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