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July 06, 2015

The Rise of Political Buddhism in Myanmar

Narrow Burman-Buddhist nationalism remains the country's biggest barrier to sustainable political reform. Marte Nilsen
A Buddhist monk adjusts his robe at a monastery affiliated with the Ma Ba Tha (Organization for the Protection of Race and Religion) on the outskirts of Yangon. The Ma Ba Tha organization, mainly active in Yangon and the northern city of Mandalay, promotes hardline Buddhist nationalism in Myanmar. The Organization for the Protection of Race and Religion, known by the Burmese acronym Ma Ba Tha, is gaining ground in Myanmar. It has also been receiving increased international attention—last month for its proposal to ban Muslim headscarves in public schools.  More »
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July 02, 2015

Lost in Capitulation

Recovering the tradition's two most important emotional states—samvega and pasada.  Thanissaro Bhikkhu
A life-affirming Buddhism that teaches us to find happiness by opening to the richness of our everyday lives. That's what we want—or so we're told by the people who try to sell us a mainstreamlined Buddhism. But is it what we need? And is it Buddhism? More »
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June 27, 2015

A Big Gay History of Same-sex Marriage in the Sangha

Without fanfare, American Buddhists have been performing same-sex marriages for over 40 years. Jeff Wilson
Buddhist same-sex marriage was born in the USA. That’s a little known but significant fact to reflect on now, just after the Supreme Court has declared legal marriage equality throughout the country. Appropriately enough, it all started in San Francisco, and was conceived as an act of love, not activism. The first known Buddhist same-sex marriages took place in the early 1970s, at the Buddhist Church of San Francisco. Founded in 1899, it’s the oldest surviving temple in the mainland United States. It’s also part of the oldest Buddhist organization outside Hawaii: the Buddhist Churches of America (BCA), part of the Shin tradition of Pure Land Buddhism. More »
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June 26, 2015

Legislating Love

Letter from California, 2008 Lin Jensen
In celebration of the historic Supreme Court decision ruling that the Constitution gaurantees a right to same-sex marriage, we present this article, originally published as a Web Exclusive in 2008, about the passing of Proposition 8 in California. We've come a long way in a few short years. —Eds. More »
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June 26, 2015

Incense Thrown on the Buddha

Poems written from the union of bliss and heartache Zen Master Ikkyu
The influence of Zen Master Ikkyu (1394–1481) permeates the full field of medieval Japanese aesthetics. Though best known as a poet, he was central to the shaping and reshaping of practices in calligraphy, Noh theater, tea ceremony, and rock gardening, all of which now define Japan's sense of its cultural tradition.  More »
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June 23, 2015

The Dalai Lama’s Big Brother

Gyalo Thondup’s memoir recounts the founding of the Tibetan Government-in-Exile and the CIA’s part in the Tibetan resistance. Liesl Schwabe
 The Noodle Maker of KalimpongBy Gyalo Thondup and Anne ThurstonPublicAffairs; April 2015301 pp.; $27.99 (Cloth) In the winter of 2001, I lived in the foothills of the Himalayas in the Darjeeling District of India, while studying under the Kagyu lama Bokar Rinpoche. Every night I looked out across the valley, with my one-year-old son and his father, to the town of Kalimpong as its electricity cut out. With so little to measure or mark our days, this became a kind of event, something we anticipated. The only thing I knew then about Kalimpong was that its egg noodles were fresh, delicious, and famous. But just how famous, I had no idea. More »
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June 19, 2015

5 Things That Might Surprise You about Meditation Retreats

It’s not all calm and cosmic-flavored bubble gum. Brent R. Oliver
The glory. The soothing waves of warm peach syrup flooding the folds of your brain. The sheer bliss of sitting still and letting ultimate peace Jägerbomb your delusions and peel away the spiky freakishness of daily existence. Breathe in, relax. Breathe out, super-mega relax, but still keep control of your sphincter. Calmness like honey on your nerve endings. A sniff of liberation somewhere down a candy corridor. Stop reading now if this has been your only experience on meditation retreat. The rest of this article is not for you. Matter of fact, what are you even doing here? You should be in the backyard levitating. More »
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June 18, 2015

Climate Change Is a Moral Issue

A Buddhist response to Pope Francis’s climate change encyclical Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi
On June 18, Pope Francis issued a papal encyclical pointing to climate change as the overriding moral issue of our time. The encyclical boldly proclaims that humanity’s capacity to alter the climate charges us with the gravest moral responsibility we have ever had to bear. Climate change affects everyone. The disruptions to the biosphere occurring today bind all peoples everywhere into a single human family, our fates inseparably intertwined. No one can escape the impact, no matter how remotely they may live from the bustling centers of industry and commerce. The responsibility for preserving the planet falls on everyone. More »
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June 12, 2015

Talking about Mindfulness

Amid puff pieces and "the backlash," a new dialogue around mindfulness emerges. Alex Caring-Lobel
While media coverage of the mindfulness phenomenon has been frequent, plentiful, and occasionally lively, it has also fallen along a narrow spectrum. After a prolonged glut of self-congratulatory puff pieces, we’ve finally witnessed what some have called a backlash. We might now arrive at what could be a more nuanced take, with a number of writers, scientists, and thinkers complicating the received narratives about mindfulness. More »
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June 08, 2015

Accepting the Unacceptable

Death awaits all of us. But if we learn to acknowledge and embrace impermanence, we'll be much better off when the time comes. Traleg Kyabgon
Over the last century or so, death has been becoming increasingly institutionalized and removed from immediate experience. It is no longer a common experience in concrete terms. Where people used to die at home in the past, this is no longer the case, and the usual gathering of relatives and family no longer takes place spontaneously. It is no longer a communal affair, but on the contrary, it is hidden from public view, resulting in less actual contact with death and dying. Perversely, the literature on death and dying has been growing considerably, and people are actually talking about it more and more, while handling the practical fact less and less. The irony of this situation is described by Ray Anderson, a Christian theologian, in his book Theology, Death, and Dying: More »
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June 04, 2015

No Teachers Come Here

A Palestinian tells us what it's like to be a Buddhist in the birthplace of Christ. 
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May 30, 2015

It Needs Saying

Buddhism is not a philosophy, science, psychotherapy, or culture. It is a religion. David Brazier
It should not need saying. After all, it's obvious. Nonetheless it does need saying. It needs saying because it has been denied by so many people including many who are eminent and even some whose own roles, behavior, and faith contradict what they are saying. It needs saying clearly, that Buddhism is a religion. More »
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May 28, 2015

Theravada Buddhism’s Muslim Problem

Although international engagement has its place, only discussion and peacebuilding among local communities can help stem the wave of anti-Muslim violence. Iselin Frydenlund and Susan Hayward
Buddhist and Muslim leaders meet to discuss peace initiatives at the Yogyakarta meeting in Indonesia, March 2015.  Buddhist radicalism is on the rise in countries like Myanmar and Sri Lanka. Since 2012, both countries have witnessed severe violence against their Muslim minorities. Attacks take place in an atmosphere of strong anti-Muslim rhetoric put forward by certain monk-led nationalist groups, and the (largely unknown) orchestrators and perpetrators of these attacks operate with impunity. More »
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May 22, 2015

Imperfect Refuge

Why one of Thailand’s most controversial politicians became a Buddhist monk  Thomas Borchert
Protest leader turned monk Suthep Thaugsuban prays at Pathum Wanaram temple in Bangkok, March 2014. Telegenic tanks rolled into Bangkok. Soldiers evacuated protest encampments. The coup, declared on May 22, 2014, put an end to the demonstrations that had embroiled Thailand for six months. During that period, Suthep Thaugsuban, the protest leader, became the country’s most visible and controversial figure. Then, suddenly and inexplicably, he disappeared.  In a ceremony devoid of pomp and circumstance, he quietly became a Buddhist monk.  More »
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May 19, 2015

Don't Get Stuck in Neutral

Meditation is more than a respite—it's a chance to overcome our afflictions.  Tulku Thondup
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May 18, 2015

The Buddhists Go to Washington

But where will they go from there? Emma Varvaloucas
Buddhist leaders gather in the White House on May 14 for a meeting with government officials. Last Thursday 125 prominent Buddhist figures from a range of traditions gathered in Washington, DC, for the first meeting between White House and State Department officials and Buddhist faith groups. Teachers from the Sinhalese, Cambodian, Burmese, Bangladeshi, Chinese, Korean, Japanese, Tibetan, Vietnamese, and Thai Buddhist lineages attended, as well as scholars, activists, and leaders of convert groups who do not affiliate with any one particular Asian school.  More »
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May 15, 2015

The Examined Life

An English professor and Zen monk addresses his students at the end of the semester. Seido Ray Ronci
I address you now not as your professor, but as Seido, Rinzai Zen monk, caretaker of Hokoku-An Zendo. The semester has come to an end. When I look out at you I see 30 people. When you look at me you see one. But for each one of you I am a different professor. There are 30 different versions of me standing before you in this classroom. It is my job to create a relationship of sorts with each and every one of you. I do that by reading your journals and your papers, by observing how you are in class, whether or not you come prepared, whether or not you take notes, how often you text, and how often you nod off. I’m like Santa Claus. I see you when you’re sleeping and I know when you’re awake; I know when you’re taking notes and when you’re checking your Facebook page. More »
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May 14, 2015

What's Ethics Got to Do with It?

The misguided debate about mindfulness and morality Richard K. Payne
As mindfuness has made greater inroads into public life—from hospitals, to schools, to the workplace—its growing distance from Buddhist thought and practice has become a hotly contested issue. Is mindfulness somehow deficient because it lacks Buddhist ethics, and should Buddhist ethics be replicated in mindfulness programs and workshops? More »
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May 11, 2015

How to Fail

Advice for leaning into the unknown Pema Chödrön
If there is one skill that is not stressed very much, but is really needed, it is knowing how to fail. There is a Samuel Beckett quote that goes “Try again. Fail again. Fail better.” That quote is what will help you more than anything else in the next year, the next ten years, the next twenty years, for as long as you live, until you drop dead. There is a lot of emphasis on succeeding. We all want to succeed, especially if we consider success to be things working out the way we want them to. Failing is what we don't usually get a lot of preparation for. So how to fail? More »