Scientists say that meditators may be benefiting from changes in their brains. The researchers report that those who meditated for about 30 minutes a day for eight weeks had measurable changes in gray-matter density in parts of the brain associated with memory, sense of self, empathy and stress.
READ THE FULL ARTICLE IN THE NEW YORK TIMES...
Some recent articles on the web have been connecting the recent hostility towards Muslims, to the prejudice against Japanese-Americans, many of whom were Jodo Shinshu Buddhists, during the Second World War.
Here are some excerpts:
Tricycle Editor's Blog:
Barbara's Buddhism Blog:
University of Michigan professor Scott Kurashige, author of The Shifting Ground of Race, notes a parallel between the hostility toward Japanese-Americans during WWII and hostility toward Muslims in America today. Kurashige notes that in both cases, the United States was attacked on its own soil by a foreign enemy, leaving Americans sharing either the religious beliefs or ethnicity of the attackers the targets of their fellow citizens. In the case of Japanese-Americans, organizations like the Anti-Asiatic Association and the Asian Exclusion Association attempted to designate certain areas off limits to non-whites and protested the building of Buddhist temples and even Japanese Christian churches. Eventually, this threatened to interfere with the US government’s efforts to convince East Asian nations they hoped to align with that this was not a war of race.
Public Radio International interview with Scott Kurashige, University of Michigan
I did a little more digging and learned that Jodo Shinshu priests were arrested by the FBI and imprisoned separately from the internment camps. (Jodo Shinshu is the largest Japanese Pure Land school.) The priests were targeted for arrest because they were community leaders.
I think it actually does bring to mind a number of parallels with what happened to Japanese Americans and Japanese immigrants during World War Two. Just after Pearl Harbor, again the government did arrest anyone they possibly thought could be even a remotely potential threat. In many cases these arrests were unjustified. My grandfather, for instance, had committed no crime. His only act of causing him to be suspicious was to be a Buddhist minister. So, again, roughly 5,000 had already been detained and yet there were so many in American society that felt that was not sufficient. What they wanted was to simply wipe the influence of all Japanese Americans, immigrants who are American born, out of their neighborhoods, out of their cities. And it ultimately led to an extremely irrational case that Japanese were suspected of being threats and saboteurs and fifth columnists.
On June 20, at an informal discussion with over 200 Buddhist priests in Nagano, Japan, His Holiness the Dalai Lama said Japan with its highly developed scientific knowledge combined with its ancient Buddhist tradition can produce Buddhist scientists.
He said Japanese Buddhist practitioners should engage in dialogues with scientists to explore areas where science and religion can find a common ground i understanding universal values like compassion and kindness.
Meditation is a healthy way to develop a calm mind. You don’t have to use injections or drugs to achieve peace of mind,” he said. Interests in Buddhist science, which has little to do with abstract and esoteric notions of religion like after-life, has grown over the past years as scientific findings increasingly point to the inherent connection between physical and emotional well-being, he said.
In the United States, universities of Stanford, Wisconsin, and Emory have already established programs to study the development of a peaceful life. Tibetan monks in India now study modern science in addition to regular Buddhist curriculum. All western scientists interested in Tibetan Buddhism were either Jews, Christians or non-believers, he said, but Japan with its background in Nalanda tradition of Buddhism that emphasizes logic and investigation in reaching the ultimate reality has the potential contribute a lot in such secular dialogues.
According to Ven. Yukai Shimizu, an official with Zenkoji Temple, this exchange of ideas between His Holiness and Japanese priests on Buddhism which was held at the convention hall of Kokusai Hotel is a “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity” because not many Japanese priests get such forums to discuss and debate. “It’s a great opportunity for them to learn from His Holiness,” he said.
READ MORE AT TIBET CUSTOM...
Keep up the great work at The Worst Horse!
Buddha statue at Wat Muang in Angthong, Thailand, for Macha Bucha Day ceremonies.
(DAVID LONGSTREATH / THE ASSOCIATED PRESS ARCHIVE - ACCOMPANYING PHOTO FROM ARTICLE
Here is an excerpt from the article:
Have you heard about the Buddha Bar?
According to an ad in the Free Press, people who patronize Winnipeg's newest drinking establishment can expect to find "chic interiors" and "exotic electronic beats" to go along with the usual cocktail, beer and wine specials.
Winnipeg's Buddha Bar is just one more example of what has come to be called "Dharma Burgers," a phrase made popular by Rod Meade Sperry of the Buddhist pop and culture website The Worst Horse. According to Perry, it refers to "any example of Buddhist ideas or imagery in the marketing or production of (usually non-Buddhist) services and consumables."
How do Buddhists feel about "Dharma Burgers"-- seeing their religion used to sell stuff? I posed that question to Sensei Fredrich Ulrich of the Manitoba Buddhist Temple. "Most Buddhists don't relish them, but seldom take offence," he says.
He did draw the line a few years ago when Victoria's Secret introduced a "Buddha bikini," with an image of a Buddha-like figure on the crotch.
"Using the Buddha to sell erotic garments is a misuse of the Buddha image," Ulrich states.
As for all the other "Dharma Burgers," Ulrich is resigned to seeing more businesses using his religion to make money. "As Buddhism becomes more popular, such things will become more numerous," he says.
READ THE ENTIRE ARTICLE ON THE WINNIPEG FREE PRESS...
READ THE WORST HORSE...
READ SCOTT MITCHELL AND THE BUDDHA IS MY DJ...
There is another event planned for August 15, 2010. CPR and Parks Canada will be designing a memorial monument at Roger's Pass. The 1910 Avalanche Committee wish to have an Obon Service and Bon Odori to be part of the centennial events. Sensei Doctor Leslie Kawamura of Calgary will be in Revelstoke to perform the service.
Should you be planning your holidays around this time, please try to include a trip to Revelstoke and take in this event.
-With information from Roy Inouye
GO TO THE REVELSTOKE TIMES-REVIEW TO SEE A SLIDE SHOW, VIDEO AND ARTICLE OF THE EVENT...
Living in San Francisco, Socho Koshin Ogui is the writer of the popular column “Nyozegamon,” which appears in the Hokubei community newspaper and website.
The English translation for "Nyozegamon" is "I have heard it in this way". This refers to the passing down of stories from generation to generation.
Recent column topics include "Finding Happiness in the Midst of Misfortune" and "Why Does She Say She Has Nothing When She Has Plenty?".
Upon his appointment as Bishop of the the Buddhist Churches of America, Ogui was asked what his goals were as Bishop. Ogui said that his personal goal is to convey the wonderful nature of Buddhist tradition in the U.S. Further adding, "To do this, we must convey the traditions in a manner that is convincing to Americans."
Nyozegamon is a wonderful way of communicating these ideas.
READ BISHOP OGUI'S COLUMNS...
The gong-like sound of a bell called a Kansho reverberates throughout the hondo. The conversations in the room begin to trail off. After a few more strikes and silent pauses, the bell is hit rapidly. The chatter fades to a silence and the only sound left in the room is the lingering ring.The bell stops.Three ministers, all men, are dressed in long black robes. Around their necks, they each have a kesa, tightly folded cloth made from the robes that Buddhist monks traditionally wear. They sit in chairs on the sides of the altar and begin to chant. Their voices together create a drone that engulfs the room.
“It’s a laid back Buddhist. That’s the way I like to say it, laid back Buddhist, because traditional Buddhist you are really trying to improve yourself and you’re working towards your enlightenment. Then as you move in that direction you find out how difficult it is to obtain enlightenment on your own. As you find that out Jodo Shinshu Buddhism then you realize that we all are enlightened. We are all working in that direction. But we do it with the help of the other power which is known as Amida Buddha, which is what our whole shrine is dedicated to. Amida Buddha is not really a person per say, it’s a personification of an ideal or concept which is love, wisdom and passion all rolled into one,” said Rev. Jim.
“That’s what life really is because every time something good happens there is kind something bad is lurking or just happened. The best example of this is when the Buddha was out during a ceremony for planting the crops in the spring when he was a young child or teenager they were ploughing out the fields and this was important to the village, because this provided crops for the rest of the year. They were ploughing the fields and the Buddha noticed you know were getting all this good stuff but there is also bugs and plants and animals dying out there because all the sudden they were exposed. The birds come down and eat the bugs, the lizards jump on the birds and it goes on. So even during this great time and celebration there is this stuff going on that isn’t so good and that’s was it really is. Things aren’t going to be perfect, and the more we want them to be perfect the more frustrated we are going to become. If we just accept things as they are then life kind of makes sense,” said Rev. Joe.
In Buddhism, people who are transformed become selfless and dedicated to serving others. This is what many people felt when they watched the broadcast of Obama giving his somber, determined victory speech in Chicago on election night.
It may seem incredible that a person with such a humble beginning as Obama could have made it this far. Yet, when looking through the lens of Buddhism, it should not come as a surprise. This is a mindful and humble candidate with a deep understanding of dhamma running a thoughtful and honourable campaign, encouraging people to be selfless and join forces to create good karma for the purpose of lifting others out of suffering.
But, it also brings into light, the subject of gay marriage from a Buddhist perspective. Jodo Shinshu Ministers have been performing same-sex marriages for thirty years. Rev. William Briones is the first Mexican-American Jodo Shinshu Minister in America. He is also the person who officiated the marriage of Takei and Altman. He writes in November's BCA newsletter that Amida's Primal Vow does not discriminate.
"Within our teachings of Jodo Shinshu Buddhism, there are no doctrinal grounds that exist the prohibits neutral-gender marriage. Within the compassionate light of the Amida Buddha, all beings are equally embraced."
So what's his secret?
Meditation. This is an excerpt from an article from the UK Times web site:
READ MORE IN THE TIMES...
Woods does not talk much about the fact that he meditates, something he learnt from Kultida, his mother, who is a Buddhist. “In the Buddhist religion you have to work for it yourself, internally, in order to achieve anything in life and set up the next life,” he said. “It is all about what you do, and you get out of life what you put into it. So you are going to have to work your butt off in every aspect of your life. That is one of the things that people see in what I do on the course.”
"Since China wants to join the world community," the 14th Dalai Lama said as I was traveling across Japan with him for a week last November, "the world community has a real responsibility to bring China into the mainstream." The whole world stands to gain, he pointed out, from a peaceful and unified China—not least the 6 million Tibetans in China and Chinese-occupied Tibet. "But," he added, "genuine harmony must come from the heart. It cannot come from the barrel of a gun."
READ MORE FROM TIME MAGAZINE...
Hindus Thrive as Buddhists Struggle to Pass on the Faith
by Andrea Useem, Religion News Service
There is good news, 44 percent of Americans say they're no longer tied to the religious or secular upbringing of their childhood. They've changed religions or denominations, adopted a faith for the first time or abandoned any affiliation altogether which could lead to more people looking into Buddhism as a choice for religious beliefs.
For Buddhists, the data show "convert Buddhist communities face a significant challenge in engaging their children and keeping them in the tradition," said Thomas Tweed, a professor of religious studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Many Buddhist converts "didn't really attempt to bring their children into Buddhism," added Robert Seager, a religious studies professor at Hamilton College in Clinton, N.Y. "They said, `I don't want to lay my trip on my kids."
The Interfaith tour began on Thursday, January 17 at our own Manitoba Buddhist Temple. The turnout was overwhelming. Over 200 people filled the temple to observe how a Buddhist service is performed. The enthusiastic crowd showed a genuine interest by participating in the meditation and chanting exercises.
The series is organized by the Winnipeg Free Press "Faith Columnist", Brenda Suderman. She describes the tour as "prying open our comfort zones, experiencing each other at worship, prayer and other rituals, and learning just a bit more about ourselves and our neighbours in the process." She wrote in her column following the session:
Last Thursday night, more than 150 people packed the 60-year-old Buddhist Church near the Health Sciences Centre for an introduction to Buddhism, the first stop on a six-session interfaith course co-sponsored by the University of Winnipeg and the Manitoba Interfaith Council. That enthusiastic response astounded organizers, and proves to (Sensei) Ulrich that people are convinced of the need for interfaith dialogue and co-operation.
"You're here because there's a grassroots interest in this, it's a lay movement," the former Methodist minister turned Buddhist sensei told the audience during the three hours of chanting, singing, explanations, and questions. "In a pluralistic, multi-faith society, we end up with pluralistic, multi-faith individuals."
CBC Radio and CBCNews.ca are exploring the question "Where is God today?" Commentators, religious thinkers and ordinary Canadians give their thoughts. Among the particpants is our own Sensei Ulrich. He was interviewed about how he came to become a Jodo Shinshu Minister and was featured in a photo slideshow.
LISTEN TO THE CBC REPORT...
WATCH THE SLIDESHOW (Sensei Ulrich is the fourth person presented)...
Tsukiji Hongwanji Temple held an innovative and very extraordinary event called Tokyo Bouz Collection. This event is supposed to introduce Buddhism more casually to today’s people to make them feel that Buddhism is relevant by showing live music which is a mix of sermon and rap, bonzes’ costume display and meditation.
Japanese monks try to promote Buddhism through fashion, rap music
International Herald Tribune
December 15, 2007
In the "Tokyo Bouz (monk) Collection" held at Tsukiji Honganji, nearly 40 monks and nuns from eight major Buddhist sects joined in the event aimed at winning back believers.
Following a rap version of a Buddhist sutra, five monks from each school walked on the runway, then chanted prayers and wrapped up in a grand finale with confetti resembling lotus petals.
"We wanted to show the young people that Buddhism is cool, and temples are not a place just for funerals," said Koji Matsubara, a chief monk at Tsukiji.
More than 1,200 years after it first arrived from mainland Asia, Buddhism in Japan is in crisis, priests say. Almost three-quarters of Japan's population of 120 million are registered as Buddhist, but for many, the only time they enter a temple is to attend a funeral. That has sent many of the country's 75,000 temples into financial trouble.
"Many of us priests share the sense of crisis, and a need to do something to reach out to people," said priest Kosuke Kikkawa, 37, one of the organizers of Saturday's event. "We won't change Buddha's teachings, but perhaps we need a different presentation that can touch the feelings of the people today."
The Tsukiji Honganji offers theological seminars in English for foreign visitors, and has fitted its main hall with a pipe organ for Western-style weddings to attract young couples. Some other temples have also introduced cafes, art galleries and other innovations to reach out to young people who are interested in a different lifestyle.
Japan's aging population has meant more funerals, but the declining population and birth rate means fewer young people to share the bill to keep temples afloat.
Buddhist monks traditionally wear simple black robes. But to appeal to more fashion-conscious youth, the monks wore green and yellow clothes, some with gold embroidery. Others wore elaborate, multilayered robes.
"Their robes were gorgeous," said Sayaka Anma, one of the audience in her 20s, after the monks' show. "I was a bit surprised in the beginning, but it was very moving."
READ MORE FROM THE INTERNATIONAL HERALD TRIBUNE...
The Bombers play the Montreal Alouettes in the East Division semifinal in Winnipeg on Sunday. The exiled Tibetan leader signed the helmet and an official CFL football as he flew to Ottawa two weeks ago.
READ THE ARTICLE IN THE WINNIPEG FREE PRESS...
Over furious objections from China and in the presence of President Bush, Congress on Wednesday bestowed its highest civilian honor on the Dalai Lama, the exiled spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhists whom Beijing considers a troublesome voice of separatism.
READ THE ENTIRE ARTICLE FROM THE NEW YORK TIMES...
As they marched through the streets of Myanmar’s cities last week leading the biggest antigovernment protests in two decades, some barefoot monks held their begging bowls before them. But instead of asking for their daily donations of food, they held the bowls upside down, the black lacquer surfaces reflecting the light. It was a shocking image in the devoutly Buddhist nation. The monks were refusing to receive alms from the military rulers and their families — effectively excommunicating them from the religion that is at the core of Burmese culture. That gesture is a key to understanding the power of the rebellion that shook Myanmar last week.
READ THE ENTIRE ARTICLE FROM THE NEW YORK TIMES...
At our Sunday service today, Sensei Ulrich wanted to discuss the situation in Burma. He wanted to hear our thoughts on religion and politics. Are church and state separate? Sensei told us some of the background on the how monks fit into Buddhist societies. As the monks beg for food in the streets, he described a relationship that evolves between the people, the monks, and the rulers (government). The monks count on the people for food. The people rely on the monks for dharma. The monks listen to the people. The monks become the voice of the people. The government listens to the monks so that they understand what is required of them. Their relationship is a triangle of interdependence and is well explained in the classic "The Buddha" by Trevor Ling (Penquin, 1973).
Unless you have a situation that is corrupt. (See wedding video of multi-million dollar wedding of Thandar Shwe, daughter of Burmese dictator Than Shwe)
The Burmese monks needed to help the people and make a stand. Sensei Ulrich ended our talk by asking us another question, how far we would have to be pushed before we took action?
Show support for the people of Burma.
Bonnie-Blake-Tittaferrante of the Jodo Shinshu Buddhists of Thunder Bay sent us this link to an online petition on Amnesty International web site.
The Buddhist Channel website has created this online petition:
A Petition Campaign for Buddhist Solidarity with the Monks and Nuns of Burma
"Love and kindness must win over everything"
We, the Buddhists of the world, implore the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC, the official name of the military regime of Burma (Myanmar)) to refrain from taking any actions that:
1. Physically harm the Buddhist monks and nuns participating in the protest marches currently taking place in major cities and towns in Burma
2. Infiltrate the protesting groups by pretending to be monks and nuns (via having the head shaven and dressing in monks' robes) and then instigitating violence from within through such pretension
3. Offer poisoned foods as alms (Dana)
4. Arresting and beating up people or persons who offers food and water (dana) to the monks
5. Arresting the protesting monks and treating them like criminals, such as catching the monks by lariats and ropes, tying them up with wires and strapping them onto electrical poles, slapping their cheeks, kicking them with military boots and hitting their heads with rifle butts.
We appeal to the members of the military regime to act in accordance with the sacred Buddha-Dharma, in the spirit of loving-kindness, compassion and non-violence.
We implore the millitary regime to accede to the wishes of the common people of Burma, to establish the conditions for the flowering of justice, democracy and liberty.
We wish to convey our admiration and support to the large number of Buddhists monks and fellow Dharma practitioners for advocating democracy and freedom in Burma, and would like to appeal to all freedom-loving people all over the world to support such non-violent movements.
We pray for the success of this peace movement and the early release of Nobel Peace Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi.
Show your support to the Burmese Sangha!
Please copy and print the above and galvanise a signature campaign within your community. Collect your list of signature and together with the message above, send it to the nearest Burmese Embassy in Ottawa.
Embassy of the Union Of Myanmar
Sandringham Building, 85 Range Road, Suite 902-903, Ottawa, Ontario K1N 8J6
Office hours: (Mon - Fri)
Fax: 00-613- 232-6435
Monks are bald, so they couldn’t rip their hair out. But were they angry? Did they curse?
READ THE ARTICLE AND WATCH THE VIDEO...
The writer goes to the Koganji Temple in Nagato, Japan. He speaks to Buddhist monk, Kensai Matsumura to explain the history of whaling and Buddhism in this fishing village.
This tells a story concerning Shinran Shonin (the founder of the sect). "He was in a fishing village in 1207. A fisherman and his wife approached him and told of their worries, saying 'we live on catching fish and eating them and selling them - would we go to hell after we die?' "And monk Shonin said, 'if you thank them and give proper service to them, praying for the resting in peace of those fish, then there will be no problem at all'. The husband and wife listened and cried with relief on hearing this."
INCENSE drifts through this small school overlooking a white Buddhist temple in Nuuanu. Students and faculty bow their heads before and after class, and misbehaving children must do yoga and meditation as an alternative to suspension. Four years after opening, the Pacific Buddhist Academy, the only Shin Buddhist high school in the country, will graduate its first class Friday. Fourteen seniors will get their diplomas and chant in a ceremony at the Honpa Hongwanji Hawaii Betsuin temple, just steps away from a college preparatory school that taught them as much about math and science as it did about respect, gratitude and peace.