Danny Fisher is Coordinator of the Buddhist Chaplaincy Program at University of the West. An ordained Buddhist minister, he became the first Buddhist member of the National Association of College and University Chaplains in 2009. In addition to his work with the Shambhala Sun, he blogs for elephant journal and writes for other publications when he can.

Film Review: “The Lady,” Luc Besson’s Aung San Suu Kyi biopic

The Lady, which was released for awards consideration late last year, is now playing in limited release throughout the U.S. and Canada. At the time Danny Fisher saw the film at an advance screening, Burma was in the news as Hillary Clinton became the first U.S. Secretary of State to visit Burma in more than fifty years. Since then, the country, ruled by a military dictatorship for five decades, has shown even more signs of democratizing. Suu Kyi and her National League for Democracy won 43 out of 44 seats they contest in last month’s parliamentary elections, and she took her seat in parliament last week, after ending the NLD’s boycott of swearing an oath to the country’s military-drafted constitution.

Watch a trailer for The Lady above. Here now is Fisher’s advance-screening review.

History seems to be in the making in Burma as Luc Besson’s The Lady, about National League for Democracy leader and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, Continued »

Dalai Lama wins Templeton Prize

His Holiness the Dalai Lama was announced as the recipient of the 2012 Templeton Prize this morning. (See his reaction in the video above.)

In their citation, the John Templeton Foundation notes (among other things) that “[His Holiness] encourages serious scientific investigative reviews of the power of compassion and its broad potential to address the world’s fundamental problems — a theme at the core of his teachings and a cornerstone of his immense popularity. Continued »

Army dad ordered to remove Tibetan prayer flags from home

Would your neighbors balk if you hung prayer flags outside your home?

By Danny Fisher

The Hudson Star Observer reports that the Lighthouse Villas Homeowners Association in Hudson, WI, has sent a letter ordering Don Chering to remove Tibetan prayer flags from the front of his home by the end of this month. Chering, a practicing Buddhist, is refusing to remove the flags, which he first hung on November 9th of last year, after his son Aaron left for basic training in the U.S. Army.

He says of his neighborhood, “We’re a community, and they want to homogenize everybody. We live side-by-side as Christians and Buddhists. Continued »

Film review: Luc Besson’s Aung San Suu Kyi biopic, “The Lady”

Photo by Vanessa Karam

Luc Besson’s biopic of Aung San Suu Kyi is currently only playing at film festivals and in limited release. Danny Fisher attended an advance screening; here’s what he saw.

History seems to be in the making in Burma as Luc Besson’s The Lady, about National League for Democracy leader and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, screens in New York and Los Angeles (where I saw it) this week for Academy Awards consideration. Hillary Clinton became the first U.S. Secretary of State to visit Burma in over fifty years last week, signaling that the recent “reforms” in the country, which has been ruled by a brutal, repressive military dictatorship since 1962, might be real. (Though violence against ethnic minorities flared very shortly after her departure, and many, many political prisoners remain in the country—including U Gambira, the leader of the 2007 Buddhist monastic uprising known as the “Saffron Revolution.”) The aspect of Secretary Clinton’s visit that received the most attention was, of course, her meeting with “Daw Suu,” who was released from her latest house arrest just over a year ago. (She has spent a total of 15 of the last 22 years under house arrest.) With the world focused again on “The Lady,” as she is known within Burma, the arrival of a major motion picture about her is timely to say the least. Continued »

Video: Suu Kyi biopic “The Lady” banned in China?

NDTV is reporting that Luc Besson’s upcoming biopic of Nobel Peace laureate/engaged Buddhist icon Aung San Suu Kyi, “The Lady”, as well as information about it, are currently being banned within China. [More, plus the film's trailer, after the jump.] Continued »

What’s “After Buddhism”? An interview with Stephen Batchelor

The titular figure behind the recent popular memoir Confession of a Buddhist Atheist, Stephen Batchelor has had a diverse and fascinating history as a contributor to the development of Buddhism in the modern world. Here he speaks to Danny Fisher about atheism, his understanding of what and how the Buddha taught, why he appreciates his critics, and more.

Stephen Batchelor has been, among many other things, a former monk in two traditions (Korean Son and Gelugpa Tibetan Buddhism) and translator (of, among other things, the most recognizable English translation of Shantideva’s Bodhicharyavatara), and was also co-founder (with his wife Martine) of the Sharpham College for Buddhist Studies and Contemporary Enquiry and prolific author of other works before the publication of his bestselling book Buddhism Without Beliefs in 1998. With that work (as well as subsequent works), he became one of the principal and most influential figures in the so-called “secular,” “pragmatic,” “atheist/agnostic” Buddhist movement(s). Continued »

Video: Celebrating World Food Day with Buddhist Global Relief, Oxfam America, and Archbishop Desmond Tutu

Sunday, October 16th, is World Food Day. With “more than a billion people, [and] over one-sixth of the world’s population malnourished,” Oxfam America is highlighting the event with the theme, “Food Prices – From Crisis to Stability.” In this new video Buddhist monk and scholar Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi discusses the partnership of Buddhist Global Relief and Oxfam America, in recognition of World Food Day.

Ven. Bodhi joins other such religious luminaries as Archbishop Desmond Tutu in contributing a video to this campaign. More details on World Food Day follow. Continued »

Robert Thurman: The Danny Fisher/Shambhala SunSpace interview

Photo by Stephenie Hollyman, via bobthurman.com

Photo by Stephenie Hollyman, via bobthurman.com

Undoubtedly known to Shambhala Sun readers as a mighty figure in terms of the transmission of Buddhist culture and ideas to the United States, Bob Thurman is also Jey Tsong Khapa Professor of Indo-Tibetan Buddhist Studies at Columbia University; co-founder and president of Tibet House U.S.; bestselling author of quite a few books, including the recent Why the Dalai Lama Matters; a prolific teacher; and, yes, Uma’s dad.

Dr. Thurman will make a rare public appearance in Los Angeles on April 30th at the invitation of InsightLA. (Seats are still available – reserve yours here.) I was very fortunate to speak with him ahead of the event…

Dr. Thurman, given the fact that you’re one of the leading experts on His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama, I suppose the obvious place to start would be with the news coming out of the Tibetan Government-in-Exile recently. On Tibetan National Uprising Day, His Holiness indicated his wish to step down as political leader of his people. Candidates vying to be the next prime minister were identified, but the Assembly of Tibetan People’s Deputies also resolved that the relationship between the Dalai Lama and the Tibetans is “immortal” and formally asked him not to give up his political role. Then, this past week, the A.T.P.D. reversed its position, and elections were also held. What do you see for the future of the Tibetan people politically? Also, what do you think the responsibilities of His Holiness will ultimately look like in the next few years?

The news is actually old news, in that, decades ago, His Holiness alerted the Tibetan people to his intention to get the Dalai Lama institution out of political focus. However, this formal resignation in the context of the election of Prime Minister and Parliament of the Government-in-Exile is exciting: the outgoing Parliament eventually accepted his resignation, and Tibetans are assuming a new sense of responsibility, while intensifying yet further their devotion and appreciation of their Dalai Lama. Continued »

Interview: Sharon Salzberg talks happiness, possibility, Twitter, and more with Danny Fisher

Sharon Salzberg is a well known author and a teacher of insight and lovingkindness meditation who (along with Jack Kornfield and Joseph Goldstein) founded the Insight Meditation Society and the Barre Center for Buddhist Studies, which are both located in Barre, MA. Her new book, Real Happiness – The Power of Meditation: A 28-Day Program (which also includes a CD of guided meditations), has just been released, and she will lead a half-day retreat based on the program for InsightLA on February 26th (tickets are still available, and you can register here). We spoke and enjoyed some laughs together by phone in advance of her visit to Los Angeles.

Sharon, I must say: it’s lovely to connect with you outside of Twitter for a change.

(Laughter) Yes, it is. Usually you’re a name that pops up on my computer screen, my favorite person to re-tweet.

Well, I hope we can talk more about social networking in a bit, but first I wanted to ask you about Real Happiness. Happiness is an area that many Buddhist teachers have been giving particular emphasis in recent years. I’m curious to know how you came to this topic yourself.

Well, so much of my teaching, as you know, is on lovingkindness meditation. The form that I use involves repeating certain phrases that usually begin with, “May I be happy, may you be happy…” So that brings up a lot of really interesting issues to consider right away. We tend to equate happiness with being happy-go-lucky (and maybe kind of stupid), seeking pleasure endlessly, and all those things. Continued »

Uncovering the meaning of mindfulness: Joseph Goldstein, in conversation with Danny Fisher

Joseph Goldstein, via Dharma.org

Joseph Goldstein is one of the best-known teachers of Vipassana meditation in the United States. The co-founder (along with Jack Kornfield and Sharon Salzberg) of the Insight Meditation Society and Barre Center for Buddhist Studies, he is the author of such books as A Heart Full of Peace, One Dharma: The Emerging Western Buddhism, and The Experience of Insight.

On January 4, Joseph will inaugurate an exciting new lecture series for InsightLA with a benefit event at the Santa Monica College Performing Arts Center’s Eli and Edythe Broad Stage. Tickets are still available, and can be purchased here. I was fortunate to be able to speak with Joseph by phone last week.

Joseph, thank you so much for speaking with me. First, what can you tell me about your upcoming talk here in LA? What will you be speaking about?

Well, I’m going to start by addressing the relationship between mindfulness and compassion, and the role mindfulness plays in fostering compassionate action in the world. Often people think of mindfulness meditation as being very inward-looking, internal; but it really has a significant role in terms of responding with compassion to the world. Continued »

Frozen Yoga and McMindfulness: Miles Neale on the mainstreaming of contemplative religious practices

Buddhist blogger/Shambhala SunSpace contributor Danny Fisher in conversation with Buddhist psychotherapist and meditation teacher Miles Neale.

Rarely a day goes by when there isn’t some exciting news about the applications and possibilities of mindfulness, as taught in Buddhism, for our physical and psychological wellbeing. (Just this week, we posted about a recent study that showed how “mindfulness-based cognitive therapy has the same effect as antidepressant medication for preventing relapse among patients treated for depression.”) Of course, there is a shadow side to mining the world’s wisdom traditions for useful practices: also recently, The New York Times ran a story about this issue in yoga as it continues to grow into a giant industry independent from its religious roots.

Miles Neale, PsyD, LMHC, is a Buddhist psychotherapist, meditation teacher and expert on the clinical applications of contemplative arts and sciences. A fixture of Tibet House US and Interdependence Project programming, the NYC-based Miles is also Assistant Director of the Nalanda Institute for Contemplative Science, where he collaborates on state-of-the-art clinical research of meditation, and teaches public courses on the Indo-Tibetan tradition. I spoke to him a little bit about trouble spots as mindfulness goes mainstream… Continued »

“Dana Wiki” and the Future of American Buddhism: Danny Fisher interviews Joshua Eaton

Buddhist blogger Danny Fisher interviews Joshua Eaton for Shambhala SunSpace.

This past week saw the launch of a new and improved website and URL (www.danawiki.org) for Dana Wiki — a recently developed online resource meant to aid Buddhist Americans in community service work. The driving force behind the project is Joshua Eaton — who just earned his Master of Divinity in Buddhist Studies at the Harvard Divinity School, where he also served as editor-in-chief of Cult/ure: The Graduate Journal of Harvard Divinity School. He is now contributing scholar at the Journal of Inter-Religious Dialogue’s new State of Formation. I recently caught up with Joshua via email to discuss Dana Wiki and the future of American Buddhism…

For those who don’t know, what is Dana Wiki?

Dana Wiki is a collaborative, online handbook to to help Buddhist meditation groups, temples, dharma centers, retreat centers, etc.—get more involved in community service. Continued »

Talking Buddhism, film, and literature with John Whalen-Bridge

By Danny Fisher

The National University of Singapore’s John Whalen-Bridge is without question one of the hardest working and most prolific scholars involved in the study of Buddhism in the West these days. Best of all, he’s working on important areas that have really been unexplored in a serious way until now. These qualities combined with his warmth, wisdom, and sense of humor made him irresistible to us for an interview. I caught up with him via email for a discussion about his four (!) new books, and thoughts for future projects.

John, tell us about your and Gary Storhoff’s The Emergence of Buddhist American Literature. Also, what is included in the category of “Buddhist American literature?”

All of my friends in History and Cultural Studies are writing books about terrorism and disaster, earthquakes and militarization. How can we Buddhist writers hope to keep up sales? So, Emergence of Buddhist American Literature—at least it has “emergency” in its title… Continued »

His Holiness the Dalai Lama: Guest Editor for the Toronto Star (Video)

Via the Toronto Star

The Toronto Star offers two wonderful videos today:  one a behind-the-scenes look at His Holiness’s participation in the paper’s editing process, and one an exclusive interview with the spiritual/political leader.

For more from Danny Fisher, see his new interview with Bhikkhu Bodhi at Mahasangha News, or his many contributions to Shambhala SunSpace, including his latest, an interview with mindfulness pioneer Jon Kabat-Zinn.

Mindfulness and the cessation of suffering: An exclusive new interview with mindfulness pioneer Jon Kabat-Zinn

Professor of Medicine Emeritus and founding director of the Stress Reduction Clinic and Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care, and Society at the UMASS Medical School, Dr. John Kabat-Zinn is the most prominent figure in the introduction of mindfulness to the mainstream.

Bill Moyers’s Healing and the Mind program helped introduce Americans to Kabat-Zinn’s Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) technique, and Kabat-Zinn himself has done much to raise awareness of mindfulness’s value with gamechanging books like Wherever You Go, There You Are: Mindfulness Meditation in Everyday Life; Full Catastrophe Living: How to Cope with Stress, Pain and Illness Using Mindfulness Meditation; and Coming to Our Senses: Healing Ourselves and the World Through Mindfulness.

And last night, Dr. Kabat Zinn kicked off National Breast Cancer Awareness Month at UCLA by headlining a benefit for the LA County affiliate of Susan Komen Race for the Cure. I spoke to him, last week, over the phone in an exclusive interview for Shambhala SunSpace.

: You understand that I myself am not a Buddhist, right? I don’t see what I do as Buddhism so much as I see it as Dharma expressing itself in the world in its Universal-Dharma-way.

Well, that might be a good place to start. I know you have a history with…is it the Cambridge Zen Center?

Yes. I’ve studied with a lot of different Buddhist teachers; still do. For a time I actually did consider myself to be a Buddhist. But I realized at a certain point that it was really most important for me to be a human—the fewer affiliations I had, the better. Continued »