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

Anti-Muslim, Anti-Buddhist

Many are making the proposal to build an Islamic community centre, just a few blocks from the World Trade Centre site into a controversy.

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:

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.

Barbara's Buddhism Blog:

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.

Public Radio International interview with Scott Kurashige, University of Michigan

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.


Not so Happy Birthday!

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Dalai Lama on Barack Obama

The Dalai Lama congratulated US President-elect Barack Obama on his election victory on November 4 with the following letter:


Dear President-elect Obama,
Congratulations on your election as the President of the United States of America.
I am encouraged that the American people have chosen a President who reflects America's diversity and her fundamental ideal that any person can rise up to the highest office in the land.  This is a proud moment for America and one that will be celebrated by many peoples around the world.
The American Presidential elections are always a great source of encouragement to people throughout the world who believe in democracy, freedom and equality of opportunities.
May I also commend the determination and moral courage that you have demonstrated throughout the long campaign, as well as the kind heart and steady hand that you often showed when challenged.  I recall our own telephone conversation this spring and these same essential qualities came through in your concern for the situation in Tibet.
As the President of the United States, you will certainly have great and difficult tasks before you, but also many opportunities to create change in the lives of those millions who continue to struggle for basic human needs.  You must also remember and work for these people, wherever they may be.
With my prayers and good wishes,
Yours sincerely,


One Year Later

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Social Networking and Buddhism

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Obama Buddha

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Buddha’s Teachings Significant in Troubled Times

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Canada Honours Burma's Aung San Suu Kyi

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A Monk's Struggle on the Cover of Time Magazine

"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."

Barack Obama, An Inspiration to the World

As the race for the democratic nomination for President of the United States nears the finish line, here's an interesting take on Barack Obama. The positive values that Obama exemplifies can be compared to many of the teachings of the Dharma. This is why the blogger believes that this is a big reason why he is the inspirational figure that he is today.

Like the Buddha, Barack Obama learned in his early adult years as a community organizer that poverty is the root of much suffering in the world. He saw how poverty seeps into people's lives like a poison that drives people into a life of crime and overall suffering. He understands that to bring people out of poverty is to improve society as a whole. He is known as a uniter, he is quite gifted at being able to bring about compromises that work for all sides involved.


FYI, even Barack Obama's sister, Maya, considers her outlook on life as "Buddhist".

Bush Honours Dalai Lama

October 17, New York Times

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.

What Makes Monks Mad

September 30, 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.


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.

Support the Monks in Burma

Monks’ Protest Is Challenging Burmese Junta
New York Times

BANGKOK, Monday, Sept. 24 — The largest street protests in two decades against Myanmar’s military rulers gained momentum Sunday as thousands of onlookers cheered huge columns of Buddhist monks and shouted support for the detained pro-democracy leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.

Buddhist monks led an protest through Yangon, Myanmar. The Associated Press estimated the crowd to be as large as 100,000 people.

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)
Tel: 00-613-232-6434
Fax: 00-613- 232-6435
E-mail: meott@magma.ca

Dalai Lama to Meet Canadian PM

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper will meet with the Dalai Lama in October. The meeting has Chinese officials very upset. Especially since the meeting will take place on government grounds.

"We are against the provision of venues by foreign countries to the Dalai Lama's secessionist activities and also against foreign dignitaries meeting with him." -Statement by Chinese officials to the Globe and Mail

The Chinese, who have run a behind-the-scenes campaign to prevent a formal meeting between the Tibetan leader and the prime minister, claim that the Dalai Lama is not a mere religious figure. Instead, they argue that he is a political figure who aims to split their country apart.

The Dalai Lama has had positive results recently on the world stage. Last year, U.S. President George W. Bush signed a bill giving the Dalai Lama a Congressional Gold Medal, once again over Chinese objections. More recently, German Chancellor Angela Merkel is scheduled to meet with the Dalai Lama at the chancellery in Berlin in September.

By the way, did you know that the Dalai Lama and George W. Bush have the same birthday (July 6). A good reason not to depend on astrology.

The Dalai Lama is welcomed to the White House by President Bush on September 10, 2003. (White House)

True Compassion

The following is a letter sent to the White House in 2001, stating the feelings of all Higashi Honganji ministers regarding the World Trade Center tragedy and their future American foreign policy.

September 24, 2001

President George W. Bush
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500

Dear Mr. President

The terrorist attacks on New York and Washington D.C. on September 11th have brought tremendous confusion and suffering. We, the followers of Shin Buddhism, express our deepest condolences to the victims, their families and friends. This tragedy reminds all of us how helpless we are in the face of such a catastrophe where only sadness, pain, and anger remain.

However, while we do not accept any act, terrorist or otherwise, in which the dignity of human life is ignored, we cannot condone any retaliatory acts that can lead to war. Such actions will only result in spreading more hatred and violence throughout the world and lead to the suffering of innocent victims. We therefore urge you to seek a course of non-violent action to detain and bring before a world forum of justice, those who may be responsible for the acts of September 11, 2001. We further urge you to seek a way of building bridges of understanding and reconciliation with all those who have harmed us. In addition, we ask that you do everything possible to defend the safety and rights of citizens here in the United States who may be targeted because of their ethnic or religious background.

Six years ago, in June 1995, on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the end of World War II, our Headquarters, Shinshu Otani-ha of Kyoto, Japan, issued an Anti-War Statement which reaffirmed that all followers of our tradition should do our best to work for world peace and walk the same path as all people, regardless of their ethnicity, language, culture, and religion. Buddhism is a religion to free oneself from sufferings, one of which is the attachment to one’s own views and the imposing of it on others. This attachment hinders true dialogue.

The terrorist attacks and the probable American retaliation reconfirm the urgent need for our pledge to be practiced. The primary wish of all humanity, past, present, and future, is to live peacefully in a world free from discrimination. Only through realizing this universal wish, may all human beings be united as one.

It is our fervent hope that America display her greatness by looking deeply into the nature of all suffering and showing true Compassion.


Ministers of Higashi Honganji Buddhist Temples
(North America and Hawaii Districts.)

Free Daw Aung San Suu Kyi

On May 25th, the Burmese military regime extended the house arrest of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi by another year. Aung San Suu Kyi, now aged 61, has been under house arrest since May 2003 after the regime's militia attacked her convoy and killed up to 100 of her supporters.

On October 14, 1991, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi of Myanmar (formerly known as Burma) was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for her nonviolent struggle on behalf of democracy and human rights. Being under house arrest, she was unable to accept the award in person. Her sons accepted it on their mother’s behalf.

As a child, Suu Kyi conquered a fear of the dark by standing alone at night in her family’s rambling lakeside home. Now she has spent the best part of sixteen years confined to it. She battles her isolation with the same single-mindedness, sustained by her faith, Buddhism.

Amnesty International says in its latest annual report that the state of human rights in Burma has worsened. Buddhism is the majority religion in Burma and almost all the rulers claim to be Buddhists, but even Buddhists in Burma have no freedom. The country's current regime is ‘religionless’ and shows no no value to their own people. Buddhist monks have been jailed for protesting against the ruling military government. Security forces have also destroyed or looted Buddhist temples, churches and mosques of other ethnic communities.

The military rulers do not worry about killing Buddhist monks while they claim to adhere to Buddhism. The Burmese authorities have stepped up repressions across the country and there are 1185 political prisoners there. The EU and the USA have imposed sanctions on Burma.

On June 6, the Canadian Parliament reinforced their policy on this issue, "We are very proud to announce that our motion requesting the Burmese Government to release Aung San Suu Kyi from house arrest was passed with the unanimous consent of the House, " said Larry Bagnell, Chairman of Parliamentary Friends of Burma.

Under house arrest, Suu Kyi meditates and memorizes Buddhist sutras. Her speeches and essays include frequent references to Buddhist principles.

REM's Michael Stipe narrates this PSA for Aung San Suu Kyi, the world's only imprisoned Nobel Peace Prize recipient. Produced in association with MTV UK