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August 03, 2007

We're all on the spectrum

A very interesting online test here for Asperger's Syndrome that got me thinking. It seems that more and more we learn (or, if you prefer, are told by so-called experts) that things like autism and pervasive developmental disorder are spectrum disorders, and that sexuality is a spectrum between the two poles of purely heterosexual and purely homosexual. Some would even say that gender itself is a spectrum between male and female, and few or none of us are 100% one or the other. Is this merely soft relativism or something grander, like transcending duality? - Philip Ryan, Webmaster  More »
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August 02, 2007

Buddhists Blown Up in Thailand and a Blow-up Buddha in New York

The title of this post is very dark, but that's just because this situation in Thailand could use more attention. Here are some brief notes from around the infobahn: The powers that be in Gujarat have decided that Buddhism and Jainism are not merely branches of Hinduism. This ruling happened because of the recent and continuing conversions of dalits. The nationalist Hindu government wanted to say that the conversions weren't actually conversions. But maybe the law saying that Buddhism didn't exist would paradoxically protect Buddhists from persecution? Funny how India keeps trying to swallow up its problem child. “If Buddhists are treated as part of Hinduism, then all its followers in China, Japan and much of South-East Asia become Hindus,” said Girish Patel, a noted social activist. More »
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July 24, 2007

The Thing with the President and Meditate While You Commute

People have been asking about the Bush / Bodhisattva thing, so I'll link to the Dharma-Burger Drive-Thru (not to be confused with the drive-by media) who's got it covered. More »
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July 23, 2007

HorseFest and "Big-boned Buddha"

Bored and wealthy? Rush over to central Asia and check out the Qinghai Horse Festival This link is from the travel website Diverse China. You might expect the Chinese government to crush this kind of "expression of diversity" but Communist governments like to publicly celebrate their minorities even while brutally repressing them away from the cameras. Recall the Soviet Union's frequent joyful proclamations of the many nations of people within its vast borders, and all the while various nationalities were being relocated or extinguished at the whim of Moscow bureaucrats. (The entire nation of Chechnya was forcibly relocated to Kazakhstan in 1944, because Stalin believed they were conspiring with the approaching -- but never quite arriving, in Chechnya -- German army. They got to come home after Stalin died.) But this horse thing looks very cool. More »
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July 20, 2007

Happier = Smarter

A pretty interesting article on JewBus in the Jewish Journal. Two illustrative quotes: "Liberal Judaism is the child of German rationalism," wrote Rabbi Lawrence Kushner, author and scholar in-residence at the Congregation Emanu-El of San Francisco. "Our liberal predecessors dismissed East European Jewish mysticism as unenlightened, irrational, and superstitious." "Buddhism is part of a greater trend," [Rabbi Miles] Krassen explained. "The bigger picture: evolving American spirituality that's going to be a smorgasbord of all these religious dishes." Krassen's goal: "to ensure that the delicacies of Judaism will be served at the table." Krassen is a former professor at Naropa. More »
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July 19, 2007

The formation of an independent council of elders

By Historic speech Today I received news of something I have been wishing would happen for a long time: an independent council of intelligent, well-meaning elders who can advice on how to improve this world. Such a group has just been formed, and you can watch or read about it on The Elders. I feel this endeavor is admirable and deserves our support. Welcome Despite all the ghastliness that is around, human beings are made for goodness. The ones who ought to be held in high regard are not the ones who are militarily powerful, nor even economically prosperous. More »
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July 18, 2007

Custodians of our Shared Heritage

The Asian Classics Input Project is working hard to locate, catalog, digitally preserve, and rapidly disseminate Tibetan and Sanskrit manuscripts. Here's a pdf describing their work. The website is cool, too. They have a lot of stuff from the Bhagavad Gita and Rig Veda in addition to loads of Buddhist material for those of us with a scholarly bent. Climate change may be changing the course of rivers in Tibet and reducing their flow, according to the China Daily (a government-controlled newspaper.) So the government of China is marginally more aware to the reality of human-caused climate change than the U.S. government. More »
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July 17, 2007

Inquiring Mind, Jet Li, and the Buddha's Tooth

Happy birthday, Inquiring Mind! The Bay Area journal is throwing a daylong 25th anniversary party / benefit at Spirit Rock on July 21st, according to the Berkeley Daily Planet. There'll be music, auctions, a lot of great guests, and all kinds of stuff, so if you're in Marin County, swing by and help celebrate a great publication. More »
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July 05, 2007

Buddhism Caught up in India-China Rhetoric, and Boom Goes the Baht

More on China and India's tug-of-war over Buddhism here. I don't know why I find China's rhetoric on this issue interesting / amusing. Am I alone on this? The article says China is trying to project a Buddhist-friendly image because of Tibet: "Having destroyed Tibetan Buddhism and put in its place a state-sanctioned version of Buddhism, Beijing is making grand gestures to shore up its Buddhist credentials. It wants to soften its image for East and Southeast Asia but, more importantly, Tibet," said the official. "Hence Beijing's bonding with Buddhism." More »
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June 26, 2007

Metta Forest Monastery

This past Saturday I drove up to Metta Forest Monastery in Valley Center, California with my friend Sally. (Ok, she drove.) The abbot, Thanissaro Bhikkhu, known as Ajaan Geoff to his students (Ajaan is a Thai word for "teacher") gave a two-hour teaching centered on the Introduction to his book The Wings to Awakening. There are several other monks in residence at MFM (I spoke to a very nice monk named Than Isaac, whose mother is a schoolteacher in Oklahoma) and soon maybe there will be one more: The young man sitting next to me in the class was due to be ordained as a bhikkhu in July. More »
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June 20, 2007

India and China fight over... Buddhism

This from the Times of India: India and China are engaged in a competition for soft power supremacy in Asia - the battlefield is ownership of one of the world's oldest religions, Buddhism. Well, we all know China and India aren't really fighting over Buddhism. Neither country really cares about that. What's at stake is being Asia's economic top dog, and no religion is as pan-Asian as Buddhism. The article isn't really interesting or illuminating, but it does talk a bit about Luoyang, home of maybe the oldest Buddhist temple in China. More »
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June 19, 2007

Does it belong in a museum?

According to the good people at Empty Hand Zen Center, for three Saturdays in July, meditation will become art at the Neuberger Museum of Art at SUNY Purchase in Purchase, New York. (I recall another mixing of meditation and art in Dallas in early June, as mentioned on Bad Buddha.) It sounds very cool. I was recently at the Dia Beacon in Beacon, New York, which seemed like a good place for meditation too. I guess museums are designed to be interesting spaces, so it shouldn't surprise us that other activities flourish there too. Also, museums generally have more money than most dharma centers. More »
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June 18, 2007

Meditation in the Classroom; Angry Buddhas (and Buddhists)

Buddhism hits the mainstream this week, with the New York Times running an extensive piece about mindfulness as it is now being taught in public schools--mostly on the West Coast, unsurprisingly enough, although one program has taken root in Lancaster, PA. Asked to define mindfulness, one Oakland fifth grader replied: "Not hitting someone in the mouth." We couldn't have put it better ourselves. When embarking on multimillion dollar construction projects in Hong Kong, be careful--apparently, the Buddha has become incensed over the placement of a nearby cable car route, which, feng shui consultants warned, would disturb the tranquility of the infamous Big Buddha statue and the nearby Po Lime monastery. Thankfully, the car on which he vented his anger, tossing it 13 stories to the ground, was empty, so no precepts were broken. More »
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June 15, 2007

China's Busy. Are You?

The PRC is working overtime, making everything we'll ever need or want to buy (including, of course, our food and foodlike products) and destroying Tibet piece by piece. But they did institute some (probably meaningless) curbs on gold mining because of environmental concerns. Russian playwright and historian Edvard Radzinsky wrote: "One-party rule cannot survive where someone has even minimal economic freedom." But China seems to violate this rule as it violates all others. More »
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June 13, 2007

Karmapa on MySpace

The media's tittering over the Karmapa's MySpace page -- supposedly set up in anticipation of his visit to the West this summer. The attention is great, but all the interest over the page's existence seems to betrays a common Western notion that Buddhists all live in caves and have never heard of the internet, pop music, sports, or Lindsay Lohan. Some will argue the oddness of the cultural encounter is not the stupification on the Western end but rather a culture where designating young people as incarnations of dead people or saints is accepted as an everyday thing. Well, fair enough. Our understanding of monastic culture is very dim in any case. More »
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June 11, 2007

Clouds over Buddhist Pilgrimage Sites

According to NewsPost India, Nepali Maoist are supposed to be enforcing an "indefinite shutdown" of Kapilavastu, the city where the Buddha's father, King Suddhodana, reigned. (That would be "indefinite" in terms of length of time, presumably.) I'm not sure if this includes Lumbini or other Buddhist sites in Nepal, or if there is a Kapilavastu town that is identical with the archaeological site. I don't suppose a ruin would be much worth occupying under normal circumstances, unless it had extraordinary political significance. This article mentions that you can still see "ramparts" of Suddhodana's palace which, to put it politely, strains one's credulity. (I haven't see the word "credulous" in print lately. More »
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June 06, 2007

No to State Buddhism, Yes to Kashmiri Buddhism

The Thai political system, already confusing and chaotic in the aftermath of the 2006 military coup, took a dramatic turn Monday when the Constitution Drafting Committee rejected a proposal by Thai Buddhist monks to make Buddhism the official state religion. About 95% of Thais are at least nominally Buddhist, but Squadron Leader (!) Prasong Soonsiri nonetheless declared that "As for the issue of Buddhism as the state religion, Buddhism, which is the religion of the majority of Thai people, as well as (all) other religions, must be protected and promoted equally." Thailand has never established an official state religion in its 500+ year history as an independent political identity. More »
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June 05, 2007

Negative Theology

"Yoga classes during Eucharistic adoration" in Florida? What's next, the Black Mass during CCD? The National Catholic Register asks, "Do Catholicism and Buddhism mix?" Short answer: No. Also, a writer for Psychotherapy Networker attends a week-long meditation retreat, and writes a long article about it. - Philip Ryan, Webmaster More »
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June 04, 2007

Misery and Merton

What makes us happy? Misery, according to the BBC. Well, not really. But pay attention now: Pursuing unrealistic goals leads to suffering... has the BBC gone Buddhist? Maybe all of Britain? That's what years and years of a special relationship with the United States will do to you. Let go and go Buddhist. The article cites a study that recommends mindfulness and meditation as a way to cope with suffering. Hmm, interesting idea. The article is really about relationships, and is in the Health section. (Would that mean that this article pertains to my mental health, or the effect that suffering and unhappiness can have on my physical health? When you think about things that generally, every piece of news is essentially about Me and My Health. . . . More »
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May 30, 2007

Zen and the Art of Celebrity Prison Stays

Sometimes the Dharma has a habit of popping up in the last place you’d expect. A perfect example is the bags Paris Hilton is packing for her upcoming 45-day prison stay on a drunk-driving charge. Along with the Bible, infamous heiress and socialite Hilton was photographed holding a copy of Eckhart Tolle’s “The Power of Now,” which, while not explicitly Buddhist, essentially reframes Buddhist teaching on suffering in terminology even a Hilton could understand. Tolle’s book will teach the famous blonde that her suffering arises from attachment to her own mind and her concept of ego, and that freedom from needless pain arises from mindfulness and from being fully present in the moment—a concept familiar to most Buddhists as the Four Noble Truths. More »