Calling All Religions to Compassion

A Message from Karen Armstrong:
Compassion is indeed central to every one of the major world religions — but sometimes you would never know it. Increasingly religion is associated with violence and intolerance; it seems preoccupied with dogma, belief, getting to heaven, or enforcing correct sexual behaviour. There are magnificent exceptions, of course, but it is rare to hear religious leaders speaking of the primary importance of compassion.

People don’t even seem to know what it means. It is often assumed to mean “pity” or “feeling sorry” for somebody. But the root of this Greco-Latin word is “to experience with;” compassion compels us to dethrone the egotism, self-preoccupation and selfishness that hold us back from the divine and put ourselves in the place of another.

All the great religious sages insist that compassion is the chief religious duty. The first person to do so was Confucius, who, five hundred years before Christ, was the first to formulate the Golden Rule: “Do not do to others what you would not like them to do to you.” It was the central “thread” that ran through all his teaching and should be practiced “all day and every day.” Every single faith has evolved its own version of the Golden Rule, which requires us to look into our own hearts, discover what gives us pain and refuse, under any circumstance whatsoever to inflict that pain on anybody else.

“My religion is kindness,” said the Dalai Lama; you can have faith that moves mountains, says St Paul, but it is worthless without charity; Rabbi Hillel said that the Golden Rule was the essence of Torah: everything else was “only commentary.” Muslims begin every reading of the Qur’an by invoking the compassion of God. But the religions also insist that you cannot confine your compassion to your own kind; you have to have “concern for everybody,” love your enemies, and honour the stranger.

The major task of our generation is to build a global community where people of all persuasions can live together in mutual respect. If we do not achieve this, we will not have a viable world to hand on to our children. We must implement the Golden Rule globally, treating other peoples ~ whoever they may be ~ as we would wish to be treated ourselves. Any ideology ~ religious or secular ~ that breeds hatred or disdain will fail the test of our time.

The religions should be making a major contribution to this essential task ~ and that is why it is important to sign on to the Charter of Compassion, change the conversation, and make it cool to be compassionate.

We hope that hundreds of thousands of people ~ Jews, Christians, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Sikhs, Confucians and atheists all over the world will contribute their insights on line on our multi-lingual website.

The world will help to write this Charter to return religion to the spirit of the Golden Rule. Can we make a difference? “Yes We Can!”

“When I won the TED prize in 2008, I asked TED to help me create, launch, and propagate a Charter for Compassion that would be composed by leading thinkers and activists in a range of major faiths. Hundreds of thousands people contributed their ideas to a draft charter online, and with the aid of a council representing six of the major world religions, together we crafted the charter.”

The Charter is a special call to action, transcending religious, ideological, and national difference — and inspiring people around the world to campaign for a more compassionate global community. To add your name to the Charter, just visit the Charter of Compassion website — where you can find still more ways to act on making “the compassionate voice a more potent force in the world.”

Karen Armstrong is one of the most provocative, original thinkers on the role of religion in the modern world. Armstrong is a former Roman Catholic nun who left a British convent to pursue a degree in modern literature at Oxford. Awarded the $100,000 TED Prize in February 2008, she called for drawing up a Charter for Compassion in the spirit of the Golden Rule, to identify shared moral priorities across religious traditions, in order to foster global understanding.


2 Minutes of Doing Nothing

People often ask how can I meditate.
Here is a great way to start.

Created by Alex Tew, this website features an image of a sunset, the ocean, the sound of crashing waves and a small clock.

Try relaxing for the next two minutes. If you nudge your mouse or press a key on your keyboard, the clock resets.

Sound easy? Think again.

Going nowhere, being nobody, doing nothing... try it here.

Buddhists Get the Vote

Barack Obama and Rep. Mazie Hirono

The United States Midterm election is over and three Buddhists have been voted into the House of Representatives.

• Congresswoman Mazie Hirono represents Hawaii's 2nd congressional district. She was first elected to Congress in 2006 and easily won re-election this past Tuesday. Rep. Hirono was raised Jodo Shinshu.

• Congressman Hank Johnson represents Georgia's 4th congressional district. With Rep. Maizie he was first elected in 2006 and won re-election on Tuesday by a comfortable margin. Rep. Johnson is a member of Soka Gakkai International.

• Our third Buddhist in Congress is Colleen Hanabusa, who was elected to represent Hawaii's 1st congressional district. Rep. Hanabusa had served in the Hawaii state senate for 12 years and had been senate president since 2007.  She also was raised Jodo Shinshu, and in a campaign flier distributed among Hawaiian Buddhists she promised to integrate "Buddhist values into American political leadership."

Thanks to Barbara's Buddhism Blog

Meditation and Jodo Shinshu

As we continue to hold our monthly meditation session at the temple, it's interesting to note that meditation is not a true practise of Jodo Shinshu Buddhists.

While temples in Calgary and Vancouver are both holding "Walking Meditation Relays", these are held as events and not a regular practise of our sect of Buddhism.

Jodo Shinshu Buddhists do not believe in self-power practises. To use an analogy (from the blog, Nembutsu), if we are like the circus tightrope walkers, then meditation provides us with the technique of how to walk and the pole to balance ourselves. In contrast, Jodo-Shinshu lends little assistance on the "how" of walking but simply says, "Don't worry, there is a safety net in case you fall!"

Traditionally, Shin Buddhism has limited its meditation practices to sutra chanting and recitation of the Nembutsu (Namo Amida Butsu). However, there is an increasing demand from within our temples and from those wishing to join us, for "quiet sitting" meditation instruction in addition to chanting meditation.

So, the debate continues on the website, Echoes of the Name. Here's an excerpt from one of the articles.

If we take the word meditation in the proper sense of its consideration, study, self preparation, exercise, practices, declamation, then Shin Buddhism has five kinds of meditation activity or service. These do not form an actual practice, though Shin dislikes and even refuses the word. Moreover, since Shin is a fusion of the principles of the ancient Sanron and Kegon sects reflected against the Buddhism of the Kamakura era, Shin does not define certain activities or services as practice, but insists that every action, even the most insignificant of daily life, may be an essentially religious action within the Way of Buddha …The goals of all such meditative exercises in Buddhism must be carefully analyzed. Westerners, and even ill informed Buddhists, too easily fall into the trap of believing that the goal of Buddhist “meditation” is the attainment of enlightenment of Nirvana. This however, is an erroneous notion …The correctly aware disciple knows that his meditation was undertaken as a result of past conditioning, and that, however much he thought he was doing it of his own innate volition, he actually was caused to meditate. The five kinds of meditation which are practiced in Shin are: ritual service, practical service, regular service, social service, and quietist service.”

--On Meditation by Rev. Phillip Karl Eidmann


The Future of Buddhism

An increasingly popular tradition, Buddhism continues to penetrate western ideas of science, psychology, and spirituality. What might we expect from the sectarian facets of the Buddhist community? How will American Buddhism differ from its historic roots? Patheos engages these questions in its Future of Religion series.

A discussion on the future of Buddhism is taking place on the Patheos website. Of particular interest, we suggest:
"Challenges and Opportunities: Speculations on a Buddhist Future" by Jeff Wilson, Renison University College
"An Editorial Introduction to The Future of Buddhism" by Gary Gach, Patheos
"Heresy and the Future of Japanese Buddhism in Hawaii" by George Tanabe, University of Hawaii

Patheos claims to have balanced view of religion and spirituality. It includes portals to information from Judaism to Islam and articles featuring comedian, Jon Stewart to the effects of Supreme Court decisions. The Future of Buddhism is part of a series titled, The Future of Religions.

Thanks to Casey for writing and providing the link.


Buddhist Military Sangha

With the recent news that President Barack Obama has decided to send more troops to Afghanistan, the argument continues if this war is necessary. Buddhists believe in non-violence but also know that the world is complicated and that there are many sides to this debate.

Courtesy Ekoji Buddhist Temple Dharma School in Fairfax County, Virginia

Caught in the middle are soldiers. Many soldiers are religious. In fact, right now, there are 1,900 Buddhists serving in the U.S. (Army Times).

A great blog that helps sort this out for many is the Buddhist Military Sangha. It is an unofficial online resource for Buddhists in the United States Armed Forces. One of the frequent contributors to the site is a Jodo Shinshu Buddhist Priest named Jeanette Shin. Shin was ordained at the Nishi Hongwanji, in Kyoto, Japan, in 2003. She was endorsed to become a military chaplain by the Buddhist Churches of America and served in the US Marine Corps from 1988-1992. She is a minister of the Buddhist Church of Florin, near Sacramento, CA.

How does she justify her role in the military?

Yes, there have always been armies and police, and there has to be some provision for defence. Even were we living in a world of wise rulers, protection is necessary. The Buddha speaks of this, as does Dogen. Aggression exists within each of us. But our wars today day wars are hardly the work of wise rulers (Neither were most wars in the past.). Whatever the issues may be, however just, the killing is fed by arms dealers and vast corporations who profit from the various technologies of killing. And by politicians driven by self-interest in raw form. And even by ourselves in a willingness to preserve privilege over groups and people elsewhere in the world.Having said all that, I would add that military personnel and families I have met often embody the highest principles of honour, duty, and self-sacrifice. They try to live according to what I might call “practice,” for the sake of their country and people. It is essential to hold this in mind.

I can’t help wondering, maybe naively, what would come of a policy that replaces retribution with generosity, that uses even a portion of the trillions we spend on war and destruction at home (prisons) and abroad for education, health, housing, and food? I would sign up in a New York minute as a chaplain to that kind of army.


Reviews for the Buddha's Wish for the World

Reviews for "The Buddha's Wish for the World" are now appearing. Rev. Gregory Gibbs of the Oregon Buddhist Temple has previewed the book and has these comments:

"For Jodo Shinshu Buddhists in North America this book will be important. The Go Monshu/Chief Abbot has not been obvious in a leadership role so far as understanding our teachings goes for some decades. People look to the Kangakuryo for questions of accuracy but a committee cannot be a leader. His Eminence Monshu Koshin Ohtani will now be more obviously in his proper role of leadership for those of us who are pretty much limited to the English language for our appreciation of the Buddha-dharma.

Here are some partial reviews so far...

Precious Metal: the blog

I really enjoyed the book because it not only taught me about the tradition of Shin Buddhism but also brought to light the importance of values this form has picked up based on its geographical origins. Specifically, the importance of family and surrounding oneself with family. Not only considering our direct family, but all of humanity as one big family.

Flatbed Sutra

Buddhist practitioners of all schools (including Zen) are certain to discover many affinities with the Shin teachings–which can certainly provide some profound insight into their own traditions. While it is true that students and practitioners of all Buddhist traditions will find many similarities, it may be the unique qualities of the Pure Land teachings, when compared to other traditions, that offer some of the more profound insights.

The Buddha Blog

It is a short book and can be read in one sitting but don't let that fool you into thinking that it's not full of great wisdom. It is frankly wonderful how much wisdom and unique insights Monshu offers in this thin but enriching monogram.

Robert Thurman (from the introduction)

To read The Buddha’s Wish for the World is to feel enfolded within that wish, which the author so deeply feels to be expressed in the vision of the original compassionate vow of the bodhisattva Dharmakara, who eventually became the Infinite Light Amitabha Buddha.


Shin Buddhism

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Thurman on the Teachings of Buddhism

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Buddha Cat

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Social Networking and Buddhism

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Obama Buddha

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Dharma Realm

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Uma's Dad

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First Experience in a Jodo Shinshu Temple

In the Editor's Blog, we are on the lookout for interesting posts and articles. This posting came the blog, GODZ. The aim of this blog is to write about different religious experiences in various churches, mosques or temples. In this post, they attend a Buddhist temple. The article begins by being quite skeptical of Buddhism as a current trend.

As the sensei said in temple, your practice should be whatever floats your boat, but I'm talking about the kind of yogi who spends 400$ on a new meditation cushion or yoga mat and another 1,500 dollars on their yoga clothes.

After attending the temple, they have these observations after attending their first Jodo Shinshu service.

The sensei seemed real, honest, intelligent and content. It did not bother him that the folding chairs were only 1/5th full. I got the sense that he might actually have some inner peace.

The writer seemed to lump Buddhism with the "new age" movement. Buddhism is not new age. Jodo Shinshu is not new age. It is old age. It has a rich history. The writer seems to understand and appreciate this knowledge in the end.

Visitors from around the World

We relaunched the Manitoba Buddhist Temple web site at the beginning of 2007. In just two months, we have had over 1,000 visitors to our site from all over the world.

In the next phase of this web site, we hope to introduce more people to the Jodo Shinshu sect of Buddhism. This will be a place for the editors of this web site to share their thoughts, web sites, and recent news of the world.