Tag Archives: buddhists


tomorrow is the international day of peace. to that aim, here’s a video of an interview between ram dass and thich nhat hanh – i’ve actually showed it before but i just have to present it again, it’s so important.

want some more peace talk? on this blog, there are 128 posts with the word “peace” in it. a few of them:

nagasaki: taking refuge in peace
international day of peace
thanksgiving, peace, metta
twitter peace, shalom, salaam and the salvation army
peaceful communication: problems and solutions
sunday inspiration: peace for afghanistan
organizational leadership, empowerment and sustainable peace
peace, conflict and chaos

buddhist carnival – april 2010

it’s been two years now, i think, that i’ve been starting the buddhist carnival with a poem. this one i found when i was rooting around the buddhasphere in connection with the post on mice, death and neuroticism. when i first found the poem, i didn’t really want to post it. it starts like this

meditation on death

like a flame blown out by the wind,
this life-continuum goes to destruction;
recognizing one’s similarities to others,
one should develop mindfulness of death.

just as people who have achieved
great success in the world have died,
so too i must certainly die.
death is harassing me.

death always comes along
together with birth,
searching for an opportunity,
like a murderer out to kill.

(the rest is here)

so why didn’t i want to post it? because it seemed so … morbid. “death is harassing me”, “like a murderer out to kill,” etc. not beautiful. not accepting. such crass language.

fortunately, i woke up from this disney dream. much of death is ugly, unacceptable and crass. prettying it up with songs of hosanna and pink ribbons wouldn’t be very buddhist, would it?

to illustrate the idea of death, why don’t we go to the worst horse. this is a camera.

so what’s the deal here? well, this item is one of the most recent pinhole cameras ” yes, it works ” by the artist wayne martin belger. as belger explains, the camera is “named ‘yama,’ [after] the tibetan god of death. in tibetan buddhism, yama will see all of life and karma is the ‘judge’ that keeps the balance. the skull was blessed by a tibetan lama for its current journey and i’m working with a tibetan legal organization that is sending me to the refugee cities in india.”

cleaning house

let’s stay with a bit of harshness here. “it is important to clean house”, says marguerite manteau-rao, “and keep on purifying one’s mind through unbroken mindfulness. just as critical is surrounding oneself with good people, starting with one’s most inner circle. this is an aspect of practice that often does not get enough attention.” she then goes on to quote from the kesi sutta from the pali canon

“if a tamable horse does not submit either to a mild training or to a harsh training or to a mild and harsh training, lord, then i kill it. why is that? [i think:] ‘don’t let this be a disgrace to my lineage of teachers.’ but the blessed one, lord, is the unexcelled trainer of tamable people. how do you train a tamable person?”

what do you do with untamable people? do you kill them?

dying completely

the barking unicorn is someone who i have come to like (and sometimes dread) because i often feel he’d like to tame me 🙂 while i sorely dislike people’s attempts at taming me (why do you think i dropped out of grade 9, never to return to high school?) i must admit that i’ve benefitted a lot from the barking unicorn’s words. for example, when i went to germany and needed to deal with my pretty intense fear of flying, i decided to build my own in-flight magazine, studded with online writings that i knew would keep my attention. one of them was the barking unicorn’s article about the unicorn and the goddess. it truly brought me grace – and it’s also in line with this whole idea of death that we seem to be pursuing right now. here is a teaser.

“dancers die completely… when a dancer dances she ceases to exist, annihilated utterly as if she had never been.”

a dancer’s ego is what dies and ceases to exist. the ego is that which considers itself an “i” separate from everything else. the ego is your delusion that you are you and the rest of the universe is not you. ….
the ego is the final, tallest, thickest barrier to enlightenment. when the ego dies and ceases to exist, one enters the state of being enlightened, of realizing that there is no “i” and no “you”, no “here” or “out there”. there is no dancer, no illusion of an “i”. there is only all in one. the dancer ceases to occupy a place in existence, and the goddess fills her place.

although her ego dies, a dancer persists as the vehicle she drives – a fleshly body with perceptions of sensation, experiencing things. when she is dancing – enlightened – a dancer experiences bliss – a quiet, serene state of contentment with things just the way they are. …

“let go over a cliff, die completely, and then come back to life – after that you cannot be deceived.”

enlightenment changes an aspect permanently, even though that aspect may be reborn into samsara again (“get a new vehicle,” in that metaphor). this change, this difference from those who have yet to “die completely,” is the goddess kiss to which i refer. it is the indelible mark of one who has been “made more than mortal forever.”

to dance is to be out of yourself. larger, more beautiful, more powerful.
this is power, it is glory on earth and it is yours for the taking. ~ agnes de mille

from dying to awakening and knowing: words

jayarava has a very interesting post about linguistics, discussing the word “knowing” in various languages. for example

there is [an] important sanskrit verb √budh ‘to perceive, notice, understand, to awake’. from this word we get the important buddhist technical terms buddha ‘awoken, understood’ and bodhi ‘awakening, understanding’. we also get the verbal noun buddhi ‘intelligence, reason, mind’. the only trace of this word in english is in the word ‘bid’, as in “do as i bid you” which is related to the causative form bodhaya- ‘to inform’ via the anglo-saxon bÄ“odan ‘command’.

words for buddhism, and for christians

for decades i have harbored an interest in buddhism, however i would quickly become so confused when confronted with all the different kinds of buddhism and words that were so foreign to me that my head would spin and i would simply give up. finally, i decided i was going to stick with it ……. and now i see that the very confusion i had experienced is probably similar to what someone who grows up in a non-christian culture would experience when learning about christianity. within christianity there is more than the catholics (and all of their “varieties”) and the mainline protestants (with their own different sub groups) but all the small community-based, storefront churches as well. what is a buddhist, a muslim, a hindu to do when confronted with all this?

so it has been with me as i learned about theraveda, mahayana, zen, tibetan, pure land, vajrayana, etc. once i began to at least attain a basic understanding, the next question began to arise …. so which one should i study and/or follow?? in fact, i hear this question quite often among those who are searching for a path.

here is my reflection on this question ….. first, i asked myself, how did i choose to become catholic? well, i didn’t really, now did i. it was a decision that was made for me by by parents, my family, my cultural and national heritage. hmmm …well, my parents or my family are not going to be making this decision for me. i am not aware of an english or polish tradition of buddhism, so i have no cultural group to return to ….. and i certainly don’t want to choose the wrong buddhism to learn about ………… after all, i already have 50 years into this catholicism, i am not so sure i am going to have another 50 years to develop my understanding of buddhism, so i had better get it right!!! (maybe, if i am lucky, in my next rebirth i will be born into the right one!!!)

here is how i have answered this question for myself …. i have decided to simply pay attention to where i am.

this – and more – is from a buddhist catholic.

buddhists, christians and social media

continuing in the vein of buddhism and christianity, here is something that attracted me first because of the title – why do we need a buddhist social network – but ended up interesting me more because it offers yet another angle on the question of whether buddhism, at least here in north america, is more of a religion or more of a (sometimes neutral?) common ground.

i was thinking about exactly how the buddhist community here in columbus is different than the christian communities in which i grew up. in the christian faith- and in most others as well- you find a good church, and then you keep going to that church exclusively. every once in a while there might be an event with multiple churches, but for the most part people either stay put or they stop going altogether, especially if other family members attend a particular branch.

in the buddhist community however, there is a tremendous amount of sangha-hopping. in fact, buddhist sanghas tend to be more of a ‘family’ set-up, where each person has an immediate sangha and an extended sangha who are often times scattered all over the world. while large traditions often sponsor the opening of large, beautiful new temples, these are not representative of the number of people that might actually practice their tradition alone, even amongst their own regulars.

the second major difference is that americans frequently attend retreats and dhamma talks held by monastics regardless of their tradition (with the exception of people who belong to ethnically close-knit buddhist communities). this is tantamount to catholics going to southern baptist revivals to ‘broaden their experience’. both are christian- but how much do they really mix? on the other hand, one of my dear friends is a japanese nichiren buddhist with whom i have gone to a variety of buddhist events all over town- even the tibetan temple downtown. this is unusual when you compare buddhism to other faiths- but then, buddhism tends to defy these concepts (and all concepts as a rule).

buddhist concepts, reiki concepts

let’s end with a rather longish treatise on the question of whether reiki has a buddhist origin, by oliver klatt, reiki master and editor of the german-language reiki magazin. i have to admit that i did not read through the whole article; i’m including it here because sometimes reiki gets all cute and new agey on us, and i find it refreshing when someone takes a more sober in thorough approach to investigating things.

we often read today that the usui system of reiki has a buddhist origin or that the spiritual roots of the system are in buddhism … taking a closer look at the spiritually significant elements of the usui system as the first step [i] examine them to determine if they have a special proximity to buddhism. then, in a second step, it appears reasonable to examine the spiritual orientation of the usui system as a whole and to also scrutinize it for a special closeness to buddhism. it appears to make sense for both steps to also examine a possible proximity of the usui system with the other major spiritual traditions and religions of the world. if it turns out that the usui system actually does have a close proximity to buddhism but is also close to the other religions and spiritual traditions, then we cannot claim that the system has a “special close relationship” with buddhism … in summary, no special relationship between the usui system of reiki and buddhism is discernible; in any case, no closer proximity than it also has to other religions or spiritual traditions.

buddhist carnival, the first in 2010

it’s january 15, and time to serve up this month’s buddhist carnival, a selection of posts from the buddhasphere.  here is this month’s poem:

a first kensho

when things abruptly shift
like part of the body misaligned by a sharp move
when the house goes, or the he or she,
any room at once gets a new look
and old familiar chairs are instantly antique
a trip to the kitchen strewn with the rubble of routine.
what’s left when things get quiet, the certainties leave?
the reality of ‘you’ and what to do with that.

and because i like poems so much, let’s have another one.  here is an excerpt from one of my twitter friend dirk johnson’s creations.

all acts are sweepstakes.

the odds are against you.
there’s nothing to win
or to lose. the ruse of what

you credit with possibility
is zeros and ones on the fed
computer, a tally of your failures

and triumphs, hills and valleys, spills
on your bicycle ride from a pub.
you could enter a precious moment,

watch rain drops gather at the tip
of an oak leaf and tremble
at their certain fall. but this

is no more real than the bare
bulb a silk moth flings itself against
and pings off of again and again.

isn’t it beautiful?    don’t you want to read the rest?

redemption, forgiveness and tiger woods
earlier this month, there was a bit of a flurry in the buddhasphere as a result of a discussion of forgiveness and redemption, inspired by tiger wood’s story.  brit hume of FOX news had made some curious comments on the subject:  “he is said to be a buddhist. i don’t think that faith offers the kind of forgiveness and redemption that is offered by the christian faith. my message to tiger would be, ‘tiger, turn to the christian faith and you can make a total recovery and be a great example to the world.

those words provoked a letter-writing campaign by buddhists, started by the reformed buddhistthe examiner took this opportunity to examine what is directly related to buddhist philosophy in regards to the terms ‘forgiveness’ and ‘redemption’.

redemption means the settling of a debt, whether of monetary or spiritual value. this concept is indeed meaningless in buddhism. there is no debt, no sin, no accounts to be settled. however, there is the concept of ‘merit’, which is the accumulation of good karma through positive acts. it is sometimes described as if you are swimming in a lake, and there is a current following you with either positive or negative effects- most often, a mix of the two unless you have been consciously and deliberately creating a more positive (or negative) flow. but still, there is no ‘debt’ or balance to be maintained. you can have an effect on future events by acting in the present moment, but there is no way to ‘make up for’ or absolve yourself. the consequences of past events are unavoidable, period, including the consequences of being born human- old age, sickness, and death. it happened to the buddha, it happens to everything- people, religions, nations, planets.

forgiveness is another matter entirely.

more here.

buddhist magazines: racist?
john pappas over at the elephant journal has a great article on popular buddhist magazines.  of tricyle he says that it has

more glossy advertisements for crap then cosmo. “do you need a new zafu? new malas? what does your mala say about your practice? perhaps a brand new meditation timer is what you need? big wallet, then big mind©®â„¢ is for you!”

yup, i have to agree with that one.  then he goes on to shambala sun

one major snag is that shambhala sun tends towards the “self-help” buddhist revolution. this is not a revolution that i have any quams with but i have no interest in reading about how buddhism will help me “overcome shyness” or how to get through a “mindful divorce”. if that is your bag, then great! roll with it. i’m just not that interested. if i want to better myself, i like to go closer to the source.

shambhala sun publication’s strength lies with its blog.

but here’s the interesting part, one that has always made me a bit uncomfortable:

there is one huge glaring problem with these publications though – the lack of inclusion of asian practitioners (as well as any minority) in the ranks of their staff-writers and advisors of these magazines. they all do a horrible job of this. for a detailed description of this go over to the angry asian buddhist. arun has spent plenty of time on these issues and can present it with more passion that i can. just a brief view at any of these magazine will show you that asians are not well presented. arun even did a graph! it is sweet.

this says one thing to readers ~ western buddhism is for whites and is white dominated.

and in a more than superficially obvious connection, the renegade buddha declares i am not a western buddhist.  “sometimes,” he says, “being religious means wearing funny hats.”  or sitting on top-of-the-line zafus.  same thing.

the good man william harryman at integral options has a series of talks by the dalai lama here http://integral-options.blogspot.com/2009/12/all-in-mind-dialogue-with-dalai-lama_19.html.  this is part 3, where the dalai lama joins the founder of positive psychology, martin seligman, and buddhist scholar alan wallace to consider what it takes to flourish “…really flourish… individually and collectively.”

irreverence is next to godliness
finally, a few days ago, i discovered jack zen.  on his blog with clean, open lines, he writes a short post here, a few words there.  like seeing things as they are:

i had a conversation recently with gabriella gupta who suggests that irreverence is next to godliness. it’s certainly in line with the buddhist admonition that “when you meet the buddha on the road, kill him.” as severe as it sounds, it’s simply a reminder that we hold no idolatrous images of reality, instead simply seeing it as it is. when we simply see things as they are, we don’t need reverence to see the beauty of the infinite. we don’t need to pitch tents to preserve the eternal.

image by boeke

blog action day: buddhists and climate change

once again, blog action day and the october buddhist carnival fall on the same date. let me present to you, then, a few colourful strands from that corner of the blogosphere where buddhism and climate change intersect.

icebergs are buddhist monks
we always start that buddhist carnival with a poem. here is an excerpt from yann martel’s long poem that was part of guy laliberte’s poetic social mission which he broadcast from space. it features a water drop speaking:

icebergs are buddhist monks i send forth,
released into the world from the great monasteries of the poles.
their mantra is the blue light humming within their frozen cores.
their message is peace and oneness,
but alas they simply vanish.
every year monks leave me and never return.

read the rest here.

how much impact?
one of the criticisms that guy laliberte received was that he frivolously spent millions on his space trip, money that could have been spent much more wisely down on earth. the next article is in a similar vein. one city is one of beliefnet’s buddhist blogs. the next post is a discussion of colin beavan’s no impact man. paul griffin, the author of this blog entry, mentions another review of the book by elizabeth kolbert

kolbert, a seasoned environmental reporter (her 2006 three-part series “the climate of man” was terrific), sharply criticizes beavan’s project, calling it a “stunt” and “shtick.” she compares beavan’s book, along with alisa smith and james mackinnon’s “plenty: eating locally on the 100 mile diet” and vanessa farquharson’s “sleeping naked is green: how an eco-cynic unplugged her fridge, sold her car, and found love in 266 days,” to thoreau’s “walden.” she claims that all of these books, thoreau’s included, are mere stunts.

griffin uses this criticism to muse on the perhaps false dichotomy between personal and political activism. is the no impact man, who spent a year leaving as small of an ecological footprint as possible just middle-class cute? or does his influence reach deeper? it’s a question that most of us bleeding-heart-do-gooders often ask ourselves. i don’t think there is an easy answer bit i also think it’s an important question to revisit once in a while.

buddhist declaration on climate change – walking the noble eightfold path
towards froglessness discusses the buddhist declaration on climate change and points out how the noble eightfold path lays out ways in which it can be walked in an environmentally conscious way, for example

right mindfulness – we have a responsibility to use the world’s resources carefully, with gratitude, and to share examples of good practice

right concentration – we have a responsibility to focus on the issues at the heart of our modern malaise, both spiritual and material

who is nature?
andre from belarus – it’s nice to have a voice from outside north america – gives a general overview over a buddhist answer to the climate challenge, citing thich nhat hanh:

we classify other animals and living beings as nature, acting as if we ourselves are not part of it. then we pose the question ”how should we deal with nature?” we should deal with nature the way we should deal with ourselves; we should not harm nature… human beings and nature are inseparable.

the vancouver buddhist fellowship, a socially engaged local group, also talks about nonduality – the nonduality of ecology and economy, pointing out that

what motivates our economic system is the drive to use anything and everything (now “natural resources,” including “human resources”) to create something that is really nothing. we don’t usually notice the absurdity of this because we are preoccupied with the more and more that the system produces. the fact that so many of us already have more than we need is addressed by manipulating our awareness, in increasingly sophisticated ways, so that we always want something else that we don’t yet have. it’s always the next _______ (fill in the blank) that will satisfy us.

max frisch said that technology is the knack of arranging the world that we don’t have to experience it. that’s why modern technologies fit so well with consumer capitalism, which works to transform the whole biosphere into consumer goods. together they are making mother earth into a gigantic walmart.

paul gilding at ecobuddhism, on the other hand, talks about duality – the crazy-making experience of looking at what science seems to clearly indicate on the one hand, and what happens in many boardrooms on the other hand:

it is very clear when you listen to these scientists and read their peer-reviewed reports that, on any calm and rational analysis, we should be preparing for a carbon reduction war. yes, a war – with all that implies about focus, effort and sacrifice. the threat posed is, after all, a “clear and present danger” and the response should be strong, global and immediate. this should be a ‘whatever it takes’ moment.

then i shift into the parallel universe. i spend time in corporate boardrooms and listen to the analysis of business executives who explain how we mustn’t damage the economy by “over-reacting”. they explain their concern about protecting jobs and economic growth, how we must not jeopardise “our” (insert india, china, south africa, USA, australia etc) national competitiveness by acting “early” because, after all, without a global solution what difference will our actions make anyway?

(thanks for reminding me of this blog, george!)

the himalayas, part 1

apa sherpa , the world record holder for mt. everest ascents, has once again scaled the world’s tallest peak, but this time as a member of WWF nepal’s climate for life project.

apa reached the summit on the 21st of may as part of a ten person team, six of whom made it to the top. the idea behind this project was twofold. one to highlight climate change and place a holy bhumpa at the peak personally blessed by the venerable rinpoche of tengboche (buddhist spiritual leader). (the bhumpa is an eight-inch tall copper-made sacred vase which contains 400 elements including precious metals, buddhist relics, shreds of robes worn by venerated monks, holy water and soil, among other things).

the rest of the article is here http://cycleforchange.wordpress.com/2009/05/25/climate-for-lifes-apa-sherpa-reaches-the-peak-of-everest-for-the-19th-time/

the himalayas, part 2

[in december of 2008,] high up in leh, ladakh, one of the most remote and mountainous areas of india, over 1,500 people gathered for a beautiful display of their concern for climate change and their call for a world returned to less than 350 ppm co2.

ladakh, like more and more places around the globe, is already facing real challenges in face of climate change ” unpredictable weather, floods, and the prospects of diminished water supply from glacial melt. all this and more, is reason enough for the people of ladakh to stand up and call for bold action around the world as they did today.

a bit more wisdom, please
the wisdom quarterly american buddhist journal features a number of articles on climate change. while they are interesting (for example, an article on climate change in canada’s nunavut, formerly known as northwest territories, and another article on how climate change nurtures the growth of diseases) they are reprints from news services, not original articles. it would be interesting to have a commentary on the wisdom quarterly’s buddhist views of these world events (i’m thinking of the good work alexander does in this area with his commentaries from a baha’i view.)


what do you/i/we take from all this? nonduality and duality; the personal and the political; water and ice; mountains, higher than most can imagine, and stuffy, air-conditioned boardrooms. what would buddha do? what IS buddha doing?

october buddhist carnival – about poverty

blog action day - poverty

the first part of the october buddhist carnival is entirely dedicated to the topic of blog action day 2008:


longing for the begging bowl
as usual, we start with a poem. here is a translation from malayalam into in english by k p pradesh – a poem by koyamparambath satchidanandan

buddha, this earth is burning
not by lust but by hunger.
they don’t need salvation,
they are already nothing.
tongues dry up not for
want of wisdom
and the bellies burn not for
want of meditation.
it is not your lips
bursting into philosophy
that they watch, but they
stare, longingly at the
begging bowl your fingers hold…
go and beat the drum of
the weak’s awakening,
retrieve your bread, your power.

this poem can be found among numerous others in this very interesting post about poetry written in the malayalam language, one of the many languages spoken in india.

a school for untouchables
still in india, we find this:

located on the outskirts of varanasi is a small and simple school ” buddha’s smile school. the space for the students is very restricted, and classrooms are of only 3 walls and a roof.in a confined area. less than 200 m2. 220 untouchables carry of their daily studies. they sit on small benches, and share tables with at least 4 others. the classes are from the 1st grade to 5th grade. they share their classes with at least 20 other students, and as previously mentioned not a lot of space… to even stretch your legs.

go here for the remainder of the article.

a buddhist school in africa

the amitofo charity association is a taiwanese based buddhist charity organization. our primary goal is to build orphanages to care for and educate orphans in all 53 african nations. although we will be funded mainly by far eastern buddhists and well as overseas chinese buddhists, we will also raise funds in south africa and other western countries.

one of their stated goals is to assist, care for and educate children and teenagers in great need – especially orphans in africa. they are part of pure land buddhism, a school of buddhism centered around chanting the name of amida buddha.

here is more about the amitofo charity association.

defining poverty
eden maxwell looks at various definitions of poverty, for example

[a] definition of poverty when arrived at through mindfulness might also describe an itinerant yet content sadhu (holy man) who has peered through the veil and weight of possessions, denies himself nothing, knowing that he takes everything of value with him as karma.

60 million americans live on less than $7 a day
conscious capitalism asks, “can we as conscious citizens and engaged buddhists create our collective future mindfully?” and talks of a social experiment with a conscious shift to create an abundant yet sustainable human-scale economy, a global culture of peace, partnership, genuine free market, and unlimited potential for conscious living and right livelihood. in this article, a times article is cited which states that

the bottom fifth of all taxpayers average reported income was only $5,743 each. because the IRS includes a single individual or a married couple in its definition of a “taxpayer” the poorest 26 million taxpayers account for the equivalent nearly 48 million adults and about 12 million dependent children. according to the times analysis, this means the poorest 60 million americans have reported incomes of less than $7 a day! it is often noted that 3 billion of the world’s poorest people live on less than $2 a day. in the US, where the cost of living is far higher, $7 a day is only enough to guarantee a life of destitution.

more here.

the bottom billion
one of my buddhist blogging friends, william from integral options, shows a TED video. paul collier talks about 4 ways to improve the lives of the “bottom billion”. as noted on the oxford university press web site:

global poverty, paul collier points out, is actually falling quite rapidly for about eighty percent of the world. the real crisis lies in a group of about 50 failing states, the bottom billion, whose problems defy traditional approaches to alleviating poverty.
in the bottom billion , collier contends that these fifty failed states pose the central challenge of the developing world in the twenty-first century. the book shines a much needed light on this group of small nations, largely unnoticed by the industrialized west, that are dropping further and further behind the majority of the world’s people.

here’s the link to the bottom billion video.

religions unite for food
people from christian, muslim, jewish, buddhist, and sikh backgrounds gather with jim morris, former executive director of the UN world food program, to create the interfaith hunger initiative.

we often think that people who are hungry must be different from the rest of us. our religious traditions teach us that all people, rich or poor, are created in the image of god. by neglecting the poor, by turning our backs on the hungry, we turn our backs on god. there is no difference between them and us. every person who lives in poverty impoverishes us all because we share a common humanity.

read more about the interfaith hunger initiative here.

more poetry
here is a fantastic collection of poems and personal accounts of poverty. it is presented

to promote an understanding of its very real effects on human lives. our hope is it develop a greater sensitivity to the tragedy, the challenges, and the urgency of poverty.

the works collected here are from writers and poets of many cultures and many eras. some emphasize the tragedy of poverty in striking the most vulnerable of society. some describe long-perpetrated social and political injustices as contributors to poverty. others write that poverty is a noble existence which shows the human potential for strength and spirituality in the face of hardship.

please help them add further insights and works to this collection and send them citations for additional writings at povertynet@worldbank.org.

the post includes thich nhat hanh’s “peace is every step”:

before each meal, we can join our palms in mindfulness and think about the children who do not have enough to eat. doing so will help us maintain mindfulness of our good fortune, and perhaps one day we will find ways to do something to help change the system of injustice that exists in the world.

that’s it for part 1 of this month’s buddhist carnival. part 2 will appear some time by october 22. if you have any submissions for next month’s carnival (november 15), please send them to me here, or, if you have a hard time connecting to blog carnival, drop me a line.

blog action day 2008 - changing the conversation about poverty

heroes of healing: thich nhat hanh

this is my contribution to jennifer mannion’s heroes of healing project. it’s a project where bloggers write about people who put helping others ahead of whatever might come in the way. the people on this list have gone against the norm and had to put mainstream thinking aside to get their message across. they have all faced criticism, some of them persecution but it did not stop them from pursuing their important work because they knew they were helping many in the process.

my contribution is about thich nhat hanh.

zen monk thich nhat hanh

thich nhat hanh, a zen master and human rights activist, was born in vietnam in 1926. he became a monk at 16. in the throes of the vietnam war, he chose to combine contemplation and activism, thus helping in founding the movement of “engaged buddhism”. among other things, and despite opposition on the part of the vietnamese government, thich nhat hanh founded a buddhist university, a publishing house, and an influential peace activist magazine in vietnam. after visiting the U.S. and europe in 1966 on a peace mission, he was banned from returning to vietnam. he may have changed the course of U.S. history when he persuaded martin luther king, jr. to oppose the vietnam war publicly. later, thich nhat hanh led the buddhist delegation to the paris peace talks.

in 1982 he founded plum village, a buddhist community in exile in france, where he continues his work to alleviate suffering of refugees, boat people, political prisoners, and hungry families in vietnam and throughout the third world. in september 2001, shortly after the world trade center attacks, thich nhat hanh addressed the issues of non-violence and forgiveness in a memorable speech.

thich nhat hanh has published over 80 titles of poems, prose, and prayers. one of my favourites is the miracle of mindfulness.

through mindfulness, we can learn to live in the present moment instead of in the past and in the future. dwelling in the present moment is the only way to truly develop peace, both in one’s self and in the world.

this is the central teaching of thich nhat hanh.

a video
this is part of a series of interviews with ram dass:what have i learned from thich nhat hanh?
i have learned so much from him. “the miracle of mindfulness” was the first buddhist book i ever bought. one of the things he talks about there is bringing mindfulness to washing the dishes. the image of lovingly washing a cup, with full attention, being aware of all that happens, has been one of my mental metaphors for zen buddhism ever since.

breathing in, the sensation of the cup’s shape and texture. breathing out, the light glinting off the running water. breathing in, the sounds of the dishes clinking against the sink. breathing out, the warmth of the water, juxtaposed against the air that feels cold on the exposed wet skin. breathing in, the smell of the dish soap. breathing out, compassion for my straying thoughts.


image by pixiduc

(this post appeared in the amazing visions blog carnival)

a buddhist carnival

let’s start a buddhist carnival!

blog carnivals, as many of you know, are readers’ digests of blog posts on specific topics. if you’ve been to this blog before, you probably know that this blog here hosts the carnival of eating disorders, and occasionally guest hosts the carnival of healing.

apparently i can’t get enough of this, so i’m starting a buddhist carnival, to appear every 15th of the month, starting november 15. it’ll feature articles, stories, images, poems and all sorts of things related to buddhism of all stripes.

blog carnivals are community efforts, so if you want to host one, let me know. in the meantime, please feel free to submit your articles.

bloggers for burma

Free Burma!

today is a day when worldwide, bloggers blog about burma.

it’s also a day that is so busy that normally, i’d forgo a post. but this is important.

i’ll just leave you with one impression. this event in burma appears to me a manifestation of the old, tragic fight between good and evil, on a scale and with a clarity that i have not seen in a long time.

monks, trained to forgo the ego and live in compassion, are being killed by a regime that is self-serving and brutal. for now, it looks like the regime is winning. but it can’t. just as a monk will not cease to be a monk because he has been derobed, this movement, and any and all movements for peace and freedom, cannot be quashed by killings and imprisonment.

the paradox: it is a fight of good versus evil, and in buddhism, at least at its deepest level, such dualism does not exist.

perhaps it is the ability to consciously live in this paradox that helps forgo the ego, live in compassion, and survive death.


(you’ll notice that this blog looks different than normal. here’s why.)