose mascot is Hotei — often wrongly identified as the Buddha, and described by Pyrat as the “Zen patron saint of bartenders.” Continued »

Louis C.K.: Gleefully Digging Deeper

2013-11-lckLouis C.K. is hosting Saturday Night Live this weekend! Okay, okay: perhaps you’re one of the many people who think SNL hasn’t mattered for two decades now. I can’t say I agree, though I’ll grant you that there’ve been some pretty rough patches at times, and the recent season has had its share. But still: Louis C.K.! He’s considered the ultimate comic’s comic today, and though he “works blue” — at times, very very blue — it’s his depth and emotional honesty that’s really helped him to make his mark, most notably in his standup and his bold show, Louie.

C.K. was one of several comics — along with Sarah Silverman, Jerry Seinfeld & Larry David, Tig Notaro, Garry Shandling, and the late Mike DeStefano — covered in “Wise Fools,” my recent Shambhala Sun feature about the dharma-and-comedy connection. No, he’s not a Buddhist, and only a couple of the comedians covered in that article are. But it sure seems they’re all onto something. For more, read “Wise Fools,” here.

Tibet House’s 2014 benefit show: Iggy Pop, Philip Glass “join” New Order (video)

Not surprisingly, it was a fun, fun, fun, fun, fun time. In addition to the presence of Patti Smith, members of the National, the Drepung Gomang monks, and others, there was a special surprise for modern music fans. As Rolling Stone reports, Tuesday night’s gala concert at Carnegie Hall included a performance by the reformed classic band New Order. Sort of, that is: “The band onstage was billed as New Order, but it was really just the group’s guitarist Bernard Sumner with Jay Dee Daugherty of the Patti Smith Group on drums, Iggy Pop on lead vocals, Philip Glass on the piano and a four-piece string section.” Watch Iggy join New Order’s Bernard Sumner for a version of Joy Division’s classic “Love Will Tear Us Apart,” below. (And, after the jump, watch Patti Smith’s gorgeous performance of Lou Reed’s “Perfect Day.”)

But, there was a serious side to the proceedings, of course. Tibet House director Robert Thurman reminded the crowd why they had all gathered: “Today, the state of Tibet is simply hellish. The last and greatest dictatorship on Earth has mistakenly decided that their only way to keep the vast, rich territory of Tibet is to crush the will of the people.” The Tibet House concerts are meant to raise funds and awareness for Tibet House’s mission. You can read all about that mission here; or make an online donation here. Continued »

Taking Refuge from the Darkness: Remembering comedian Mike DeStefano, three years gone

When comedian Mike DeStefano died — three years ago last week — he wasn’t quite a household name yet, though it looked like things might be heading that way. Now, “Drugs, Disease, Death: A Comedy,” a new documentary film-in-progress, seeks to bring Mike’s comedy and (at times, quite harrowing) personal story to a new wave of fans. (April 21 Update: according to the project’s Kickstarter site, the documentary has now been canceled.)

Despite the very “adult” language he used in his act, Mike had a huge and generous heart. I had the good fortune to speak with him a couple of times and, later, the opportunity to tell about his eventual relationship with Buddhism in the Shambhala Sun. Here’s that story.

It was a chance meeting on an airplane that set the late Mike DeStefano on the Buddhist path. Bronx-bred and raised Catholic, the famously foul-mouthed comedian known as Mikey D had struggled with drugs, darkness, and loss for much of his life and was already sure that he was no good. Now his father had died, and he was a mess.

But then the Tibetan Buddhist teacher who just happened to be seated next to him started to talk about buddhanature. As DeStefano’s friend, the Buddhist scholar John Dunne, recalls: “He told Mike, ‘You have a lot of crazy ideas about yourself. Your nature is not evil. You are a good person by nature.’ Mike said that saved his life.” Continued »

Video: Start your morning laughing with the Dalai Lama, and Larry King

On Monday, Larry King’s new Larry King Now interview with the Dalai Lama will be shared on Ora.TV and Hulu. Plenty of serious matters will be covered, but here’s a fun, light outtake. Enjoy.

The Dalai Lama’s Sense of Humor: Exclusive… by LarryKingNow

Watch the Dalai Lama’s opening prayers in the U.S. Senate on Thursday

As announced on Wednesday, His Holiness the Dalai Lama did in fact give the opening prayers in the US Senate on Thursday. Among the words he shared are his favorite prayer, from Shantideva’s Way of the Bodhisattva: “As long as space remains, and as long as sentient beings remain, until then may I too remain and help dispel the misery of the world.”

Video here:

He made quite an impression. To wit: “US Senators Can’t Get Enough of the Dalai Lama” (ABC News)

For more from the Dalai Lama, check out our special online collection of the best by and about him from the Shambhala Sun.

Watch Matthieu Ricard’s new TED talk, “The habits of happiness”

ricard-14French Tibetan Buddhist monk Matthieu Ricard has been dubbed by some in the media “the happiest man alive.” (The title has also been attached to Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche. Who’s happier? We may never know!) Now, Ricard has brought some of his insights on what makes for real happiness to the TED stage in his talk, “The habits of happiness.” Included are photos from Ricard’s Himalayan excursions, as well as a good deal of smiling, laughter, and wisdom. An excerpt:

“We love to do jogging, fitness. We do all kinds of things to remain beautiful. Yet, we spend surprisingly little time taking care of what matters most — the way our mind functions — which, again, is the ultimate thing that determines the quality of our experience.”

To watch the whole twenty-one-minute talk, click here. (Update: since posting this earlier today, I’ve learned it’s not in fact new. But that’s okay — it’s still worth your time.) And for more from Ricard, don’t miss his excellent Shambhala Sun teaching, “Why Can’t ‘I’ Be Happy?” (Links open in new windows.)

Video: “Zen” ad sells Krispy Kernels, meditational weirdness

Meditation may be becoming mainstream, but you can always count on the ad industry to keep things suitably weird. Take for example this new ad (titled, yes, “Zen,”) for Krispy Kernels. It won honors at Cannes. But can it really sell Canadian roasted nuts? I don’t know… but where I’d never been cognizant of the Krispy Kernels brand before, it’ll be hard to forget now.

Remembering Harold Ramis

ramis-sqWe’re saddened to share the news that filmmaker/actor/writer Harold Ramis, who was beloved by so many for his comedic mind, and by Buddhists especially for his classic film Groundhog Day, has died. He was 69.

In 2009, Perry Garfinkel wrote “And If He Sees His Shadow,” a Shambhala Sun profile of Ramis; you can click here to read it online, or here to view/download a PDF. It’s a great way to remember Ramis and the many facets of his mind and art.

Friday night: Brooklyn Zen Center to host panels on gun violence with angel Kyodo williams and others; Young people urged to join in


Rev. angel Kyodo williams

“Social Messages and Gun Violence – How are we communicating the devaluation of life?” This is the theme that Brooklyn Zen Center (BZC) will present on February 21, in the first in a series of three panels leading up to A Day of Silent Recognition – a day of contemplative silence on April 5th to bear witness to the violence caused by guns in the local community.

About these events, BZC notes: “We would love for the panel and April 5th events to be enriched by young people. So if you fit that category, please bring your voice. Continued »

“Show Up Exactly As You Are” — A Q&A with Taz Tagore of NYC’s Reciprocity Foundation

“We’re ready to embrace them exactly as they are,” says Tagore, right, of the youths the Reciprocity Foundation serves. “That’s scary for a teenager.”

In our March 2014 magazine, Taz Tagore, who with Adam Bucko founded New York City’s Reciprocity Foundation, talks about the Foundation’s work of taking kids — many of whom are youth of color and those identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender — from the streets to a new, more healthful life.

Click here to read the Q&A, titled “Show Up Exactly As You Are,” now.


Watch the trailer for “Hector And The Search For Happiness”

Check out the first trailer for Hector And The Search For Happiness, a forthcoming film directed by Peter Chelsom that brings Simon Pegg (Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz) to a Buddhist monastery, among other places.

A key line: “Avoiding unhappiness is not the road to happiness.”

The film is currently slated to premiere this fall.

Zen teacher recalls her student who transitioned genders, “Turning Words” author Ellen Krug

We hope you’ve had a chance to read Ellen Krug’s “Turning Words: A Buddhist Transitions Genders,” posted here last week. In addition to sharing that wonderful piece, we’ve also been able to hear from Zuiko Redding, the teacher at Cedar Rapids Zen Center Ellen found so helpful. That’s a nice little story in itself. Says Zuiko:

Yes, I remember Ed/Ellen Krug well, and I remember that class. He was the only participant at the time, so there was more opportunity for discussion! I recall a really masculine guy, a bit aggressive, with a five-o’clock shadow, short hair, jeans, and girlfriend problems. Also short and muscular-looking. The nickname “Killer Krug” might have fit him in the courtroom, though he was definitely drifting in a different direction. Continued »

Video: “Sherlock” takes refuge, of sorts, among Buddhist monks

ICYMI, here’s an interesting Buddhism-and-pop-culture collision. Thanks to Danny Fisher for pointing out this video, “Many Happy Returns,” “a webisode/mini prequel to season three of the BBC’s Sherlock that begins with a conspiracy theory about Holmes hiding among Buddhist monks…”

“Escaping from the prison of his mind” — Noah Levine featured in new CNN piece

This weekend published “Five moments that changed their lives,” a look at how “one decision, one twist or one unexpected encounter can shape a lifetime.” Among the five people profiled is author, teacher, and Shambhala Sun contributor Noah Levine. You may know Noah as the creator of the memoir Dharma Punx — and the movement of the same name, as well as the Against the Stream meditation society. CNN’s piece condenses Noah’s story of turning away from drugs and toward meditation — and helping others do the same. See it here.

And for more by and about Noah (links open in new windows):

Punk, Parenting, and The Heart of the Revolution: John Malkin interviews Buddhist teacher Noah Levine

Continued »