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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 »
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May 29, 2007

More Dalit Mass Conversions

Buddhism took another step towards reintroducing itself to its birthplace last Sunday when Dalit leader and writer Laxman Mane led one of India’s famed “mass conversions.” These controversial events, in which thousands or even hundreds of thousands of low-caste or Dalit Indians take refuge formally in the Dharma, have been drawing more and more attention as they gradually spread through the low-caste population of the subcontintent. More »
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May 23, 2007

Dalai Lama's Visit Down Under Runs into Controversy

When the Dalai Lama set up his trip to Australia way back when, he might have known he would run into some trouble. China is tightening its vice-like grip around the world because capitalism is designed to deliver the best products at the cheapest possible cost, which means using the cheapest (i.e. slave) labor. People will argue back and forth about globalism, protectionism, the free market, etc., but meanwhile, as the world's richest democracy spends precious lives and lots of money in a certain Middle Eastern country, the world's richest dictatorship grows richer selling cheap products to the democracies of the world. (China's also wisely developing closer relations with Africa.) More »
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May 21, 2007

Can do

Violence in northern Sri Lanka and southern Thailand continues. . . Isn't there any cheerful news in the Buddhist world? Well, this self-described "Unitarian Buddhist," reported about in Northwestern University's Medill Reports (from their Graduate School of Journalism) apparently gathered enough aluminum cans to start a real live retreat center. There's something to think about next time you polish off a can of your favorite fizzy. Also, Deepak Chopra, whose new novel was reviewed in the current Tricycle, writes about the Buddha's take on fear and anxiety for the Huffington Post. Read it before you judge it! I mean the HuffPo article, of course. More »
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May 14, 2007

Hot News!

Philip Ryan
So it seems the Naga Jolokia pepper is the hottest in the world, with a Scoville scale rating of about 1,000,000. (Jalapeños clock in at 2,500 to 8,000, according to Wikipedia, but I bet that doesn't mean the Naga Jolokia is 125 to 400 times as hot as the jalapeño. Numerical scales can be very misleading in this way. Like, when it's 80 degrees Fahrenheit out, does that mean it's "twice as warm" as 40 degrees Fahrenheit? More »
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May 10, 2007

Tough times for the Bodhi Tree

Philip Ryan
You remember the uproar a year ago about a missing branch of the Bodhi Tree? As far as I know it was never resolved—maybe the branch wasn't missing at all, and if it was, there was no clear trail to who took it, or damaged the tree. Here's an update that doesn't answer any interesting questions but says the tree is not looking so hot. Apparently the tree was diseased a few years back and needed some intervention, and the missing branch isn't helping much. More »
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May 02, 2007

Dukkha, Kung Fu

Philip Ryan
The Wall Street Journal, which recently said 'No, thanks' to Rupert Murdoch, pontificated today on what satisfies us. We constantly hanker after fancier cars and fatter paychecks—and, initially, such things boost our happiness. But the glow of satisfaction quickly fades and soon we're yearning for something else. More »
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April 19, 2007

The Inevitable Buddhist Connection to the Virginia Tech Tragedy

Philip Ryan
Check out the English version of for a Buddhist tie-in to the Virginia Tech killer. (They have an interesting take on the Imus situation too. If you're at all interested in how this Pravda connects with the well-known Soviet publication, see here. I'm guessing the Soviet one was a little less lewd, though the comments about the U.S. and Europe in the contemporary version wouldn't be out of place in the Brezhnev era. . . Brezhnev had incredibly intimidating eyebrows.) More »
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April 18, 2007

Thai Monks Call for Buddhism to be Declared State Religion

Philip Ryan
Buddhist monks are planning to stage a rally in central Bangkok on April 25th to pressure the Constitution Drafting Committee to enshrine Buddhism as the state religion. The military regime currently controlling Thailand is resisting this move, and urging all involved to carefully consider what they are asking. The monks involved do not seem to represent the Buddhist leadership in Thailand, nor are they explicitly involved with a political group. More »
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April 14, 2007

"Zen Buddhism, very hard to understand, thank you."

Philip Ryan
The title of this post is (allegedly) the complete text of a speech made by D.T. Suzuki at U.C.L.A. back in the day. The story of this and other Buddhist ha-ha's here. (I realize ol' D.T. Suzuki is way way way out of fashion in contemporary Buddhist thinking, and is so for a lot of reasons, but once upon a time he was one of my -- and a lot of other people's -- first glimpses into something new. And people are still being introduced to Zen Buddhism -- D.T.'s own special blend of it, that is -- through his work. Someone is learning about Buddhism in one of his books right now! . . . Probably. Like, did anyone else try and read those Bernard Faure books, in school or out? Speaking of very hard to understand. But they went well with a cigarette and a bottomless cup of coffee. More »
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April 04, 2007

All Aboard for Shigatse

Philip Ryan
China's at it again, extending its railroad network from Lhasa to Shigatse, seat of Tashi Lhunpo Monastery, traditional seat of the Panchen Lama (a political prisoner of the Chinese government since 1995.) The railroad China built to Lhasa has a lot of superlatives attached to it, longest, tallest, coldest, whatever. Anyway, it's a great achievement. Why are totalitarian states so good at railroads? The more repressive the government, the more they like to play with trains. (So apparently Mussolini didn't make the trains run on time. But he still talked about trains.) I suppose that should make Americans feel better about Amtrak. More »
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March 28, 2007

Tiny Steps Forward

Philip Ryan
It was a pleasant surprise to see that fast-food giant Burger King has decided to give preferential treatment to providers of cage-free eggs and cruelty-free pork. It doesn't take much exposure to the horrors of how animals are raised for food to make even the most carnivorous human take pause. I've heard that farmers and those who deal with the animals while they are alive, and while they are being killed for our dinner plates, are (generally speaking) very strongly supportive of more humane ways for these animals to live and die. Of course, those of us walking by the tidy shrink-wrapped packages in the refrigerated section of the local supermarket don't have to think about this much if we don't want to. And not all of us have the luxury of choosing to pay more for organic/cruelty-free/cage-free whatever... More »
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March 21, 2007

Thailand lurches toward Chaos

Philip Ryan
Bad news keeps piling up in Thailand. Three (Buddhist) women were shot in what some headlines call an "ambush" yesterday in (80% Muslim) southern Thailand. They were in a truck travelling to work. As a response the (Buddhist) government has sent security forces south, and where there are troops there will be abuses. The government denies it is "disappearing" Muslims and blames the mess on the previous government. Human Rights Watch is keeping an eye on this situation. Thailand's government must be called to account. More »
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March 14, 2007

Meditation: What do the numbers tell us?

James Shaheen
Kudos to Jeff Wilson, whose blog post at the end of December continues to inspire lively discussion. It’s a good bit of information to keep in mind that most Buddhists do not meditate; just like many of our Asian counterparts, we are often ignorant of other forms of Buddhist practice. Tibetans never referred to their dharma as “Tibetan dharma”; nor did Sri Lankans consider their dharma anything but dhamma. It is Western historical scholarship that began the study of comparative religion, and it is in the West where we find most forms of Buddhism thriving side by side. So it’s an excellent point Jeff makes: The forms of Buddhism most common among Western converts make up only a very thin slice of the global Buddhist pie. More »