Friday, December 31, 2010

Connectomics: Inside the Human Mind

Mind, soul, personality: whatever you call it, most people agree that their memories, thoughts, and perceptions reside in the brain. Yet for all its importance, the brain has been notoriously difficult to understand. The mind’s elusiveness is not for lack of trying: neuroscientists have been slicing, dicing and examining the brain for decades. Yet we still know frustratingly little about it.

Part of the challenge in understanding the brain lies in its structure: 100 billion neurons that are connected to each other by 10,000 times as many connections, the jungle of our densely packed neural wires run millions of miles in our brains. Scientists believe it is precisely in these connections that our soul is encoded – the way we understand the world, reflect on our experiences, feel sorrow and joy, accumulate memories, and decide how and when to act. If we understood the way our neurons connect – our connectome – we would understand ourselves.

DVD Spotlight - Shugendo Now

This feature documentary is an experiential journey into the mystical practices of Japanese mountain asceticism. In Shugendo (The Way of Acquiring Power), practitioners perform ritual actions from shamanism, Shinto, Daoism, and Tantric Buddhism. They seek experiential truth of the teachings during arduous climbs in sacred mountains. Through the peace and beauty of the natural world, practitioners purify the six roots of perception, revitalize their energy and reconnect with their truest nature, all while grasping the fundamental interconnectedness with nature and all sentient beings.

How does one return to the city after an enlightening experience in the mountains?

More poetic than analytical, this film explores how a group of modern Japanese people integrate the myriad ways mountain learning interacts with urban life. With intimate camera work and a sensual sound design the viewer is taken from deep within the Kumano mountains to the floating worlds of Osaka and Tokyo and back again.

Might the two be seen as one?

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Noah Levine on Buddhism

"Talking about Buddhism is a lot like talking about swimming, you can't actually learn how to do it without getting in the water."
(My paraphrase)

Noah Levine's Lecture on Buddhism at the University of Southern California.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

BBC - Heart and Soul "First Buddhist Chaplain"

Story on BBC's Heart and Soul Radio Program -

Chaplain Thomas Dyer converted to Buddhism, and became first Buddhist chaplain in the American military.

Listen online from the website

반야심경(Maha Prajna Paramita Sutra) "Heart Sutra" in Korean

Thanks to Hae Jin Sunim for the Facebook link.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Lotus Lantern Winter 2010 Newsletter

The Jogye Order's Winter Newsletter/Bulletin "Lotus Lantern" (Vol. 44) is now available online in English.

Click the preview below to view or download.

로터스랜턴 겨울호 Vol.44

Monday, December 27, 2010

Buddha's Cartoon Adventure

A Buddhist temple has realized the power of cartoons to attract young and old Japanese into it's fold.

In Hachioji, a suburb of Tokyo, Japan the Ryohoji Temple has for the past 420 years been hidden amongst the streets quietly being home to a small dedicated Buddhist following.

After being concerned that locals would only show up at the temple's door when there was a death in the family or a commemoration that Chief Priest Shoko Nakazato decided to use anime to become more relevant, particularly to young people.

This month the Temple unveiled its new "moe Buddhist statue,"that combined modern and ancient art.

It began in 2009 when the 46 year old Nakazato displayed a picture of "moe" outside the temple to welcome passers by. Moe is a traditional Japanese slang word often for a young girl, and associated with innocents, love and caring.

Read the full story from Culture Clash Daily

Dharma Talk - The 10 Ox-Herding Pictures

Talk Given by: IBS USA Seminary Student T'ajin Kevin Hickey
Sunday, December 26, 2010.
Duration - 18:42

Don't forget to subscribe to the iTunes feed for automatic free delivery of all Dharma Talks!

Ox Herding

Zen Biology Lesson for Enlightenment

A higher spiritual awareness of the biology of the brain & mind can significantly advance one towards Enlightenment and Zen. The science of biology says that the brain's thoughts are just the result of cells doing work, and teachings on spirituality talk about having a silent mind of Zen. Biology + Buddhism = Enlightenment. and

Friday, December 24, 2010

DVD Spotlight - Passage to Buddha

Based on former monk and political activist Go Eun's novel, HwaOmKyung is one of the best Buddhist-themed films Korea has produced. Oh Tae Kyung (Old Boy) gives a stunning performance as Seon Jae, a young boy who spends his life on the road in search of his mother. A modern unfolding of the Avatamsaka sutra, his spiritual odyssey leads him to telling encounters with strange people and, eventually, the essence of Buddhism.

South Korea: Pro-government violence enters Buddhist temples

It has belatedly emerged that members of conservative groups like the Korean Disabled Veterans Association for Agent Orange entered Jogye Temple during services and engaged in acts of violence like cursing at believers and kicking over tables. The Buddhist community has demanded an apology, calling the incident an act of religious discrimination by pro-government groups.

According to the Jogye Temple, the incident took place Wednesday evening, when some 3,000 believers were gathered for a Buddhist service to protest the Lee Myung-bak government’s decision to push ahead with the Four Major Rivers Restoration Project and the budgetary cuts in the temple stay budget. Some 24 head temples and 3,000 subordinate temples held the service at the same time.

Read the full story at The Buddhist Channel

Monday, December 20, 2010

Dharma Talk - Contemplating Sin

Talk Given by Hae Doh Sunim.
Sunday, December 19, 2010.
Duration - 22:06

The Top 10 Psychology Studies of 2010

The end of 2010 fast approaches, and I'm thrilled to have been asked by the editors of Psychology Today to write about the Top 10 psychology studies of the year. I've focused on studies that I personally feel stand out, not only as examples of great science, but even more importantly, as examples of how the science of psychology can improve our lives.

Each study has a clear "take home" message, offering the reader an insight or a simple strategy they can use to reach their goals, strengthen their relationships, make better decisions, or become happier. If you extract the wisdom from these ten studies and apply them in your own life, 2011 just might be a very good year.

Links to the list and studies here.

The Religious Makeup of Congress

The charts below highlight key findings from a Pew Forum report, "Faith on the Hill: The Religious Affiliations of Members of Congress." The report shows that while Congress looks very much like the rest of the country, some religious minorities are underrepresented in the House and Senate, while others are overrepresented.

For an in-depth examination of the religious makeup of Congress, including party-level differences in religious affiliation and a look at historical trends see the report linked below.

Note: 2 Buddhist Members of Congress (0.4%) in the 2009-2010 year representing an American Buddhist population of 0.7%

Read the full report

View the charts

Cultivating a Buddha Brain for Holiday Happiness

Well, there's less than a week til Christmas -- how's everyone doing out there? The United States is Christmas-crazy, and whether you celebrate or not, it is impossible to escape the effects. Holiday music blares on the radio 24/7, the weather in much of the country is freezing, it is pitch black at 5 p.m., the malls are jam-packed with crazed people racing around, parking lots are jammed, budgets are tight and tempers short.

A friend of mine has an old family motto: "It isn't Christmas until somebody cries." So sad, but it is often true. We fill our minds with expectations of elevated family gatherings, anticipate receiving a special gift, become attached to how others will react to our gifts and anxiously try to create an idyllic atmosphere that often takes more energy, time and money than we have.

Read the full story on The Huffington Post

Thanks to Deokwun for posting this on his blog over at Zen Water

Disputes heat up among S. Korea's religious circles

By Kim Hyun
SEOUL, Dec. 20 (Yonhap) -- At Jogye Temple, a 600-year-old Buddhist sanctuary in the heart of Seoul, visitors brave the freezing weather to seek peace and prayers from the Buddha statue enshrined behind an ancient scholar tree. But these days, not many worshippers can hide their frustrations as manifested in the large placard hung at the temple's entrance: "Off-limits to the Lee Myung-bak government and Grand National Party lawmakers."

Buddhists are angry over the government's budget plan that in 2011 will reduce state aid for temple stay programs, which are cultural education sessions held at Buddhist temples.

"Even if (Lee) goes to church, he shouldn't discriminate against Buddhists," Choi Nan-hee, 78, fumed after an afternoon prayer at the head temple of the Jogye Order, the nation's largest Buddhist sect. "Buddhists are usually quiet people, not as outspoken as Christians, but once we stand up against it our force will be greater."

Read the full story at Yonhap News

Saturday, December 18, 2010

“Uich’on and the Golden Age of Koryo Buddhism”

NCKS Colloquium Series 2010-2011:
Richard D. McBride II, Assistant Professor of History, Brigham Young University-Hawaii

“Uich’on and the Golden Age of Koryo Buddhism”
University of Michigan - Center for Korean Studies
4pm, January 12, 2011 - Room 1636, School of Social Work Building

Although Buddhism enjoyed privileged status as a state-sponsored religion throughout the Koryo period (918-1392), the religion was particularly prominent during the eleventh century. Not only were Buddhist rituals convened regularly, but the royal family spent vast sums of wealth on acts of devotion and piety, such as commissioning woodblocks of the Buddhist canon of scripture, which they believed provided temporal and spiritual benefits to themselves and the Koryo state. The activities and accomplishments of the Hwaom (Ch. Huayan) monk Uich’on (1055–1101) are representative of the privileged status of the Buddhadharma during this “golden age” of the religion on the peninsula: the compilation of a canon of doctrinal teachings of the East Asian masters, the reestablishment of the Ch’ont’ae (Ch. Tiantai) intellectual tradition, and renewed contact and interaction with the flourishing Buddhist traditions of Southern China during the Song dynasty.

DVD Spotlight - Fire Under the Snow

The autobiography of Palden Gyatso, who was arrested in 1959 after taking part in a non-violent demonstration for Tibetan independence. After a failed escape bid he was starved and tortured. Following his release in 1992, after 33 years of captivity, he fled to India and began to reveal the true extent of the Chinese oppression in Tibet.

Seeing science through a spiritual lens, with the Smithsonian's help

The northern Indian town of Bir was greeted with an unusual sight when Scott Schmidt carried six-foot-long plywood sheets on his head through the streets. Schmidt, who develops exhibits for the Smithsonian, had retrieved the wood from the village carpenter and toted it on his head to the Buddhist institute he was visiting. "I got impatient," said Schmidt. "I probably broke every rule of how a Westerner is supposed to act in a village in India."

Schmidt was helping a group of 30 Tibetan monks plan "The World of Your Senses," a bilingual science exhibition displayed last month in New Delhi at the India Habitat Center, an arts and culture venue in India's capital.

Read the full story from The Washington Post

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Neurotheology: This Is Your Brain On Religion

For thousands of years, religion has posed some unanswerable questions: Who are we? What's the meaning of life? What does it mean to be religious?

In an effort to address those questions, Dr. Andrew Newberg has scanned the brains of praying nuns, chanting Sikhs and meditating Buddhists. He studies the relationship between the brain and religious experience, a field called neurotheology. And he's written a book, Principles of Neurotheology, that tries to lay the groundwork for a new kind of scientific and theological dialogue.

Listen to the 30 minute NPR story here.

Buy the book "Principles of Neurotheology" from Amazon

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Korea (Jogye Order) to host 2012 WFB Conference

The 2012 World Fellowship of Buddhist Conference will be held in Korea hosted by the Jogye Order. The decision came during the 25th WFB Conference on November 13 in Colombo, Sri Lanka.

The 26th WFB Conference will be organized by the Jogye Order and the Jogye Order’s Central Council of the Laity. The plan is to have the conference coincide with the 2012 World Expo in Yeosu City and the very popular Lotus Lantern Festival.

Director of Social Affairs Ven. Hyegyeong said, “The reason for coinciding the conference with the expo and the Lotus Lantern Festival is that it would be a good way to show the world the beauty and richness of Korean Buddhist tradition and to promote Korean Buddhism. We will have a tentative six-day visit plan with half the time spent in Yeosu City and the conference, and the other days to see the Lotus Lantern Festival.”

Read the rest of the press release here

Drawn Toward Enlightenment

Since Zen is known for conundrums, it seems only fitting to suggest that a good way to appreciate the paintings of 18th-century Japanese Buddhist master Hakuin Ekaku is by looking at work by 21st-century New Zealander Max Gimblett.

Both are on view at the Japan Society Gallery, and while "The Sound of One Hand: Paintings and Calligraphy by Zen Master Hakuin" is by far the bigger draw, Mr. Gimblett's series of 10 "oxherding" paintings provides a useful entry point.

Mr. Gimblett's paintings of a herder searching for an ox are ink on paper, accompanied by writer Lewis Hyde's reinterpretation of the classic parable about the journey toward enlightenment. Mr. Gimblett is a lay Zen monk, and his work fits right in with what we expect when we hear the word "Zen." His brushstrokes variously splash, explode and restrain the ink in forms that embody his meditative response—the wall text tells us he executed them "in one breath."

Read the rest from The Wall Street Journal

Buddhist statue expert finds ‘missing link’

The annual fellowship award program of the National Museum of Korea has successfully wrapped up its project this year with research presentations by a Buddhist sculpture scholar from The State Hermitage Museum, Russia.

Under the program, the National museum of Korea has offered overseas scholars opportunities to better understand Korean art and archeology, and also participate in various academic activities.

At the end of the program, invited scholars are required to submit their research papers as the final outcome of their five-month stay in the capacity of a National Museum of Korea’s 2010 Senior Fellow.

Julia Elikhina, one of the three scholars invited by the museum so far, got her fellowship award for her insights into Oriental Buddhist art, along with her devoted study of Buddhist sculptures for over 20 years as the Oriental art curator with the Russian Hermitage Museum.

Her research titled “Cult of the main Bodhisattvas in the Korean Buddhism, iconographic and stylistic features of the Korean sculptures and paintings” signaled the culmination of her research in Korea.

It contains her discoveries and detailed analyses she made on her visits to early Buddhist sites in Korea, including South Jeolla Province temples and the ancient city of Gyeongju, well known for abundant Buddhist sculptures of the Silla Dynasty.

Read the rest from The Korea Herald

More on Temple Stay Budget Cut

After their recent heated brawls in the National Assembly, Korean lawmakers may need to find some inner peace and calm.

One way to do that in South Korea is to take part in the “Temple Stay” program, which lets locals and tourists stay over at Buddhist temples and join in such practices as meditation and tea ceremonies.

It’s open to everyone. Or at least it was before the nation’s biggest Buddhist group on Thursday banned ruling Grand National Party lawmakers from visiting their temples around the country.

The Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism issued the order after the GNP cut the state budget for the Temple Stay program.

The budget, which was originally around 11 billion won but was then raised to 18.5 billion won due to strong complaints from the Buddhist group, was subsequently cut to 12.2 billion won.

Read the rest at the Wall Street Journal

In Thailand, Buddhists love Christmas too

Most Thais practice Buddhism (94.6%), but Christmas is still a huge hit and holiday cheer is everywhere.

All around Bangkok, giant neon snowflakes, chubby snowmen, and full-size reindeer sleighs are everywhere. “We Wish You a Merry Christmas” and “Jingle Bells” pipe nonstop from loudspeakers. Weeks before the holiday, a Christmasy atmosphere is in full swing in this predominantly Buddhist country.

Locals know little about the holiday’s religious significance. “I saw a movie about Santa once,” a college student says, and giggles.

Read the full story from The Christian Science Monitor

The Grip of Greed

Money flies out of our hands this time of year and returns in the form of gifts to others to be opened in a holiday celebration. It is often said that money, however, is the root of all evil (a misquotation of the Bible, which states that the love of money is the root of all evil). The ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle, when considering the nature of the truly happy and fulfilling life for human beings, ruled out money. He did this because he saw that money is only an instrumental good. That is, it is only good for the sake of something else, namely, what we can get with it.

Read the full post on Psychology Today

Zen Meditation Can Help Bring Pain Under Control

People who engage in Zen meditation do feel pain, new research reveals, but they don't think about it as much.

The observation could have a bearing on the treatment of chronic pain among patients struggling with the impact of conditions such as arthritis and back pain.

Pierre Rainville, a researcher at the University of Montreal, and his colleagues report their findings in the journal Pain.

"Our previous research found that Zen meditators have lower pain sensitivity," said senior author Rainville in a news release from the journal. "The aim of the current study was to determine how they are achieving this."

Read the rest of the story from Business Week

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Buddhists close temples to Korean President allies, GNP reps

After funding for a temple stay program was slashed in the national budget passed Wednesday, the Buddhist community has lashed back at the Lee Myung-bak administration, and Grand National Chairman Ahn Sang-soo vowed yesterday to find out who cut the funds and punish them.

The Jogye Order, the country’s largest Buddhist sect, issued a statement Thursday banning all Grand National Party lawmakers and Lee Myung-bak administration officials from entering its temples. “The ruling party and the administration rammed through next year’s budget on Wednesday, and the amount earmarked for the temple stay project was cut based on religious bias,” the statement said. “We cannot accept this situation and we ban all public servants and GNP lawmakers from entering temples nationwide.”

Read the full story from The Buddhist Channel.

Friday, December 10, 2010

DVD Spotlight - Pay It Forward

In appreciation of the giving season (well, which ideally is year-round) this week's DVD pick is Pay It Forward.

Eugene Simonet, an emotionally and physically scarred social studies teacher, challenges his young students to devise some type of philanthropic plan and put it into effect. A young boy, whose own life is far from rosy, takes the assignment to heart and invents the "pay-it-forward" philosophy, which encourages paying back favors in advance. The whole town embraces the boy's concept, and random acts of kindness become a community pastime. Though celebrated by acquaintances and the media, the boy struggles at home with his alcoholic mother, and the only one who recognizes his lonely fight is Eugene Simonet.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Why religion breeds happiness: Friends

As important as your religious beliefs may be to you, they don't necessarily make you happier, a new study in the American Sociological Review finds. What does make you more satisfied with your life, the study finds, is having friends at your congregation and a strong religious identity.

Read the rest of the story from CNN The Chart Blog.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Dharma Talk - The Precepts

Given by Hae Doh Sunim
Sunday, December 5, 2010.
Duration - 25:13

Note: If you are planning to take the precepts in April it is asked that you please listen to this Dharma Talk!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Buddhism And Science: Promise And Perils

It began 2,500 years ago in Northern India. Over the centuries it spread ever eastward. Moving south it moved into Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam. Moving north it reached Tibet and then expanded across into China, Korea and Japan. Every culture it touched, it changed. And yet it was also changed in the process. Now it circumnavigation is complete. Buddhism has reached the west - the scientific, rational-minded west — and once again there are changes afoot. The question is what kind of changes and for whose benefit?

Read the full blog post from NPR.

Mindfulness-based therapy ‘prevents depression relapse’

Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy has the same effect as antidepressant medication for preventing relapse among patients treated for depression, say researchers.

The current standard for preventing relapse is maintenance therapy with a single antidepressant.

Read the rest of the article on

Psychologist, students: Meditation an effective path to stress-relief

College students turn to a long list of activities to relax and blow off steam — working out, socializing, playing sports — the list goes on. But Christopher Willard, staff psychologist at Counseling and Mental Health Service (CMHS) and member of the board of directors at Boston's Institute for Meditation and Psychotherapy, recommends they add another, more exotic activity to that list: meditation.
The practice of meditation, according to Willard, can be quite simple, though not always easy.
"Meditation is essentially just paying attention to what is happening in the present moment and deliberately avoiding distraction," he said. "When I say paying attention to what is happening, that can mean what is happening internally in our minds and bodies or to objects and events around us."

Read the rest of the article from here.

Friday, December 3, 2010

DVD Spotlight - Buddha Wild: Monk in a Hut

Buddhist monks aren’t usually described as wild(at least not in our urban dictionary), but director Anna Wilding’s intriguing feature documentary debut stirs up the meditation room a bit. Buddha Wild explores what really goes on behind the monastery doors, touching on hot-button issues like the roles of women, racism, and celibacy in a monk’s daily life. Buddha Wild is a refreshing synthesis of Eastern and Western politics and culture, without a nibble of Hollywood cheese.

“The religion of the future should transcend a personal God and avoid dogma and theology. Covering both natural and spiritual, it should be based on a religious sense arising from the experience of all things natural and spiritual as a meaningful unity. Buddhism answers this description… If ever there is any religion that would cope with modern scientific needs it would be Buddhism.” – Einstein.

Buddha Wild provides viewers with a well-judged glimpse into the monastery world of the Buddhist Monk and the real world of those who follow the precepts and principals of Buddhism. The documentary centers on the life of the Buddhist monks. They are a kind lot of warm hearted and enlightened men. Buddha Wild is a journey of discovery.

The monks were clearly enamored by Ms. Wilding and their generosity of information from taboo subjects exhibits this fact. A well judged mix of seriousness and humor. “Anna Wilding was compelled to make this upbeat film to counteract racism she witnessed in a region”.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

6 Other Reasons to Meditate

Meditation isn't just for relaxing. Here are six other benefits. Why meditate? Outside of religious contexts, the most common reason is stress management. But as these latest research findings demonstrate, meditation is much more than just a relaxation technique. Here are a half-dozen more good reasons to take up meditation.

See all 6 reasons from Psychology Today

The Case Against Buying Christmas Presents

From Zen Habits:

I love Christmas. I love the snow-themed everything, even when I was living on tropical Guam, and Santa and elves and reindeer and snowmen and candy canes. Yes, I even love the non-stop playing of Christmas music for two months.
Most of all, I love getting together with my family — eating Christmas cookies, singing Christmas carols together, gossiping and laughing at each other. It’s tremendous fun.
I don’t love Christmas shopping, or the overconsumption, frenzied malls, consumer debt, environmental waste, wasted time wrapping, and over-accumulation of needless stuff that goes with it.
Bah humbug! I love Christmas, but the shopping has got to go. Here’s why. Warning: This will be a rant of near-epic proportions.

Continue reading here.

Buddhism and Love

One of the things that I adore most about Christianity is how love is at its very centre. Jesus summed up his message and teaching in the commandments to love God, to love you neighbour (and he talked a lot about just who your neighbour is) and to love yourself (Matthew 22:36-40), and Paul, the first great leader of the early church, placed love at the very pinnacle of Christian life, even above faith (1 Corinthians 13:13).

I wonder if love’s being so central to Christianity explains why the word is so rarely used by many Buddhist writers writing in English. After all there is a tendency, especially in many of the Buddhist blogs and articles I come across, to want to make clear distinctions between Buddhism, the adopted religion of the writer, and Christianity, often the religion left behind.

But not all Buddhist teachers are shy of the word, and two that come instantly to mind are my own root teacher Seon Master Daehaeng Sunim, and another Zen Master, Thich Nhat Hahn. Thich Nhat Hahn writes: “Do we need to love our teacher? Do we need to love our disciples? Do we need to love our Dharma brothers and sisters in order to succeed in our practice? The answer is, yes.”

Continue reading from Wake Up and Laugh

Cosmic Rebirth

Circular patterns in the universe's pervasive background radiation suggest the Big Bang was only the latest of many

Most cosmologists trace the birth of the universe to the Big Bang 13.7 billion years ago. But a new analysis of the relic radiation generated by that explosive event suggests the universe got its start eons earlier and has cycled through myriad episodes of birth and death, with the Big Bang merely the most recent in a series of starting guns.

Read more at Science

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Congratulations new Bhikkhus!

Ven. Hae Doh (along with Ven. Hae Moon, Ven. Hae Kwang) received their full Bhikkhu ordination in Korea this past week and are on their way back home now. Congratulations to them as well as the other 100+ monks that have committed to the next level!

Friday, November 26, 2010

DVD Spotlight - Un Buda

Un Buda is the story of two brothers who have responded to a childhood tragedy in two completely different ways: one growing into a solitary loner who seeks truth through aesthetic practices, the other a college professor who only finds truth in fact. Now as adults, they have to face each other again in order to find peace. An extremely personal journey into the lifetime practice of Zen Buddhism, this film educates on the Zen philosophy while bringing a human face to faith, love and healing. The film elaborates on the dilemma between the earthly and the divine, the point of convergence between East and West.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

In The Shadow of Buddha Trailer

In the Shadow of Buddha trailer from Heather Kessinger on Vimeo.

In the Shadow of Buddha takes us to the seldom seen world of Tibetan Buddhist Nuns in northernmost India. This is a film about beauty, poverty, hope, and faith. About old women and young girls and the worlds they share. A film told through universal stories, set to a shockingly exotic culture and landscape. A film that rings with the truth of the kitchen and the classroom, and the hardships and triumphs of everyday lives.

Through their own voice, without narration, we explore the paradox that being a woman within Tibetan Buddhism represents. For these women the notion that a woman can be educated and that being born a female is not a punishment of past deeds is currently challenging thousands of years of history.

This is not a Buddhist film. This is not the expected film. This is a
film that confronts our platitudes, our narration, and our tender
stereotypes. This is a film about us.


China Sentences Two Buddhist Monks in Eastern Tibet

The local Chinese Intermediate People's Court on 25 October 2010 sentenced two Buddhist monks from Chamdho region, eastern Tibet to nine and half years' imprisonment for their activities and involvements in the March 2008 peaceful uprising to against China's rule over Tibet, according to a latest information received by The Tibet Post International.
A report sent by Ven. Monlam Tharchin on Monday said that Karma Palsang, 26 and Mipham Gelek, 22 from Zigar Monastery, Dege Jodha county, eastern Tibet were arrested in 2008, were sentenced to nine and half years respectively. Until their appearance in the court, their whereabouts have remained unknown since their arrest.

After the crackdowns that took place in all parts of Tibet, Tibetans from many areas in Dege Jodha district, eastern Tibet have continued to refuse to farm, to show solidarity for Tibetans from all over of Tibet. They resist Chinese pressure to plant, sow and toil in order to remember those who have lost their lives under the Chinese, those who have been brutally beaten and arrested, and those who are missing.

Read more at Buddhist Channel

Psychological Changes from Meditation Training Linked to Cellular Health

Positive psychological changes that occur during meditation training are associated with greater telomerase activity, according to researchers at the University of California, Davis, and the University of California, San Francisco. The study is the first to link positive well-being to higher telomerase, an enzyme important for the long-term health of cells in the body.
The effect appears to be attributable to psychological changes that increase a person's ability to cope with stress and maintain feelings of well-being.

"We have found that meditation promotes positive psychological changes, and that meditators showing the greatest improvement on various psychological measures had the highest levels of telomerase," said Clifford Saron, associate research scientist at the UC Davis Center for Mind and Brain.

Read more at Buddhist Channel

Dalai Lama hints at full retirement within a year

Tibetan Spiritual leader the Dalai Lama The Dalai Lama speaking in New Delhi last weekend. He has hinted strongly at full retirement after first discussing the issue with Tibetan parliament in exile.

The Dalai Lama has given the clearest sign yet that he is preparing for a full retirement from political life, possibly within a year.

Speaking during an Indian television interview, the exiled Tibetan Buddhist spiritual leader said that he was contemplating raising the issue with the elected political leadership of the Tibetan community in exile within six months and that a final decision could be made "a few months" later.

"In order to utilise fully democracy I felt [it is] better I am not involved [and that] I am devoted to other fields, promotion of human values and peace and harmony," the 75-year-old said. "[But] firstly I have to discuss, to inform members of Tibetan parliament."

The most likely date for discussions to start would be after the elections for the Tibetan parliament in exile to be held in March next year.

Traditionally the office of the Dalai Lama combines spiritual and temporal roles. The current 14th Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso, has progressively distanced himself from a direct political role and expressed a desire to live as a simple monk. He remains however official head of the central Tibetan administration in exile.

Read more from the source, Buddhist Channel

New Meditation Research: Putting the 'Om' in 'Chromosome'

The Shambhala Mountain Center sits nestled among the remote lakes and pastures of Colorado's Rocky Mountains, where for four decades it has offered instruction and retreat to serious students of meditation and yoga. Starting in February 2007, it became a scientific laboratory as well. The center began hosting the Shamatha Project, one of the most rigorous scientific examinations of meditation's effects ever undertaken. The Project is now beginning to yield its insights, and from early reports it appears that this ancient practice delivers benefits that go all the way down to the chromosomal level.

Many claims have been made over many years about the effects of meditation on health and well-being, but rarely have these claims been put to the test. Under the direction of Clifford Saron, a neuroscientist at the University of California at Davis, the Shamatha Project enrolled 60 experienced meditators in a three-month study. Half were randomly selected to receive intensive training and practice in meditation over the spring months of 2007, including two group training sessions and five or more hours of individual practice every day. Those who were wait-listed for the actual retreat served as controls -- an essential part of the rigorous experimental design that distinguishes the Project from previous meditation studies.

At three points in the three-month study -- before, halfway through, and at the end -- Saron and his many colleagues took a battery of behavioral and physiological measurements of both the meditators and the controls, who ranged from 21 to 70 years old. They have been crunching the data and analyzing the results, which are now emerging in peer-reviewed journals.

Read the full article from the Huffington Post

Monday, November 22, 2010

In Pursuit of Silence

Going along with the theme of this week's Dharma Talk by Bup Chon Sunim, here is a book about noise and silence which those of you who enjoyed yesterday's talk may also enjoy this book. You can find the Amazon link below as well as a feature story on the book and author at NPR.

Amazon Link.

NPR Story

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Dharma Talk - Learning to Unplug

Bup Chon Sunim.
Sunday, November 21, 2010.
Duration - 14:36

Subscribe in iTunes!

Book explores 30 wonders of Korean Buddhism

Understanding a religious faith is difficult — spanning the scope from the history and culture to philosophy and practices, it would be nearly impossible to completely learn a given tradition in a short period of time, although people benefit greatly by using various sources, including books.

The Korea Buddhism Promotion Foundation has been working hard to make Buddhism and its unique culture and teachings accessible to both the local and foreign crowds, and it hopes to facilitate the process with a new book, “The Colors of Korean Buddhism: 30 Icons and Their Stories.”

The book introduces distinctive icons that represent Korean Buddhism, which also have been published in The Korea Times from February to September this year. The series was called “Icons of Korean Buddhism” and introduced 30 of the representative or most typical Korean Buddhist cultural items, personas and symbols.

Read the rest of the article from the Korea Times here.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

50 years of work brings age-old wisdom to West

Kazuaki Tanahashi was still in his 20s, a self-described "arrogant kid," when he showed up at the Soto Temple in Japantown where a Japanese Buddhist priest was offering meditation lessons to a small but intense band of beatniks.

Tanahashi, a Japanese artist on his first visit to the States, asked the priest why he wasn't telling his Western novices about Dogen Zenji, a 13th century monk and the founder of the Soto School of Zen Buddhism.

"Dogen is too difficult for Americans to understand," the Rev. Shunryu Suzuki replied.

"Really?" Tanahashi replied. "If you are teaching foreign students, don't you think you should present your best? It doesn't matter if people don't understand it."

Tanahashi, now 77, sat down one day last week in a small meeting room in the San Francisco Zen Center at Page and Laguna streets. He stroked his long, wispy beard and laughed as he recalled his 1964 encounter with Suzuki, who would go on to become a key figure in bringing Buddhist meditation to a Western audience.

Read more:

Translating the Dalai Lama

A special story from American Public Media's program Being.

Thupten Jinpa, a Buddhist scholar and former monk, is the Dalai Lama's chief English translator. He shares the intricacies of Tibetan Buddhism that can't be conveyed in public teachings, and what happens when this ancient tradition meets modern science and modern lives.

Visit the website to listen to the full story and find several more links and extras.

Junta Putting Pressure on Buddhist Clergy: Clinton

he Burmese military junta continues its tight control over the activities of Buddhist monks and discriminates against religious minorities, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said on Wednesday.
“In Burma, the government continues its tight control of the activities of Buddhist clergy and discriminates against minority religious communities,” Clinton said in remarks on the release of the annual State Department report on religious freedom.

“The release last Sunday of Aung San Suu Kyi is a positive step. However, there are more than 2,100 political prisoners in Burma, including many monks and other religious figures,” Clinton said.

The report identifies Burma as one of the eight countries that have been designated as countries of particular concern.

Read the rest of the story on Buddhist Channel

Big names in religion talk 'compassion' at UN

United Nations Webcast, Special Event: Charter for Compassion.

The 2010 International Religious Freedom Report

Danny Fisher has a good summary highlighting the Buddhist issues in the report and has also linked the video press conference which you can watch on his site here.

State Department Website.

DVD Spotlight - Burma VJ: Reporting from a Closed Country

In appreciation of Aung San Suu Kyi's compassion and non-violent attitude, this week's spotlight is Burma VJ. It follows the September 2007 uprisings against the military regime in Burma.[2] Some of it was filmed on hand-held cameras, and the footage was smuggled out of the country.

For more information on the Burmese monks an the situation in Burma see the links below:

Saffron Uprising

U.S. Campaign for Burma

The Fighting Monks of Burma

Thursday, November 18, 2010

History of Religion in 90 seconds

A pretty cool very brief and general visual history of religious world expansion and development. Well it is interesting to watch you'll notice it isn't 100% and doesn't account for all areas of expansion (no Buddhism in the West).

Produced by Maps of War

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

A Fusion Of Buddhism And Punk Rock

Led by Josh Korda, a tattoo-covered Buddhist Brooklynite with gauged ears, the 25-minute sessions at Lila Yoga, Dharma, and Wellness, 302 Bowery attracted a variety of practitioners. On that particular Tuesday night, a young beret-clad woman sat in front of me, and a grey-haired man in a yellow polo to my right, along with many tattooed 20 and 30-somethings. Mr. Korda opened wide the front windows, surrounded by tiny portraits of Buddhist gods, and in floated sidewalk sounds, cabbie screeches, and ambient New York noise.

During the guided session, Mr. Korda encouraged us to close our eyes, mindfully clear our minds, and become “present” by focusing on one sound. He often quoted the Buddha. Following the sessions, Mr. Korda regularly gives 30-minute talks on cultivating inner peace and dealing with stress. Above all, on my visit, he emphasized monks as role models. “Monks don’t cultivate happiness in other people,” he said. “We’re all too over entangled in each other’s lives. Unless you have your own inner peace, you’ll try to get happiness from other people."

Read the full story on The Local East Village (NYTimes)

Three Souls Trailer

The apple seemingly falls far from the tree when you compare Shohaku Okumura, a Japanese Zen Buddhist priest and his 19 year old son Masaki, a 21st century boy who loves sci-fi shows, Gundam anime series, video games and is not yet sure what to do with his life. In a small midwest town of Bloomington, Indiana they run a small temple with the mother; Yuko, supporting its administration. Though each lead separate paths, the film displays the similarities within all of their pursuits for the meaning of life, in their own unique ways. (synopsis borrowed from Sweeping Zen)


PBS Frontline - Facing Death

What is a good death? Increasingly sophisticated gadgets and therapies can keep people alive for weeks and months, even when their underlying illness is beyond repair. I wonder: will I be capable of saying, “I want to die, let me go”? or will I cling to the hope that an experimental procedure or drug trial will come to my rescue? And who will decide if I’m unable to do so for myself: my friends, my proxy, my brother, technology? And what of quality of life: when does prolonging life turn into prolonged suffering for myself and those at my bedside?

Frontline's premiering a new episode focused on facing end of life and dying, to be broadcast on PBS on Tuesday, November 23.
The full episode is available now for online viewing along with additional supplemental material and links.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Burmese Dissident Is Freed After Long Detention

Myanmar’s pro-democracy leader, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, was freed from seven and a half years of house arrest on Saturday and was greeted at the gate of her compound by thousands of jubilant supporters.

Read the rest of the story on NYTimes

Read her story and bio on Wikipedia.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Theologian who pushed for inter-religious dialogue

WILLIAM JOHNSTON, who has died in Tokyo aged 85, was a Jesuit theologian who wrote extensively on Zen and Christian contemplation. Domiciled in Japan for most of his adult life, he became actively involved in inter-religious dialogue, especially with Buddhists.

After 9/11 he wrote in the Tablet : “We used to say that dialogue between the religions is necessary for world peace. Now we can say that dialogue between the religions is necessary for world survival.” Only prayerful dialogue between Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism and Buddhism could save the planet from destruction, he continued. “What a responsibility we have!”

Read the rest of his biography and bibliography at Irish Times

Religion & Ethics Newsweekly: “Zen Buddhist Chaplains”

Watch the full episode. See more Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly.

DVD Spotlight - Amongst White Clouds

An unforgettable journey into the hidden tradition of China's Buddhist hermit monks Amongst White Clouds is an intimate insider's look at students and masters living in scattered retreats dotting China's Zhongnan Mountain range. These peaks have reputedly been home to recluses since the time of the Yellow Emperor, some five thousand years ago. It was widely thought that the tradition was all but wiped out, but this film emphatically and beautifully shows us otherwise. One of only a few foreigners to have lived and studied with these elusive practitioners, American director Edward Burger is able, with humor and compassion, to present their tradition, their wisdom, and the hardship and joy of their everyday lives among the clouds. Filmed on location in China.

Quantifying Happiness

Harvard researchers have developed a Web tool for volunteers to record what they're doing and how they feel while doing it. The goal? To measure happiness. Doctoral student Matt Killingsworth describes some early results suggesting many people aren't "living in the moment."

Listen to the story from NPR

The Evolving Minds Of Humans

Why do humans have consciousness? In his new book, Self Comes To Mind, neurologist Antonio Damasio argues that consciousness gave humans an evolutionary advantage. Damasio describes the differences between self and mind, and traces the evolutionary path of the human brain.

Listen to the story from NPR

Get the book from Amazon

Your future happiness depends less on the present than you might think

Faulty memory makes it hard to predict your future happiness.

You make a lot of decisions based on how you think they will make you feel in the future. Car dealers ask you to think about how happy you'll be driving a beautiful new car. Ads for seafaring cruises ask you to think about how great you'll feel after a relaxing vacation. On the flip side, people work hard for a new promotion believing that if they don't advance in their career, they will be devastated.

Read the full article by Art Markman, Ph.D., on Psychology Today

30 Year Anniversary of October 27 Incident

October 27 marks the 30-year anniversary of the government’s illegal actions against the Buddhist community. Now, the Buddhist community demands the truth to be revealed, the restoration of honor for the victims, and compensation for victims. To commemorate the 30-year anniversary, there was a dharma service and a meeting of the victims at Jogyesa Temple on October 27.

What is the October 27 Incident?
New Military Government Search Temples and Takes Away Monks and Nuns

On October 27, 1980, the Korean Government illegally searched Buddhist temples and forcibly hauled away monks and nuns. This is the first time the Buddhist community was singly sought out and oppressed in modern Korean history. The government, which has newly seized power, as a “purification movement” searched 5731 temples and took away 1929 Buddhists to be interrogated. After the incident, there were distorted and exaggerated reports, and various false rumors circulated to cause immense damage to the Buddhist community. By these severe actions of the government, the human rights of numerous monks and nuns were violated, which led to a dramatic decrease in the number of Buddhist faithful as well as the Buddhist community losing social authority. Accordingly, the October 27 Incident is an abuse of government authority, which was a violation of religious freedom and human rights.

Read the full story on Korean

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Dalai Lama Blesses Award Winning Movie “Buddha Wild”

San Francisco, CA, October 28, 2010 — Buddha Wild Monk in a Hut, the award winning feature documentary that has played in selected cinemas to critical acclaim in the USA has been officially blessed by His Holiness the Dalai Lama. The film’s director, producer and actress Anna Wilding met His Holiness the Dalai Lama in 2009. The Dali Lama also approved images of himself to be used in the bonus features.

Buddha Wild releases on DVD nationwide, in stores and online, through Reality Entertainment on October, 25th, 2010.Pre Order discounts are available through Amazon.The film examines the lives of missionary Theravadin monks from Thailand and Sri Lanka in an “upbeat, engaging” way that departs from traditional linear documentary story telling.

Read the rest of the Press Release on Buddhist Art News

A Life After Death Double-Feature: Eastwood’s Hereafter and Noe’s Enter the Void

Two very different films about what happens after we die are in the theaters right now: Clint Eastwood’s gentle Hereafter and Gaspar Noe’s raw, hallucinatory Enter the Void. While covering the same cosmological territory, the films couldn’t be more different, stylistically, thematically, and religiously.

Read the reviews on Religion Dispatches

Veterans Day: Can Meditation Help Veterans Overcome PTSD?

Inspired by one of the last surviving, decorated World War II fighter pilots, filmmaker David Lynch is teaming up with friends to launch "Operation Warrior Wellness," a meditation-based program to help veterans overcome stress-related disorders.

At the upcoming benefit Change Begins Within, Lynch will be joined by Clint Eastwood, Russell Simmons, Mehmet Oz, Russell Brand, Katy Perry, Donna Karan and others in support of a project to provide Transcendental Meditation instruction to 10,000 veterans and their families. The event will be December 13 at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Thirty-five percent of U.S. soldiers deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq since 2001 are said to suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). David Lynch Foundation spokesman Robert Roth: "We believe Operation Warrior Wellness has great potential for treating PTSD by affecting the neurophysiology that underlies the disorder, eliminating rather than masking its symptoms."

Continue reading on Huffington Post

Monday, November 8, 2010

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

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.

Interview by Danny Fisher, read the full interview at Shambhala SunSpae