Video Lecture "An Unfolding Dialogue on Buddhism and Neuropsychology”

Dr. Steve Prime, a Neuro Scientist from the University of Manitoba, stops off in Calgary and Vancouver Buddhist Temples to share his thoughts about Buddhism and Neuro psychology. Some treatment schools use techniques founded on principles similar to the four noble truths.

Dr. Prime talks about the controversial correlation between spiritual practices and neuro cognitive science observations. Empirical studies comparing the brain activity of highly trained meditation practitioners with those who do not meditate including the significant effects of the Nembutsu practice of the Jodo Shinshu tradition of Buddhism amongst many other techniques such as love and kindness meditation. This clip was filmed in the Vancouver Buddhist Temple with the support of the Jodo Shinshu Buddhist Temples of Canada.

Your Brain on Buddhism - an unfolding dialogue on Buddhism and Neuropsychology from Greg Chor on Vimeo.

Dr. Steve Prime is currently at the University of Victoria, Wellington, New Zealand. While working as a CIHR-funded Postdoctorate Research Fellow in Dr. Jonathan Marotta's Perception & Action Lab at the University of Manitoba, Dr. Prime researched the cognitive and cortical processes that underlie perception and sensory-motor coordination. He developed a multi-disciplinary research approach that combines traditional cognitive and psychophysical methods with sophisticated eye tracking technologies, motion capture systems, computational modelling, and an innovative technique called trans-cranial magnetic stimulation (TMS).

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.


Shinran Shonin’s Wish for Us and the World

Earlier this year, the Buddhist Churches of America's celebrated their 750th Memorial Observance of Shinran Shonin San Jose, California. The keynote speaker was Rev. Dr. Kenneth Tanaka of the International Association of Shin Buddhist Studies. His talk was entitled “Shinran Shonin’s Wish for Us and the World: From Inner Peace to Outer Peace”.

In his speech, Rev. Tanaka encourages North American Buddhists to look ahead to the future. He pays tribute to the past, recognizes the good work being done currently and how we should move forward in the future. He also tells us that there is a new spiritual reality growing in America, one that de-emphasizes God, sin, and repentance and emphasizes connectedness, peace, and harmony. This shift favours Buddhism because of its rituals and practises.

Tanaka tells us that we need to be innovative and have a greater emphasis on meditation, chanting, silence and the act of offering incense. He encourages more discussion on the teachings of Jodo Shinshu.

Dr. Tanaka says that Jodo Shinshu congregations must send a message to the general public that our temples are open for business to everyone, all cultural groups and all nationalities. And that the family-based quality of our religion is precious and will serve us well in the future.

He concluded that we can make Shinran's wish for the world come true. Enjoy.


An informal poll was taken last fall at the Manitoba Buddhist Temple. Many people requested an interest in meditation.

While meditation is not a Jodo Shinshu tradition, it has become something that North Americans have shown an interest in practising.

During regular Sunday services, we now sometimes spend a third or more of our service in meditation. It is a good practise to prepare for the ceremony and to listen to the dharma.

As Buddhism evolves in North America, meditating may become a regular practise in the temple. Stay tuned.

In the meantime, here is a segment of the PBS program, "The Buddha" that explores meditation.

The Worst (Horse) is the Best

The Worst Horse is doing some of the best work on the Buddhist blog roll lately (The Worst Horse has been on our blog roll from the beginning).

I have to relay some posts that we found interesting this week following his mention in the Winnipeg Free Press article.

First, the Worst Horse linked us to an interesting article on Slate, titled "You've Come a Long Way, Buddha."

The Slate article refers to two events in the mainstream media this week, that may create an interest in Buddhist teachings. The article asks to consider "With a little help from Tiger Woods and PBS, Buddhism may finally shake its counterculture image."

The second blog post is a fun one from this week's episode of the Simpsons. Watch it before Fox takes it down.

Keep up the great work at The Worst Horse!


In 2008, the Vancouver Buddhist Temple organized a series of lectures featuring ministers from North American temples. The West Coast Jodo Shinshu Buddhist Temples Lecture Series was very well received and thanks to the Living Dharma Centre, some of the talks were recorded.

Another talk by Sensei Bob Oshita of the Buddhist Church of Sacramento was recently uploaded. His presentation was titled "Buddhism for Dummies". Rev. Oshita is an excellent speaker who is able to connect with all audiences.


The Singing Priest

While looking how groups are celebrating Shinran's 750th anniversary, I came across the "Singing Priest". Fukashi Hojo is a singer-songwriter who recently celebrated Shinran's Memorial by holding a concert in honour of our founding father.

Fukashi Hojo is also a practising Jodo Shinshu Minister in Tokyo. In an article posted on his website, Hojo explains how he combines him music with his beliefs, "When you breathe in and absorb the spirit of Buddhism, when we breathe out is the song . It is expressed in music. It is expressed in Buddhism."

While the teachings of Shinran may be influencing the music, listen for signs of Dylan who might have a larger role in Hojo's songs.

Here is an excerpt from a concert was called "Shinran Shonin on My Mind" that took place in Tokyo in 2009 as part of Shinran's 750th Memorial celebrations.


Sensei Ulrich on Discovering Buddhism

The JoyTV program, "Discovering Buddhism" introduced viewers to the teachings of the Buddha. The 18 part, half-hour program was produced in 2009. The main participant was Sensei Fredrich Ulrich of the Manitoba Buddhist Temple.

In this clip, host, Tim Smith asks Sensei Ulrich to explain why some may choose to not think of Buddhism as a religion but more of a teaching.

Rev. Ulrich's rich knowledge of history and art provided viewers with a unique perspective on the historical Buddha. He describes the symbolism in the statues that often represent Amida Buddha.

Check your local TV listings to see when the series will air again. Unfortunately, JoyTV is only seen in B.C. and Manitoba.


Shinran Anime

Concerned that Buddhism is no longer part of everyday life, the Hongwanji Temple in Kyoto sought to reach out to the younger set by coming out with a DVD depicting the life of its founder, Shinran, of Shin Buddhism. The 108-minute Japanese anime DVD, comes with collectible miniature characters, key rings, pens and notes.

Sorry, no English subtitiled version seems to be available yet.

Monshu Koshin Ohtani

Monshu Koshin Ohtani is the spiritual head of Jodo Shinshu Hongwanji-ha in Kyoto, Japan. He is a scholar whose articles have appeared in major magazines for several years, including an interview with the Dalai Lama in 2008 in which they exchanged views of religion in to­day's world.

Jodo Shinshu members in North America have had limited opportunities to read Monshu's messages in English. Now, for Shinran Shonin's 750th Memorial, an English translation of his 2003 book, "Ashita niwa Kogan arite" is available as "The Buddha's Wish for the World." It gives English-speaking Shin Buddhist members a wonderful oppor­tunity to get to know Monshu Ohtani's views on life, family, religion and society.

Here is a brief excerpt from a recent interview with the Monshu, courtesy of the American Buddhist Study Centre:


Groundhog Day

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See us on YouTube

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Not so Happy Birthday!

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Lethbridge Dedication Service

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The Story of India

Worth watching! The landmark six hour, six part mini-series, "The Story of India" is a fantastic journey through the history of India. Michael Wood is your engaging and articulate guide who brings you along on a whirlwind tour of the country and its history.

Especially don't miss episode two, "The Power of Ideas." The series spends some time under the Bodhi Tree telling the story of the Buddha.


A Sense of Community

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Thurman on the Teachings of Buddhism

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Living Peace

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Buddhist Economics

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Buddha Cat

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Buddhism in a Global Age of Technology

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Buddhist Way of Life

Ogui Socho of the Buddhist Churches of America makes a very special appearance on this internet video on the DharmaNet web site. Learn why he chose the Buddhist path and more about his Zen mentor, Shunryu Suzuki Roshi. Also find out why he was "kicked out" of his first temple in the United States and how he eventually overcame that setback to become the Bishop of the Buddhist Churches of America.

The video is a part of an online video series called "The Buddhist Way of Life." In 2005, the Society for the Promotion of Buddhism (Bukkyo Dendo Kyokai) [BDK] initiated a BDK-TV Series shown in Southern California. The weekly 15-minute shows featured interviews and teachings from major American Buddhist followers and teachers. 


The Dali Lama, the Torch and Steve

Steve Varon is a businessman from New York with a vision and a goal of having the Dali Lama carry the Olympic torch during the Beijing Olympics later this year. If you know even the slightest bit about world politics, you know that the concept of the Dali Lama participating in an Olympics being held in China is difficult to conceive.  Yet Steve pushes forward, having obtained the green light from the Dali Lama himself, as well as positive feedback from many world leaders.

What iconic image could say more about world peace than the Dali Lama participating in this event. 
blog excerpt courtesy:

How to Cook Your Life

Filmmaker Doris Dörrie turns her attention to Buddhism and that age-old saying, you are what you eat. In How To Cook Your Life, Dörrie enlists the help of the charismatic Zen Master Edward Espe Brown to explain the guiding principles of Zen Buddhism as they apply to the preparation of food as well as life itself. “How a person goes about dealing with the ingredients for his meals” explains Dörrie “says a lot about him. How To Cook Your Life teaches us to be attentive in our everyday dealings with the most mundane things and also open our eyes to one of the most beautiful occupations: cooking.”

Now playing until February 27 at the Winnipeg Cinematheque Theatre

Shinran and Rennyo on the Amazing Race

This week on the Amazing Race, Jodo Shinshu Buddhists may have recognized two very famous statues. Part of this week's show was to go to the 16th century, Kita-Mido Temple in Osaka, Japan. Both, Shinran Shonin and Rennyo Shonin, make a cameo appearances on prime-time television.

A Zen Life

D.T. Suzuki is often credited with spreading interest in Zen and Shin Buddhism to North America. Interestingly, later in life Suzuki was more inclined to Jodo Shin (True Pure Land) practice on a personal level, seeing in the doctrine of Tariki, or other power as opposed to self power, an abandonment of self that is entirely complementary to Zen practice and yet to his mind even less willful than traditional Zen.

Director Michael Goldberg recently sent us this note about his film, "A Zen Life - D.T. Suzuki." It was one of the films recently shown at the Calgary Buddhist Film Series. The documentary is now for sale:

"A ZEN LIFE - D.T. Suzuki" is a 77-minute documentary about Daisetz Teitaro Suzuki (1870-1966), credited with single-handedly introducing Zen Buddhism to the West.

D.T. Suzuki was highly successful at getting Westerners to appreciate the Japanese mentality, and Japanese to understand Western logic. The effect he had on Western psychoanalysis, philosophy, religious thinking, and the arts was profound. His numerous writings in English and Japanese serve as an inspiration even today. Dr. Suzuki message is all the more important now, in light of contemporary conflicts stemming from divergent ways of thinking.

Gary Snyder calls Dr. Suzuki "probably the most culturally significant Japanese person in international terms, in all of history."

Along with Gary Snyder, there are exclusive interviews of many people, respected in their own right, who knew D.T. Suzuki in person, including Huston Smith, Mihoko Okamura, Dr. Albert Stunkard, Elsie Mitchell,
Robert Aitken, Donald Richie, Wm. Theodore de Bary, and rare footage of Thomas Merton, John Cage, Erich Fromm, and Suzuki himself.

The DVD contains an additional 10-minutes from a hitherto unknown interview of Daisetz Suzuki by Huston Smith. There is also a printed "Supplementary Text" inserted in the case, with quotes from Dr. Suzuki's talks in English never before published.

"A ZEN LIFE - D.T. Suzuki" can be ordered at:

Cafe de Shinran

Looking for quick cup of tea and enlightenment in Tokyo? Why not try a restaurant in the area called “Café de Shinran”. Patrons can enjoy organic food and the temple’s Buddhist atmosphere. By the way, what are those monks drinking?

Tokyo Bouz Collection

Japanese Monks Stage Fashion Show
The fashion show opened with a Buddhist prayer set to a hip-hop beat at the centuries-old Tsukiji Honganji Temple, where nearly 40 monks and nuns from eight major Buddhist sects showed off elaborate robes in an effort to win back believers.

Five monks from each school walked on the runway, then chanted prayers and wrapped up in a grand finale with confetti resembling lotus petals.


Nembutsu Chanting

At the beginning of December, a group from the Buddhist House in Narborough village, just south of the city of Leicester in England gathered for their annual Bodhi Retreat. One of the rituals on this retreat is the wonderful chanting of the "24 Hour Nembutsu". Starting at noon, the group recites the Nembutsu until noon the following day. This was the third year they have held this marathon event.

Here is one person's recollection from the first time the group did it in 2005:

"Its hard to put into words this experience. There is much joy… as one settles into the nembutsu there are periods when everything else falls away; you become a communal act of worship, a coming together of people who share a similar path. The sound of the nembutsu at times almost shimmers around the hall. It is quite beautiful.Then there are times whem bombu nature kicks in. “Why are we doing this… I’m hungry… so-and-so is chanting flat… our team is struggling - why doesn’t someone from the other team swop and help us…. namo amida bu namo amida bu… i’m tired… namo amida bu… namo amida bu….”There’s a whole soap opera going on in one’s head, in each other’s heads and yet it is all held by the communal nembutsu… just as you are, just as it is. There are times when it may feel like the practice is very goal-oriented, about trying to last the whole 24 hours, or as long as one can, and then there are times when you realise that you have completely missed the point, that no one can do this by their own, unaided. That the whole twenty four hours enacts out our dependence; on Amida, on each other. The whole experience is transformed into a collective thank you! "


Shinran Shonin - A Symbol of Peace

On the anniversary of 9-11, we looked for a symbol of peace and harmony. We found this video taken at the New York Buddhist Temple. In such a big and busy city, it is interesting to see Shinran standing there all alone. The statue of Shinran Shonin survived the bombing of HIroshima. It was brought to New York as a symbol of peace. The person who posted it says that children usually leave paper cranes at his feet.

The New York Buddhist Temple is led by Sensei Nakagaki. He has been called upon to lead the lead the Buddhist and interfaith community during the memorials of 9-11.

Sensei Nakagaki and Socho Ogui at the 9-11 ceremony, 2002

Every year, since 9-11, the New York Buddhist Temple has Memorial Floating Lanterns Ceremony. It is an ancient Japanese custom of floating lighted lanterns in waterways. It symbolizes respect for the lives of people who have gone before us (Obon). It is a quiet and serene ceremony that provides a place to reaffirm our commitment to building a peaceful future and to pay respect to the lost lives at the World Trade Center.

9-11 Memorial Floating Lanterns Ceremony in New York

READ MORE about Sensei Nakagaki in this article by the New York Times Magazine.

More from the Simpsons

Another big event this summer was the Simpsons movie. Forget about Homer and Bart, Lisa is the real hero of the Simpsons. She's the heart and soul of the family. She's smart and compassionate. She's a musician, a vegetarian and a Buddhist. Here's more from the Simpsons episode, "She of Little Faith."

More from this episode is posted on an earlier blog page.

Uma's Dad

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A Thousand Winds

Further to Sensei Ulrich's Dharma Talk....

Tenor Masafumi Akikawa originally released this song in May 2006.

"Sen no Kaze ni Natte" has been selling incredibly well since Akikawa's appearance at last year's Kohaku Uta Gassen (New Year's program on NHK TV in Japan). In January, the single became the first by a classical artist to reach #1 on the charts in Japan.

The song's total sales are over 500,000 copies, breaking the record for a single by a classical Japanese artist. Akikawa also holds the records for highest-ranking album and best-selling album by a Japanese vocalist.

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



Toddler's Dance Destroys Monks' Intricate Sand Painting

May 23, 2007 The Kansas City Star

Talk about a test of faith.

Eight Tibetan monks spent two days cross-legged on the floor at Union Station, leaning over to meticulously create an intricate design of colored sand as an expression of their Buddhist faith. They were more than halfway done. And then, within seconds, their work was destroyed by a toddler.

Video from the Associated Press

Monks are bald, so they couldn’t rip their hair out. But were they angry? Did they curse?

John Safran vs God


Into Great Silence

"Exhilarating...abounds in beautiful images..." VARIETY
"Unexpected and exhilarating... ” THE NATION
"One of the best films of the year..." NEW YORK TIMES

Our friends at the Cinematheque Theatre in Winnipeg invite you to see "Into Great Silence". Its the first film ever made chronicling life inside the Grande Chartreuse, one of the world's most ascetic monasteries. Monks dedicate themselves entirely to the service of God and to spiritual life, in complete silence. A filmmaker and his crew live in the monks' quarters for six months. They record their daily prayers, tasks, rituals and rare outdoor excursions. This transcendent, closely observed film seeks to embody a monastery, rather than simply depict one. it has no score, no voiceover and no archival footage. What remains is stunningly elemental, just time, space and light.

Into Great Silence (2006) (164 mins.) By Phillip Groning
June 4-7 at 7:00 PM, Cinematheque Theatre in Winnipeg, Manitoba

Thanks to Calgary

Recently, we were in Calgary for the Buddhist Churches of Canada annual general meeting. One of the changes that came out of that meeting was that the BCC will change its name to the Jodo Shinshu Buddhist Temples of Canada (JSBTC).

The Manitoba Buddhist Temple would like to thank all the organizers and volunteers in Calgary for their work that weekend. They were wonderful hosts and now, good friends.

One of the ideas we heard that interested us, was creating a Buddhist Film Festival. The Calgary Buddhist Temple organized one last year that was a big success. It was held at a public library and included discussions about the films. Would the general public in Winnipeg be interested in an event like this?

Here's an example of an International Buddhist Film Festival in Singapore. I would attend just to see Lisa Simpson on the big screen. In the meantime, here she is on the computer screen.

We would also like to thank Calgary for creating at link on their web site to us. So right back at you, go to the Calgary Buddhist Temple web site for more information on Jodo Shinshu Buddhism in the Calgary area.