Saturday, May 26, 2012

Right View, Red Rust, and White Bones: A Reexamination of Buddhist Teachings on Female Inferiority

Allison A. Goodwin
College of Liberal Arts
National Taiwan University
Hundreds of psychological and social studies show that negative expectations and concepts of self and others, and discrimination based on the idea that a particular group is inferior to another, adversely affect those who discriminate as well as those who are subject to discrimination. This article argues that both genders are harmed by negative Buddhist teachings about women and by discriminatory rules that limit their authority, rights, activities, and status within Buddhist institutions. Śākyamuni Buddha’s instructions in the Tripiṭaka for evaluating spiritual teachings indicate that because such views and practices have been proven to lead to harm, Buddhists should conclude that they are not the True Dharma and should abandon them.

Seeking the core of Korean Buddhism

For Sem Vermeersch, associate professor of religious studies at Seoul National University, this year means a lot. 

The Belgian scholar, one of the leading academics in Korean studies, has been studying ancient Korean Buddhism for 20 years, particularly during the Goryeo Kingdom (918-1392) which was strongly attached to the political system of the time. 

Speaking with The Korea Herald at his office at Kyujanggak, a former royal library of Joseon at SNU that currently houses an extensive collection of Korean historical documents, the humble scholar says he has a long way to go.

“There is a Chinese saying that learning is like pedaling against the stream. This means that once you stop learning because you think you have achieved a lot, you will go back to the starting line,” Vermeersch said.

Fluent in several languages including English, Chinese and Korean, the professor has been opening the eyes of both Korean and foreign students to the fascinating world of Buddhism in medieval Korea and has contributed to developing the subject at an international level. The professor has been coordinating academic exchanges among scholars around the world on Korean studies for years. 

He has published a number of studies and books in English that offer a deeper understanding of Korean history and culture for international audiences. Vermeersch is also the author of “The Power of the Buddhas: The Politics of Buddhism During the Koryo Dynasty” published by Harvard University Asia Center...

Read the full article from Korea Herald here

Buy "The Power of the Buddhas" from Amazon. 

Dub Sutra

How’s this for a headline: “Music Group Fronted by Japanese Monks Bring Buddhist Sutra to the Dance Club, Wear Awesome Helmets.”
Yep, it’s real, and this item from Japanese/Asian news source Rocket News 24 profiles the awesome-helmet- wearing act in question,Tariki Echo. Formed by two aspiring Jodo Shinshu priests, the group released their first album, Buddha Sound, on March 21. Check them out and hear them online here.
Source: Shambhala Sun

Monday, May 21, 2012

The Passing of Daehaeng Kun Sunim

From Wake Up and Laugh! :

(Seoul, Korea) Hanmaum Seon Center regrets to announce the passing of our beloved teacher, the venerable Daehaeng, on Monday, May 21, 2012. She was 85 years old, and was ordained as a Buddhist nun 63 years ago. The funeral will be held on Saturday, May 26th, with more details to follow as they become available.
Daehaeng Kun Sunim* was a rare teacher in Korea: a female seon(zen) master, a nun who also taught monks, and a teacher who helped revitalize Korean Buddhism by dramatically increasing the participation of young people and men.
She made laypeople a particular focus of her efforts, and broke out of traditional models of spiritual practice to teach in such a way that anyone could practice and awaken. At the same time, she was a major force for the advancement of Bhikkunis (nuns), heavily supporting traditional nuns’ colleges, as well as the modern Bhikkuni council of Korea.
She supported many social welfare projects, founded centers in 11 countries around the world (15 centers in Korea, and 10 in other countries), and her teachings have been translated from Korean into English, German, Spanish, Russian, Italian, Chinese, Japanese, French, and Vietnamese.

This world is where the Buddha-dharma exists,
and where enlightenment is found.
Searching for great wisdom,
while ignoring what arises in this world,
is like looking for a rabbit with horns.
Take the idea
that transcending this world is the way,
or that involvement with the world is a deluded path,
and stomp both these ideas to pieces.
Then the great wisdom of your inherent nature
can freely flow forth.
                     -Daehaeng Kun Sunim

Buddha Statue

Friday, May 18, 2012

Buddhist order protests state ownership of missing relic

The Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism, the nation’s largest Buddhist sect, on Friday protested the planned donation of a missing relic to the government by an individual.

In a press release issued Friday night, the Jogye Order questioned whether a proper investigation into the original source of the “Hunminjeongeum Haeryebon Sangjubon,” which it claims was looted from one of its temples, had taken place. It also questioned why an individual is donating the priceless cultural property to the government. 

Unbeknownst to the Jogye Order, the state-run Cultural Heritage Administration had planned a special event for Monday during which the current legal owner of the missing copy of the Hunminjeongeum will hand over his ownership to the state. 

The Hunminjeongeum is a text explaining the Korean writing system Hangeul, invented by King Sejong in 1443. 

“We did not know about this at all,” said Park Sang-jun of the Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism’s cultural heritage division. “We think it was unethical of the government to do something like this without telling us. They should’ve at least told us.”

Jo Yong-hun, the current owner and antique dealer, had purchased the book from a man named Seo in 1999. The Buddhist sect  claims Seo looted the book from Gwangheung Temple in Andong, North Gyeongsang Province, in the late 1990s. Seo last year testified in court that he did indeed steal the book from the temple.....

Continue reading at The Korea Herald

Vesak: How Buddha's Birthday Is Celebrated Around The World


What do you get for the man who has attained perfect enlightenment? That depends on where in the world you are celebrating.
Buddha's birthday, known as Vesak Day (or Wesak), is celebrated on various dates in the spring throughout the world, and each Buddhist culture has its own traditions for the day. It is usually observed during the first full moon in May.
Buddhists celebrate the Buddha's three most important life stages on Vesak: Birth, Enlightenment and Death, which traditionally are said to all have happened on the same day of the calendar throughout his life. The birth story is important because the Buddha was born in Lumbini, Nepal, while his mother stood holding onto a tree. Once born he is said to have taken seven steps forward after which a lotus flower arose from each footstep. He then declared that this was his last rebirth and that he would become an enlightened individual.
In South Korea, followers light lotus lanterns that cover the temples in remembrance of these lotus footsteps. In Sri Lanka, where colorful lanterns are also used, elaborate electric light displays depict different stories from the Buddha's life. In Indonesia, Buddhists light and release lanterns into the air while visiting the Borobudur temple. In Taiwan, followers pour fragrant water over Buddha statues to symbolizing a fresh start in life. In Singapore, devotees set caged birds free on the Buddha's birthday.

Stanford scholar tracks meditation's migration from ancient Buddhist monasteries to your local yoga class

For many Americans, "yoga" conjures up mental images of athletic-minded people engaging in a simultaneous "warrior pose" while being told to focus on their breathing.
What many yoga enthusiasts may not realize is that this athletic practice represents only one of the various ways in which aspects of Buddhism have infiltrated the secular American culture.
From its start, Buddhism has emphasized the achievement of a state of liberation and enlightenment, which can be achieved through a variety of methods, including meditation.  Historically, this mentally challenging practice has been limited to monasteries and not even utilized by the typical Buddhist.   Over time, however, the less technical forms of meditation have become popular in the United States – a glimpse of which can be seen in the athletic practice of yoga and its focus on counting one's measured breaths. 
Religious Studies Professor Carl Bielefeldt has dedicated his academic career to the study of 13thcentury Japanese Zen, a tradition of Buddhism that emphasizes the practice of meditation. As Bielefeldt describes it, the deep visualization of more technical meditation could not realistically play a role in modern American life.  "I am not going to get up in the morning and enter into a deep state of trance and visualize something because then I will be late for work, so instead I will get up in the morning and watch my breath in and out."...

A Monk’s Earthly Mission: Easing North Koreans’ Pain

IN August 1996, the Venerable Pomnyun, a Buddhist monk from South Korea, was cruising down the Yalu River between China and North Korea when he saw a boy squatting alone at the North Korean edge of the water. The boy was in rags, his gaunt face covered in dirt.
Pomnyun shouted to him, but the boy did not respond. Pomnyun’s Chinese companion explained that North Korean children were instructed never to beg from foreigners. And when Pomnyun asked if the boat could be steered closer to the child to bring help, he was reminded that they could not enter North Korean territory.
“Never before had I realized the meaning of a border so painfully until that day,” said Pomnyun, 59. “Never before had I felt so acutely that Korea is a divided nation.”
The encounter led him to establish one of the first relief campaigns for North Korean refugees and to take on an unlikely role for a Buddhist monk. Today, rather than leading a secluded life of quiet contemplation, he is a well-known commentator on North Korea, his online newsletter an important source of information smuggled out of the isolated country...

Buddhism And Meditation: Why Most Buddhists In The World Don't Meditate

It may be a surprise to many Americans, and even to American Buddhists, to hear that the vast majority of the world's Buddhists do not meditate. But it is true.

 Among the 250 million or so Buddhists alive today, only a tiny fraction have a regular meditation practice; this is true not just for Buddhist laypeople but even for many of the Buddhist monks, nuns, and priests in the various Asian countries where Buddhism is the main religion. 

Were things different in the past? Yes, there were times and places where millions of monks and nuns lived and practiced in monasteries where meditation was the norm, but the West's assumption that Buddhism and meditation are one and the same is a selective understanding. There is much more to Buddhism than meditation. 

Meditation is only one branch of the eight-fold path taught by the Buddha--a path which includes ethical teachings, intellectual study, and transformation of personality and character through wholesome attitudes and deeds....

Continue reading from the Huffington Post. 

World's Biggest Congregation

Google's "Search Inside Yourself"

From the NYTimes -

Step onto Google’s campus here — with its indoor treehouse, volleyball court, apiaries, heated toilet seats and, yes, Oz-style road — and you might think you’ve just sailed over the rainbow.
But all the toys and perks belie the frenetic pace here, and many employees acknowledge that life at Google can be hard on fragile egos.
Sure, the amenities are seductive, says Blaise Pabon, an enterprise sales engineer, but “when you get to a place like this, it can tear you apart” if you don’t find a way to handle the hard-driving culture.
Employees coming from fast-paced fields, already accustomed to demanding bosses and long hours, say Google pushes them to produce at a pace even faster than they could have imagined. Google’s co-founder and chief executive, Larry Page, recently promised on the company Web site to maintain “a healthy disregard for the impossible.”
Little wonder, then, that among the hundreds of free classes that Google offers to employees here, one of the most popular is called S.I.Y., for “Search Inside Yourself.” It is the brainchild of Chade-Meng Tan, 41, a tall, thin, soft-spoken engineer who arrived at Google in 2000 as Employee No. 107.
Think of S.I.Y. as the Zen of Google. Mr. Tan dreamed up the course and refined it with the help of nine experts in the use of mindfulness at work.
But what is Mr. Tan’s ultimate goal? A Buddhist for many years, he says without irony that he wants to create world peace. “I was always very different from the other kids,” he says. “I have an I.Q. of 156. I didn’t play sports. I thought big. I thought I could achieve great things. I don’t want to sound megalomaniac, but my whole life is about doing something for the world, from as far back as I can remember.”...

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Lotus lantern festival designated as Korea's "important intangible cultural

The Lotus lantern festival, “Yeondeunghoe” in Korean, was designated the intangible cultural heritage No. 122 by the Cultural heritage administration.

And now, the Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism announced that "Yeondeunghoe," a lotus lantern festival held by Buddhists, is also a candidate for UNESCO Memory of the World designation, the administration said.
Yeondeunghoe initially started as a Buddhist tradition held on the day of Daeboreum, the first full moon of the lunar calendar, in the Shilla Kingdom (57 B.C.-935 A.D.). The religious ceremony has now become an annual event to celebrate Buddha's birthday in downtown Seoul where a lantern parade and street fair take place...

Thailand's young nuns challenge convention

Beam Atchimapon is already three days late for the new school term in her native city, the Thai capital of Bangkok - but for a good cause.
The nine-year-old is part of a small but growing group of Thai girls who choose to spend part of the school holiday as Buddhist nuns, down to having their heads shaven.
The temporary ordination of young men has long been part of Thai culture, with men spending a few days as monks and returning to their normal professions after time at a monastery.
But the ordination of "mae ji" or "nuns" is less common, and the idea that women should not play an active role in monastic life still prevails among more conservative Thais.
Fully ordained Buddhist nuns are not legally recognized, as they are in Myanmar and Sri Lanka - one sign of the inequality women still face in certain fields in Thailand....

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

US Congressman Tim Ryan discusses the power of mindfulness

Book Trailer and Promo Video

Both inspiring and pragmatic, A Mindful Nation shows how the benefits of mindfulness apply to the current challenges that affect each of us in our own lives and in our communities, and thus have implications for our society as a whole. With a hard-nosed understanding of politics, government budgets, and what it takes to get something done, Congressman Tim Ryan connects a practical approach—lead with the science, show the savings and show how this can help us educate our children to be competitive in the world arena—with a hopeful vision for how mindfulness can reinvigorate our core American values and transform and revitalize our communities.

Zero Degrees of Empathy

Professor Simon Baron Cohen presents a new way of understanding what it is that leads individuals down negative paths, and challenges all of us to consider replacing the idea of evil with the idea of empathy-erosion.

How Wealth Reduces Compassion

As riches grow, empathy for others seems to decline
Who is more likely to lie, cheat, and steal—the poor person or the rich one? It’s temping to think that the wealthier you are, the more likely you are to act fairly. After all, if you already have enough for yourself, it’s easier to think about what others may need. But research suggests the opposite is true: as people climb the social ladder, their compassionate feelings towards other people decline....

Read more from Scientific American here.