Monthly Archives: December 2009

Chogyam Trungpa: “Step One: Look at Fear”

From Ocean of Dharma comes a brief Winter Solstice-time message from the late Chogyam Trungpa.

As a warrior proceeds on the path, he or she may go through phases of intense fear. Frequently, such fear comes out of nowhere. It just happens; it just hits you. It may cause you to question everything in yourself: everything you have studied, everything you have learned and understood, as well as your general life situation….Fear arises in this way many times on the warrior’s path. It is a hallmark of your progress on the path. Just as you are about to give birth to further confidence, that breakthrough is preceded by a sense of utter fear.When this occurs in your life, you should examine the nature of fear. This is not based on asking logical questions about fear: “Why am I afraid?” It is simply looking at the state of fear or panic that is taking place in you. Just look at it.

–from “The Other Side of Fear,” from Smile at Fear: Awakening the True Heart of Bravery, published by Shambhala Publications.

For more, sign up for the Ocean of Dharma newsletter, or visit our special page of teachings from Chogyam Trungpa.

In Brief: Two Books for Good Karma

Laura MacKenzie reviews two books on real-life ways to make a difference.

givealittleGive A Little
How Your Small Donations Can Transform Our World

By Wendy Smith
Hyperion, 2009; 298 pp., $14.00 (paper)

In Give A Little, longtime non-profit fundraiser Wendy Smith profiles the most efficient, effective charities she could find. Whether you want to fight disease in Africa or help at-risk kids in the United States, Smith gives detailed descriptions of the efforts that will do the most good with your charity dollar, and emphasizes that individual efforts, however small, can still make a huge difference.

spiritserviceSpirit of Service
Your Daily Stimulus for Making a Difference

Edited by Nancy Hancock
HarperCollins Publishers, 2009; 364 pp., $23.99 (cloth)

Spirit of Service was inspired by President Obama’s call for all Americans to contribute and rebuild their country. This book sets you up for a year of compassion and giving, and some suggestions might surprise you. In addition to volunteer and donation opportunities, these pages encourage you to be a compassionate, gracious traveler, to scatter wildflower seeds, to suggest a thought-provoking book to a friend. The suggestions won’t all immediately appeal to you, but the book invites you to consider each suggestion and ask, “What if I did?”

On the Buddhism Beat: It’s been a big week or so for Buddhist world news. Let’s review.

thaitempleClimate change—discussions about it, and its devastating effects in parts of the Buddhist world—lead this latest batch of news. Also significant were stories about presidential politics (at home and abroad), and human rights concerns.

As usual, there are some interesting odds and ends too: a museum under heavy security after the theft of some important Buddhist art, the launch of the West’s first Buddhist broadcasting foundation, and a profile of a nun who adopted seventy children.

Clearly there’s a lot to get to, so let’s dig right in. Continued »

James Gritz: A shutterbug’s view of the Dalai Lama

Photo (detail) by James Gritz

Photo (detail) by James Gritz

“Back in October,” writes photographer James Gritz, “I covered the Mind & Life Conference with His Holiness the Dalai Lama in Washington, DC. [...] My job was to capture interesting encounters from the social gatherings, VIP lunches and dinners to the actual panel discussions. While it was interesting eavesdropping on the conversations of so many brilliant minds, and having a few paparazzi moments with the likes of Richard Gere, Goldie Hawn and Gabriel Byrne, for a simple Buddhist the highlight of my time in Washington was being able to get close to His Holiness.”

See the photos James took here. Continued »

Burying treasure vases to heal the earth

earthtreasurevase-108Inspired by an ancient Tibetan Buddhist tradition, the Earth Treasure Vase Global Healing Project fills consecrated clay vessels with prayers and offerings, and ceremonially buries them in the Earth — in collaboration with local indigenous elders, young activists and regular folks in places where healing is most needed around the planet. The Project will have its 22nd vase ceremony in Liberia on the Winter Solstice.

The folks behind the Project explain: Continued »

Thich Nhat Hanh communities Deer Park and Plum Village request your help for Bat Nha

sisterchankhong-108Want to know what you can do to make a difference in helping the monastics of Vietnam’s embattled Thich Nhat Han-affiliated Bat Nha monastery? This new press release from Deer Park Monastery, written by Sister Chan Khong at Plum Village in France, has one answer: Sign this petition.

Details, and the complete press release follow here. Continued »

Bat Nha: The heat is on. Get caught up here.

As you’ll see from our ongoing coverage of Bat Nha, we think this story is important. So we’ll keep working to keep you up to date. Or to help you get started following Bat Nha if you haven’t yet.

This concise new item on the ongoing conflict for the monastics of Bat Nha, via Radio Free Asia, is a good place to start. Continued »

Can you travel the Eightfold Path on a skateboard?

skatingmonk-108From China today comes a story* which might be heartening to those who practice their ollies as well as the dharma, and another story that might be taking the Buddhism/pop-culture clash a bit too far.

(Or not. Take a look and let us know what you think.)

* Update: that’s apparently not a skateboard (left). See first comment.  Continued »

David R. Loy: “A collective awakening?” (Buddhist reflections on Copenhagen)

Author, Zen Buddhist practitioner/teacher, and professor David R. Loy on how a “new understanding of the self” is what will be required of us in order to turn our planet’s climate crisis around.


“We need a kind of collective awakening. There are among us men and women who have awakened, but it’s not enough; most people are still sleeping… If we awaken to our true situation, there will be a change in our collective consciousness. We have to do something to wake people up. We have to help the Buddha to wake up the people who are living in a dream.” — Thich Nhat Hanh, in A Buddhist Response to the Climate Emergency

As I sit down to write these words, the most important meeting in the history of humanity is going on. Yes, I know that sounds hyperbolic – if you don’t know what’s at stake. Delegates and concerned citizens from every nation on earth have gathered in Copenhagen to determine our collective response to climate change, the greatest threat ever to our species. Unfortunately, it looks unlikely that they will agree to do what needs to be done to address that challenge.

What does the Copenhagen conference have to do with Buddhism? Continued »

Apple “Thinks Different” about the Dalai Lama in China

In China, and interested in the Dalai Lama? There’s no app for that.

What disappointing (but somehow not surprising) news for those, like me, who support the Dalai Lama and also love their iPhone. Apple — which famously used the image of His Holiness in its “Think Different” campaign, back in the day — has seen fit to censor Dalai Lama-related iPhone apps in China. Reports Apple Hot News:

“At least five iPhone apps related to the Dalai Lama are unavailable in the China [App] store. Some of those apps display inspirational quotes from the Tibetan spiritual leader. Another, Paging Dalai Lama, tells users where he is currently teaching. A fifth app, Nobel Laureates, contains information about Nobel Prize winners including the Dalai Lama.” Continued »

Judy Lief’s Copenhagen Climate Change wrap-up: Upon returning

Buddhist teacher and Shambhala Sun contributor Judy Lief is back — back from the Copenhagen Climate Change Conference, and back with one more installment of her ongoing behind-the-scenes reportage on what’s taken place there. (See her first two installments here and here.)

Now she shares her thoughts upon returning, asks who has the courage to make the next big move for positive change, and reflects upon the personal implications of practice in and for our ailing world.  Continued »

Buddhism: The Next Generation

Today’s feature on — check it out!


Caregiving: how Buddhist and meditative principles can help

caregiving-108You may have seen this New York Times weekend story on “what hospital officials call Zen care, which is nondenominational and more about stress reduction, breathing exercises and ‘being present’ with patients and their families than about quoting Scripture or administering last rites.”

While not all in the Buddhist or meditative realms would characterize such treatment as “Zen,” the idea behind the treatment is only gaining more and more advocates. It’s an area of great opportunity and importance, and so you might not want to miss these stories from our archives, which can help you to gain a wider range of perspectives on how Buddhist and meditative principles can help in caregiving situations:

Caregiving and Practicing With Illness — A special section on, featuring Rachel Naomi Remen, David Shlim, Joan Halifax, and more.

Joan Halifax: Fearless and Fragile — After a life time of contemplating death and caring for the dying, Zen teacher Joan Halifax reflects on her life’s work and the breaking of her own bones. Kristin Barendsen reports.

And don’t miss these Shambhala Sun Audio talks from Frank Ostaseski of the Zen Hospice Project: Part One. Part Two.

Bat Nha monastics: Update and overview

Brother Phap Lai of Plum Village (the community of Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh in France) has sent an urgent message concerning the latest episode in the conflict involving monastics from Bat Nha, the embattled Thich Nhat Hanh-affiliated monastery in Vietnam.

His message reveals that the Vietnamese government is continuing its harassment of and attacks on Bat Nha’s monastics, who had taken refuge in the Phuoc Hue temple since the government closed Bat Nha  in September of this year. You’ll find it (including a complete background on the Bat Nha issue) on MahaSangha News — where the Buddhist world shares its news. Click here.

Breaking: Copenhagen Climate Talks come to a halt

Disappointing news from Copenhagen this morning: gridlock wins the day. Via

The Copenhagen climate summit is in chaos after poor countries walked out of negotiations en masse today.

The G77, a group which represents 130 developing countries, walked out because it is concerned the existing Kyoto protocol will be abandoned. Australia’s Climate Change Minister Penny Wong confirmed that organisers were trying to fix the problem and coax back the developing world. [More here.]

We’ll keep you updated of developments. In the meantime, you can get caught up with Judy Lief’s reports for the Shambhala Sun on the talks so far, here and here.