Thursday, March 31, 2011

Park Chan-soo gives Buddhist art a new voice

Most classic representations of Buddha, and indeed many items of Buddhist art more generally, are quiet and pensive. As they have come down to us, they are painted in subdued and muted colours, or left in simple undecorated stone or metal. At her lecture at the KCC last week, Park Young-sook pointed out that originally many of the sculptures would have been brightly painted. But the fact is that what we see now tend to inspire the viewer in the direction of quiet contemplation rather than noisy jubilation. This effect is often emphasised by their mode of display – in dark temples or low-lit museum display cases. We are encouraged to enjoy the sublime peace in their expressions, appreciate the perfect craftsmanship in the depiction of their robes, and note the significance of the minute differences in their hand gestures. Above all, we are encouraged to do this in perfect silence, like the Buddhas whose lips are kept firmly closed.

Park Chan-soo overturns all those preconceptions.....

Read the full article Buddhist Art News

Podcast Stats - March 2011

Episode Downloads -

3/6 - It's All About the Recovery (61)
3/13 - Jump Start Your Practice (63)
3/20 - Taking the Precepts to Heart (54)
3/27 - Pinball Wizard (49)

Total Episode Hits for March 2011 - 437
Total Episode Hits to Date - 4111
Feed Hits for March 2011 - 1105
Feed Hits to Date - 6217
Site Visitors for March 2011 - 169
Site Visitors to Date - 869

Podcast Downloaded in: U.S.A., Canada, Chile, Brazil, United Kingdom, Germany, France, Ukraine, South Africa, India, Japan, China, Australia, Malaysia, Philippines

Akio Jissoji's Buddhist Trilogy

Life and death are a great matter, transient and changing fast

This is a mantra to the films. In all three of them, Mujo, Mandala, and Uta, Jissoji grapples with basic tenets of Buddist thought. Impermanence, emptiness, the practice and ethos of the faith, he calls these into question. For Bergman that question was posed and declined, the silence of God was answer enough to the spiritual anguish. The important thing to note as we enter into a dialectic with these films is that Jissoji, who was also brought up in a religious family like Bergman, made films for the Art Theater Guild. Like his mentor Nagisa Oshima and like Oshima's inspiration Yasuzo Masumura before him, he seeks out the individuality of his protagonists in a madness that defies society and liberates from it, in a youthful rejection of the old and stale. Jissoji's films then are not profound examinations of faith but radical portraits of rebellion, renderings of a contemporary society that will reflect the generation coming of age in it.
Buddhism in this case is the recipient of his scathing New Wave, Buddhist thought is formulated only to be rejected, to receive scathing contempt or bitter irony.
Mandalas are diagram symbols used as objects for meditation by esoteric Vajrayna traditions, they represent a sacred space for the concentration of the mind. What is revealed to take place inside this sacred space, how is our concentration challenged or rewarded? ....

Read the full article at Nihon Cine Art

Stephen's Next Religion- Interview with Stephen Prothero

Tuesday, March 29, 2011


For the Buddhist temple Empukuji, in Iwaki City, the ritual of Ohigan brings daily visitors. Iwaki City, located on the northeast coast of Japan and about a hundred and twenty-six miles south of Sendai City, was hard hit by the March 11th earthquake and tsunami. It’s an area I know well; I’ve been visiting Iwaki and Empukuji, which is run by my family, since I was four years old, and set much of my novel, “Picking Bones from Ash,” in Japan’s beautiful north. Most of Iwaki’s more than three hundred thousand residents evacuated long ago, but Sempou Mita, who is my cousin and the temple’s head priest, has staunchly refused to leave with them.

Read the full article from The New Yorker

Monday, March 28, 2011

Does FAITH Play a Role in Buddhism?

Written by IBS Seminary student Lawrence Grecco for IDP

What I love about Buddhism is that we aren’t required to believe anything. In fact, the Buddha encouraged us to test things out for ourselves rather than blindly accept whatever he said. There was no “dude, just take my word for it” that would have prompted lifetimes of doubt and internal struggle. We were given a set of guidelines, observations, and a path to follow and if we do it diligently, there’s not much room for any doubt to occur.

As many have said before, Buddhism isn’t something we believe-- it’s something that we do. This practice stands is sharp contrast to all of the other faith-based spiritual systems (most of which are considered religions), since it’s an action-based and doesn’t revolve around a set of doctrines or commandments....

Read the full article at The Interdependence Project website...

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Deaths Overwhelm Japanese Burial Process

The magnitude of the tragedy has overwhelmed many of the burial rituals practiced in Japan, and added to the sense of loss for many families. Most Japanese adhere to Buddhist rituals to honor the dead, where priests read scripture and chant sutras before cremating and burying the deceased.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Japan tsunami victims take refuge in Buddhist temple

A Buddhist temple offers shelter to survivors in tsunami-devastated Minamisanriku, in Miyagi prefecture, north-east Japan, where half the population is unaccounted for

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Actualizing Interconnectedness and Showing Solidarity

Another thoughtful post from Japan Life and Religion:

In these difficult times, you can show your solidarity and support of Japan in a couple ways (among others):

Turn out the lights tonight, and especially all unnecessary appliances (e.g. computers, TV, etc). Watching too much news will drive you crazy anyway, so turn everything off and go read a book instead. You’ll save energy too.

Skip a meal tonight. There are many people in the world starving (not Japan, but in other places), so skip a meal or two. People take food for granted until they don’t have it anymore.

Walk to work if feasible, or ride a bike, or just take a bus/train. A lot of people in Japan are doing this right now, so show your support and get some exercise too. In other words, leave your car at home.

Instead of adding fuel to panic and misinformation, show your support by making some sacrifices at home, just as people in Japan are doing now.

And a message from Thich Nhat Hanh

The pain of one part of humankind is the pain of the whole of humankind. And the human species and the planet Earth are one body. What happens to one part of the body happens to the whole body.

An event such as this reminds us of the impermanent nature of our lives. It helps us remember that what's most important is to love each other, to be there for each other, and to treasure each moment we have that we are alive. This is the best that we can do for those who have died: we can live in such a way that they continue, beautifully, in us.....

How Japan's religions confront tragedy

Proud of their secular society, most Japanese aren't religious in the way Americans are: They tend not to identify with a single tradition nor study religious texts.

"The average Japanese person doesn’t consciously turn to Buddhism until there’s a funeral,” says Brian Bocking, an expert in Japanese religions at Ireland’s University College Cork.

When there is a funeral, though, Japanese religious engagement tends to be pretty intense.

“A very large number of Japanese people believe that what they do for their ancestors after death matters, which might not be what we expect from a secular society,” says Bocking. “There’s widespread belief in the presence of ancestors’ spirits.”

In the days and weeks ahead, huge numbers of Japanese will be turning to their country’s religious traditions as they mourn the thousands of dead and try to muster the strength and resources to rebuild amid the massive destruction wrought by last Friday's 9.0 magnitude earthquake and resulting tsunami.... (cont.)

Continue reading here at CNN Belief Blog...

Also see USA Today's article: "Japanese look to ancient traditions for strength"

Bodhisattva Action Alert: Ways to Help Japan

Jizo Chronicles has complied a list of others' blog posts on how to help Japan.

See the post here for all the links.

When disasters or crises hit Asian Buddhist countries, I believe that we as Western Buddhists are offered a way to re-pay the gift of dharma that has been shared with us so generously by our dharma brothers and sisters in the East.

Now, the people of Japan are in great need in the wake of the devastating earthquake and tsunami of March 11. Some of my Buddhist blogging colleagues have collected lists of ways to help with the relief efforts in Japan:..... (find links here)

The Shunie Rite at Todaiji

March 15th in Japan is culmination of a famous Buddhist ceremony at Todaiji Temple in Nara, Japan: the Shūni-e (修二会) Rite. This ancient rite is probably one of the oldest in Japan, started by an Buddhist monk named Jitchū (実忠, ?-824). At heart, it is a ceremony of repentance to Kannon, a great Bodhisattva in Buddhism, but also is a great gathering of people from all over Japan who hope to see the fire and water ceremonies, while gaining some blessings too. In particular, this revolves around Kannon’s “11-headed form” which symbolizes the bodhisattva’s efforts to watch over the world (one head is not enough for such a great burden)

Continue reading at Japan Life and Religion...

Buddhist Nun Shares The Sound Of Music

For more than a decade, Ani Choying Drolma — a most unlikely of rock stars — has shared Buddhism's sacred chants with a growing number of fans worldwide.

But she found this path almost by accident.

Ani Choying Drolma can't remember when she started singing, but she does know that her formal training began at 13 when she joined the Nagi Gompa monastery near Kathmandu.

Soon after her arrival, the Rinpoche, or head Lama, recognized her talent. He and his wife began teaching her sacred chants, following a tradition that has been passed down from teacher to student for generations in the Himalayas....

Continue reading the story and listen at NPR

2011 Lotus Lantern Spring Vol. 45

2011 Lotus Lantern Spring Vol.45

Monday, March 14, 2011

On iPads and Earthquakes, Desire and Impermanence

From our friend and fellow IBS seminary student, Lawrence Grecco:

I confess to being somewhat swept up in the recent media frenzy over the new iPad 2. Sure, I already have the original version (which incidentally has more computing power than the Apollo 11 and does everything I want it to) but now there’s something better available, and I even have the choice to get it in white. If I want to.

On Friday, while many of us here in the United States were swept away by the promise of a new, shinier and more powerful iPad, in Japan hundreds of people were being swept away by waves that resulted from a powerful tsunami that was caused by a devastating earthquake....(cont.)

Read the full blog article at his weekly IDP column

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Friday, March 11, 2011

A Buddhist Response to the Japan Tsunami

How can meditators help with the widespread destruction caused by the earthquake and tsunami in Japan?


Even if we are novice meditators we can keep our hearts open to the suffering we see and hold the victims of the earthquake in our meditation practice. If you know tonglen practice you can do tonglen for Japan, for the victims and their friends and families. At the very least you can meditate on loving kindness and, in your own words, dedicate your meditation practice to all of those suffering in Japan.


Many organizations state that in the midst of a crisis like this the most highly recommended form of support is through making a donation. There are a number of organizations that you will likely be able to donate to in order to support Japan. The Red Cross is just one of these organizations who, incidentally, are also providing solid information on what is happening on-the-ground. In the days ahead I am sure more information will be made available on this front. I hope people will list other worthwhile organizations in the comments section.

The important thing to remember is to continue to keep an open heart and not shut down and ignore the suffering of our fellow human beings in Japan. If we can offer our practice, service, or generosity to the victims of the tsunami then we no longer need to feel disempowered. I invite others to share their own reflections on how we can help our friends overseas.

Donate to Red Cross Relief Fund here.

Excerpts taken from Huffington Post

More information about the earthquake and Tsunami here

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Dalai Lama ready to give up political power

The Dalai Lama announced Thursday his plan to retire as political head of the Tibetan exile movement, according to his website.
"Tibetans need a leader, elected freely by the Tibetan people, to whom I can devolve power," the exiled spiritual leader said in a statement.

"Now, we have clearly reached the time to put this into effect."

The Dalai Lama remains the head of state for now, according to Tempa Tshering, his representative in India, and will remain the group's spiritual leader.

"On March 14, (the) parliament will meet in Dharamsala (India) and decide whether to approve his request," Tshering said. "He wants to make a change. He has always believed in democracy and he wasn't elected as head of state."

Statement of His Holiness the Dalai Lama on the 52nd Anniversary of the Tibetan National Uprising Day

Read more from CNN

BBC Story

Shambhala Sun Blog

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Can you have pain without suffering?

New research looks at the benefits of meditation for chronic pain
By Joshua Grant

What Zen meditators don’t think about won’t hurt them. That was the title of the press release written by the Université de Montréal public relations department for a recent research study Dr. Pierre Rainville and I conducted. I begin with this because of the subtle way it captures exactly what we “think” we’re measuring.
Over the past five years we have been studying the influence of meditation on the experience of physical pain. Despite numerous claims in ancient Hindu and Buddhist texts that meditative practices have powerful effects on pain, little scientific work had been done at that time. Our work, along with the work of others, is shedding light on these claims and may prove valuable to those seeking alternative methods of pain relief.

Read the rest here.

Thanks to Deokwun for the link.

The Fashion of Compassion: Why it's a Mistake to Rate Human Suffering

I often wonder if it’s possible that a wealthy housewife on the Upper East Side might be suffering just as much as the homeless man sleeping on the corner of her condo building. She may not be starving or forced to sleep in the cold, but if there was such a thing as a richter scale for human anguish, perhaps she’d rank pretty high even though outwardly it appears that she has everything she wants and needs. Someone like her could easily be overlooked because our pity buttons don’t get pushed easily enough when we look at her due to our own assumptions and biases. After all, how hard can her life be if she can afford that Chanel suit? ...

Read Lawrence's article at Open Sky Zen

Buddhism and Reproductive Rights

Buddhism believes that life begins at conception and views abortion as the taking a of human life, but rejects the idea of rights, as in “right-to-life,” or even rights to one’s own body. It also stops short of intervening in a woman’s decision. According to statement published by the Japanese-American Buddhist Churches of America: “It is the woman carrying the fetus, and no one else, who must in the end make this most difficult decision and live with it for the rest of her life. As Buddhists, we can only encourage her to make a decision that is both thoughtful and compassionate.”

For a copy of my paper, "Returning to Buddha: Buddhism and Abortion in Japan" contact me at

Read John Pappas' full article at Elephant Journal

The ‘Black Swan’ Mara

‘Black Swan’ tells the story of extreme clash of conflict in body and mind. A ballerina feels compelled by her idealism and expectations of others to play both the pure and restrained white swan and the malevolent and seductive black swan in a revised version of Swan Lake. In order to embody her roles perfectly, she swings to and from between goodness and evil. Can she play a perfect white and black swan at almost the same time? A whole list of other paradoxical extremes are explored too…

Read the full article at Buddhist Channel

Gender and religion: Where nuns fear to tread

The controversy over a Thai Buddhist nun successfully petitioning an Indian court to gain control of a temple has raised broader questions surrounding the administration of temples overseas. It has also highlighted the ambiguous role nuns, or mae chi, face within the structure of Buddhism in Thailand.

Read the full article at Buddhist Channel TV

REVIEW: Enter the Void

Director Gaspar Noé’s 2010 release, Enter the Void, portrays the bardo — the intermediary state between death and re-birth which is described in the Tibetan Book of the Dead (Bardo Thodol). This portrayal follows the death of the film’s protagonist, Oscar, a Canadian living in Japan.

No capsule review can effectively present the contents of the film, which is less about telling a story, and more about describing mental states. The film proceeds through three successive viewpoints: Oscar’s, shown on screen from his eyes, complete with eyeblinks; Oscar’s life prior to that (shown from the same in-head view and from a vantage point just behind his head), and finally a fully disembodied view, as Oscar’s spirit drifts between past, present, and future.

Read the full review at Buddhist Art News

Zen psychology: Daisetz Suzuki remembered

More than any other Eastern thinker in the 20th century, Suzuki catalyzed the rise of humanistic psychology, which has spurred today's interest in spirituality and well-being

Special to The Japan Times

Read here.

Buddhism & The Brain (SEED Magazine)


Read the article here.

'Eco-monastery' opening at Siddhartha's birthplace

Lumbini, the UNESCO World Heritage Site so marked for being the birthplace of Siddhartha Gautama, the founder of Buddhism, will soon also be home to an "eco-monastery."
The Lumbini Udyana Mahachaitya World Center for Peace and Unity (LUM), which began construction in 2006, opens this April in Nepal. It will be the largest Buddhist temple and meditation hall in Lumbini, but aims to leave the smallest carbon footprint.

Read more: at CNET

Monday, March 7, 2011

The Paradox of Mindfulness & The Potential of MindLESSness

The Paradox of Mindfulness

After my last blog, discussion arose about the identity exploration exercise I suggested and how that fits in with the idea of living in the present. There would appear to be a paradox between living in mindful presence (and dis-identifying with ego), yet also thinking about identity formation and consciously creating a more authentic kind of life. So, the question is: "How can we think about ourselves and our goals without being ego-centric and living in the future?"...

Continue reading Brad Water's article @ Psychology Today

Untapped Assets: The Hidden Potential in MindLESSness

All of us fall into mindless behaviors: fingernail-biting, hair twirling, day-dreaming, TV watching, computer games, and many more. I think we all know that these activities do not generally help us to become more mindful. Surprisingly, these very same mindlessness practices can potentially help us to become mindful if we know how to use them that way.

In Contemplative Psychotherapy, drawing on Buddhist teachings, we understand that the ability to be mindful -- to notice our experience with precision and without judging it as good or bad - is the key to reducing stress, emotional confusion, and many other kinds of suffering. It is mindfulness, too, that is a powerful tool for tuning into our positive qualities such as clarity, openness, and compassion. How then can mindlessness practices be helpful? Isn't it heading in the wrong direction entirely?

Continue reading Dr. Wegela's article @ Psychology Today

One-Year Anniversary Ceremony for Ven. Beopjeong

The anniversary ceremony of Ven. Beopjeong, who passed away a year ago, was held at Gilsangsa Temple on February 28. Ven. Beopjeong who wrote about and lived an upright and frugal life with few possessions, was well loved by the Korean people for his writing and life.

See more pictures and read the full story here.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Political Buddha – Part 1: Engaged Buddhism

Political Buddha is a monthly diary series exploring how Buddhist philosophy may be used to become a more effective voter, political commentator (or blogger) or progressive activist—without sacrificing either ones own Buddhist principles or political beliefs. The ideas expressed in this series are a collection of my own research/experiences and are not intended to proselytize or to condemn, call out, or criticize anyone at Daily Kos or any other blog or Internet site. Your mileage, both as a Buddhist and as a politico, may vary.

Continue reading from the Daily Kos

Will destroyed Buddha statue be reconstructed?

The giant Buddhas of Bamiyan, once painted in bright colors, remained silent sentinels as they reacquired the hues of the sandstone cliffs from which they were carved.

The statues, which looked upon a visually stunning region of central Afghanistan for about 1,500 years, have been gone for 10 years, victims of the Taliban, who destroyed them as part of its campaign to destroy pre-Islamic artifacts considered an assault on the faith.

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) on Wednesday will begin three days of meetings in Paris about a long-range plan for preserving the snow-capped valley's cultural heritage and the remains of the Buddhas, which overlooked a Buddhist monastery.

"They were destroyed in the context of the conflict devastating Afghanistan and to undermine the power of culture as a cohesive force for the Afghan people," said UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova in a statement Monday.

A German professor believes reconstructing the smaller figure is possible.

Read the full story from CNN World

The Buddhist Channel