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June 26, 2008

Meditation: The New Black?

The Pew Forum survey continues to turn up interesting tidbits, among them the apparent popularity of meditation in America. Greg Smith, a research fellow at the Pew Forum, summarized: Almost two-fifths of Americans report meditating at least once a week. This practice is particularly common among Buddhists, with six in 10 saying they meditate weekly. But it’s also interesting that nearly three-quarters of Jehovah’s Witnesses, more than half of Mormons and members of historically black Protestant denominations, and nearly one-half of evangelical Protestants and Muslims say they meditate weekly. One-quarter of the unaffiliated population also reports meditating at least on a weekly basis. More »
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June 25, 2008

Leave of Absence

I will be away until July 14th, 2008 and will not be blogging here during that time, but my place on the Tricycle blog will be taken by a variety or worthy writers, so enjoy! -Phil More »
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June 25, 2008

Jack Kornfield

The wonderful dharma teacher Jack Kornfield, whose every word is full of kindness and wisdom, has a new website. Please drop by and pay your respects. If you're not careful you might even learn something. More »
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June 25, 2008

Gail Seneca of the Foundation for the People of Burma

The Foundation for the People of Burma was one of the first groups in on the ground after the cyclone to bring in humanitarian aid. One of the directors, Gail Seneca, is now taking questions on tricycle.com. If you're interested in hearing first-hand accounts of what's happening in Burma -- and it's still something of a mystery as the media is largely blocked from accessing the trouble spots -- please stop by and ask her a question! It's very easy -- Just click Add a Question and fill out the simple registration process. The question session will run until July 13th, after which she will post her answers. More »
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June 25, 2008

An Xiao Now

A portfolio of work by An Xiao--photographer, poet, Buddhist, and all-around superstar--is up on Tricycle's website, along with an exclusive interview. Check it out! New Yorkers can enjoy An Xiao's work in two additional places this summer: An Xiao at Alphabet Scoop, with StreetHaiku Ice Cream An Xiao will be showing her popular Coney Island photos, including one from her new Coney Island Snow series, at Alphabet Scoop, a homemade ice cream store in Alphabet City. More »
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June 25, 2008

The IOC regrets Beijing "hardliner"'s statement

The IOC and China are having a gentle tiff. At a ceremony celebrating the torch's passage through Lhasa, "noted hardliner" Zhang Qingli said: "Tibet's sky will never change and the red flag with five stars will forever flutter high above it. . . We will certainly be able to totally smash the splittist schemes of the Dalai Lama clique." The IOC responded, "The IOC regrets that political statements were made during the closing ceremony of the torch relay in Tibet." And now that the torch has safely passed through Lhasa, Tibet will open to tourists again. More »
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June 25, 2008

Burma Cyclone Deaths; and Business in Burma

Deaths from Nargis are now put at 84,500, up from the previous estimate of 77,000. Plus an interesting (and anonymous) article from the Wall Street Journal about how China "keeps the wheels on" in Burma. Other countires and companies (Chevron) do business in Burma, but China is far and away the most important. More »
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June 25, 2008

More Fun with the Pew Report

More fun religious factoids from the new Pew Report via Beliefnet: 21% of atheists believe in God (What was th exact phrasing of this question?) and 74% of Americans believe in heaven while only 59% believe in Hell. Call it American optimism. Tolerance -- 70% of Americans say "many religions can lead to eternal life" and 68% that there "is more than one true way to interpret the teachings of my religion." Most amazing, 57% of evangelicals say many religions can lead to eternal life. Given that one of the most important teachings of evangelical Christianity is that salvation comes ONLY through Christ, this finding ought to rattle Christian leaders. More »
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June 24, 2008

The U.S. and Religious Tolerance

“It’s not that Americans don’t believe in anything,” said Michael Lindsay, assistant director of the Center on Race, Religion and Urban Life at Rice University. “It’s that we believe in everything. We aren’t religious purists or dogmatists.” More »
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June 24, 2008

A Little Bit of Compassion, from Oregon to Burma

As the tragedy in Burma continues to loom over our hearts, there are yet some uplifting stories to be found. While looking through the April 2008 issue of Ink on the Cat (the newsletter of The Zen Community of Oregon), I came across the news that the ZCO Sangha had assisted in the sponsorship of a Burmese refugee family. They are a family of five, now in Portland, having come from a refuge camp in Thailand they lived in for four years. It is the education of their children (14, 13, and 9 years old), they say, that lead them to cross such long distances. More »
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June 24, 2008

"Security considerations" keep away Olympic crowds

China is getting a little bit of security-itis. They must have caught it from Dick Cheney's America. The plush lobby of Beijing’s Kerry Center Hotel is usually crowded with foreign guests, many of them listening to jazz and sipping martinis in Centro, the hotel’s fashionable bar, or lining up for taxis after dinner at the Horizon restaurant. Tiananmen Square in Beijing is a landmark for tourists. But the city has yet to experience an expected boom in foreign visitors. More »
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June 24, 2008

No one goes to Naypidaw

And they're not wanted anyway: Naypyidaw is Myanmar’s new capital, built in secret by the ruling generals and announced to the public two and a half years ago, when it was a fait accompli. A nine-hour drive north from the former capital, Yangon, it looks like nothing else in this impoverished country, where one out of three children is malnourished and many roads are nothing more than dirt tracks. Workers in Naypyidaw (pronounced nay-pee-DAW) are building multilevel, flower-covered traffic circles. In a country of persistent power shortages and blackouts, street lamps brightly illuminate the night, like strings of pearls running up and down scrub-covered hills. More »
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June 23, 2008

Torch cruises through Lhasa

Where are Lhasa's monks? They've been well hidden by the government, and so were all Tibetans as the torch toured Lhasa. More »
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June 21, 2008

U.N. Helicopters Grounded in Burma

A shortage of funds has grounded helicopters intended to carry aid to those in need in Burma. Isn't the U.S. delinquent in its U.N. dues? More »
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June 20, 2008

To be a Good Buddhist is to be a Bad American?

Not long ago, at a Vipassana meditation meeting I attended, a practitioner described to the group a conversation he'd had over dinner with a Zen adherent.  As he explained, "We decided that to be a good Buddhist is to be a bad American.  Because to be a good American is to be a consumer, while to be a good Buddhist is to see through that consumeristic mindset." The other people at the sitting agreed or disagreed to various degrees.  Their conversation brings up many good questions.  Is there a conflict between Buddhist and American values?  How are each of those defined?  Can one be a good American without being a "consumer?"  Can one be a consumer and still be a "good" Buddhist?  Is this conflict inherent, or might it change in the future?  Is there something about being American that conflicts with Buddhism, or might other countries/cultures experience similar conflicts? Of course, there's no single answer to any of these questions.  But please share your thoughts on the subject, i More »
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June 18, 2008

Flame approaches Lhasa

Burmese farmers need some $83 million dollars in aid in order to get back up and running after salt water inundated their fields as a result of Nargis. U.S. farmers, especially in Iowa, aren't in such great shape either, but they have a government that that will advocate for them, at least in theory. The Olympic torch is due to reach Tibet Saturday, and though things have quieted somewhat in terms of international press, the relay has been delayed and will be shortened to one day from three. China will not comment on why the relay in Tibet was shortened, but it's pretty obvious. It's gratuitous to send the torch through Lhasa. More »
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June 18, 2008

Burma Death Toll Revised Downard

The death toll is revised down but the terrible suffering remains. “We saw very, very few serious injuries,” said Frank Smithuis, head of the substantial mission in Myanmar for Doctors Without Borders. “You were dead or you were in O.K. shape.” The cyclone swept away bamboo huts throughout the delta; in the hardest-hit villages, it left almost no trace of habitation. More »
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June 16, 2008

"Compassion must lead to action."

My Burmese teacher Sayadaw U Pandita wrote, “Compassion must lead to action. Furthermore, wisdom is required so that action may bear useful fruit.” I think of the all sorrows that have fallen on Burma resultant from decades of oppression: human rights abuses, ethnic cleansing, rape, forced labor, land confiscation and the imprisonment of political activists including the Sangha and Daw Aung San Suu Kyi whose 63rd birthday is on June 19. Now Burma has suffered immeasurably from a natural disaster, made exponentially worse by the junta’s stubborn refusal to help its own people. If compassion and wisdom are to flower there, we have to help cultivate them with our own practice and action. It is deeply troubling to see how many of the 2.4 million Burmese afflicted by the cyclone still lack the basics of survival. This week, U.N. officials raised concern that there are 10,000 pregnant women without any access to medical care among the cyclone victims. More »
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June 14, 2008

Burma's Rice Farmers

Problems for Burma's farmers. Nargis is affecting the world food supply, and the junta's management of the situation -- and forced evictions of people in affected areas -- isn't helping. Burma's farmers also need diesel fuel in order to plant rice. With a kleptocracy at home they must look for help abroad. Falling rice production will lead to shortages in the future for both Burma and southeast Asia. In years past Burma was the world's leading rice producer but under the junta those numbers have fallen off. More »
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June 12, 2008

Tibet in the New York Review of Books

Thunder from Tibet. More »