Category : Buddhism

(Economist) 2 documentaries probe Myanmar’s religious strife between the Rohingya and Buddhists

Though these films neatly complement each other, they are being received rather differently. “The Venerable W.” was shown with pomp at Cannes, while “Sittwe” was banned from the Human Rights Human Dignity International Film Festival in Yangon. This year’s edition was dedicated to Miss Suu Kyi, Myanmar’s de facto leader, with censors deeming the movie “religiously and culturally inappropriate”. Phil Robertson, the deputy director of Human Rights Watch’s Asia division, brands the decision as “ludicrous”. The ban, he explains, reveals the government’s authorities persistent bias against the Rohingya and the reluctance to present them as victims in any capacity. “The Rohingya have been put in a separate, untouchable category by the government, and any real discussion of their situation gets tarred with the same brush.”

“Sittwe” found an audience in Thailand instead. For Lia Sciortino Sumaryono, the director of Southeast Asia Junction, a non-profit organisation which hosted the screenings in Bangkok, the issue is relevant to the whole region. “Extremists movements are increasingly regionalised,” she says, pointing at the several contacts between extremist Buddhist networks in Myanmar, Sri Lanka and Thailand, and those of Islamist groups in the Philippines and Malaysia.

“The Venerable W.” and “Sittwe” offer some insight into a social and religious quagmire. Were the country open to talking meaningfully about relations between Buddhists and Muslims, the films could form part of the discussion. As it is not, acts of violence are likely to continue.

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Posted in Buddhism, History, Movies & Television, Myanmar/Burma, Other Faiths, Religion & Culture, Violence

(WSJ) How to Be a Buddhist in Today’s World

Modern science, up until now, has confined itself to studying phenomena that are material in nature. Scientists largely examine only what can be measured with scientific instruments, limiting the scope of their investigations and their understanding of the universe. Phenomena such as rebirth and the existence of the mind as separate from the brain are beyond the scope of scientific investigation. Some scientists, although they have no proof that these phenomena do not exist, consider them unworthy of consideration. But there is reason for optimism. In recent years, I have met with many open-minded scientists, and we have had mutually beneficial discussions that have highlighted our common points as well as our diverging ideas—expanding the world views of scientists and Buddhists in the process.

Then there is materialism and consumerism. Religion values ethical conduct, which may involve delayed gratification, whereas consumerism directs us toward immediate happiness. Faith traditions stress inner satisfaction and a peaceful mind, while materialism says that happiness comes from external objects. Religious values such as kindness, generosity and honesty get lost in the rush to make more money and have more and “better” possessions. Many people’s minds are confused about what happiness is and how to create its causes.

If you study the Buddha’s teachings, you may find that some of them are in harmony with your views on societal values, science and consumerism—and some of them are not. That is fine. Continue to investigate and reflect on what you discover. In this way, whatever conclusion you reach will be based on reason, not simply on tradition, peer pressure or blind faith.

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Posted in Buddhism, Religion & Culture

(NYT) Is a Buddhist Group Changing China? Or Is China Changing It?

…five years ago, a Buddhist organization from Taiwan called Fo Guang Shan, or Buddha’s Light Mountain, began building a temple in the outskirts of…[Shen Ying’s] city, Yixing. She began attending its meetings and studying its texts — and it changed her life.

She and her husband, a successful businessman, started living more simply. They gave up luxury goods and made donations to support poor children. And before the temple opened last year, she left her convenience store to manage a tea shop near the temple, pledging the proceeds to charity.

Across China, millions of people like Ms. Shen have begun participating in faith-based organizations like Fo Guang Shan. They aim to fill what they see as a moral vacuum left by attacks on traditional values over the past century, especially under Mao, and the nation’s embrace of a cutthroat form of capitalism.

Many want to change their country — to make it more compassionate, more civil and more just. But unlike political dissidents or other activists suppressed by the Communist Party, they hope to change Chinese society through personal piety and by working with the government instead of against it. And for the most part, the authorities have left them alone.

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Posted in Buddhism, China, Religion & Culture

(R+E Report) The near-death experience in Jail of Burma's Anglican Archbishop Stephen Than

Burma is a deeply religious nation””predominantly Buddhist but with big religious and ethnic minorities.

Stephen Than, the Anglican Archbishop is from the minority Karen people. During his lifetime he has faced ethnic discrimination and a crisis of faith. Archbishop Than is the subject of a new biography, Dancing With Angels, by Melbourne Anglican priest Alan Nichols.

Listen to it all (just over 13 minutes).

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Asia, Buddhism, Ethics / Moral Theology, Inter-Faith Relations, Myanmar/Burma, Other Faiths, Pastoral Theology, Prison/Prison Ministry, Religion & Culture, Theology

Six Utah women share their faith journeys

The evening concluded with the story of how Wendy Stovall, an assistant pastor in Utah’s Unification Church, started by Rev. Sun Myung Moon, found her way from Zimbabwe to a London park, where she met a friend from that faith.

Raised as an Anglican, Stovall found little comfort in that tradition after her divorce as a young woman. The Unification Church, she said, held many answers to the theological questions that troubled her. “God,” she said, “was taking a role in my life.”

That view was a common thread in the evening’s tapestry.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Buddhism, Episcopal Church (TEC), Other Churches, Other Faiths, Presbyterian, Religion & Culture, Women

(RNS) Atheists lose fight over ”˜under God’ at Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court

The highest court in Massachusetts upheld the legality of the phrase “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance on Friday (May 9), dealing a blow to atheist groups who challenged the pledge on anti-discrimination grounds.

The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court said the daily, teacher-led recitation of the pledge in state public schools does not violate the state’s equal rights amendment and is not discriminatory against the children of atheists, humanists and other nontheists.

“Participation is entirely voluntary,” the court wrote as a whole in the decision of Doe v. Acton-Boxborough Regional School District, brought by an anonymous humanist family. “(A)ll students are presented with the same options; and one student’s choice not to participate because of a religiously held belief is, as both a practical and a legal matter, indistinguishable from another’s choice to abstain for a wholly different, more mundane, and constitutionally insignificant reason.”

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Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Atheism, Buddhism, Law & Legal Issues, Other Faiths, Religion & Culture, Spirituality/Prayer

(WwM) Sri Lanka’s Christians protest after January attacks

More than 2,000 Christians gathered in Colombo on Sunday (January 26) to protest against a perceived lack of religious freedom in Sri Lanka, following recent attacks on Christian places of worship by Buddhist extremists.

Two churches and a Christian prayer centre were attacked on Jan. 12 by Buddhist mobs claiming they were illegal and aiming to take Buddhists away from their religion.

The prayer centre, belonging to the Church of the Foursquare Gospel in Pitipana, near Colombo, was set alight on the same day as attacks on the Assemblies of God Church and Calvary Free Church in the southern coastal town of Hikkaduwa.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Asia, Buddhism, Inter-Faith Relations, Other Faiths, Religion & Culture, Sri Lanka, Violence

(BBC Magazine) Alan Strathern–Why are Buddhist monks attacking Muslims?

Of all the moral precepts instilled in Buddhist monks the promise not to kill comes first, and the principle of non-violence is arguably more central to Buddhism than any other major religion. So why have monks been using hate speech against Muslims and joining mobs that have left dozens dead?

This is happening in two countries separated by well over 1,000 miles of Indian Ocean – Burma and Sri Lanka. It is puzzling because neither country is facing an Islamist militant threat. Muslims in both places are a generally peaceable and small minority.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Asia, Buddhism, Islam, Myanmar/Burma, Other Faiths, Religion & Culture, Sri Lanka, Violence

(Chicago Tribune) Buddhism in the Midwest

Inside the main hall of the Drepung Gomang Institute, gilded statues of Buddha and brilliantly colored images of fierce deities adorn the altar. As the smell of incense wafts through the air, a Tibetan monk chants a sutra, his low tones weaving a soothing, meditative melody.

Dharamsala, India? Lhasa, Tibet? Some remote outpost in the Himalayas? Nope. It’s in a neighborhood of Louisville, Ky. This Tibetan Buddhist temple is one of a growing number of such centers that have found a surprisingly receptive home in the Midwest and parts of neighboring Kentucky.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Buddhism, Other Faiths, Religion & Culture

(NY Times Magazine) Joel Lovell–George Saunders Has Written the Best Book You’ll Read This Year

Aside from all the formal invention and satirical energy of Saunders’s fiction, the main thing about it, which tends not to get its due, is how much it makes you feel. I’ve loved Saunders’s work for years and spent a lot of hours with him over the past few months trying to understand how he’s able to do what he does, but it has been a real struggle to find an accurate way to express my emotional response to his stories. One thing is that you read them and you feel known, if that makes any sense. Or, possibly even woollier, you feel as if he understands humanity in a way that no one else quite does, and you’re comforted by it. Even if that comfort often comes in very strange packages, like say, a story in which a once-chaste aunt comes back from the dead to encourage her nephew, who works at a male-stripper restaurant (sort of like Hooters, except with guys, and sleazier), to start unzipping and showing his wares to the patrons, so he can make extra tips and help his family avert a tragic future that she has foretold.

Junot Díaz described the Saunders’s effect to me this way: “There’s no one who has a better eye for the absurd and dehumanizing parameters of our current culture of capital. But then the other side is how the cool rigor of his fiction is counterbalanced by this enormous compassion. Just how capacious his moral vision is sometimes gets lost, because few people cut as hard or deep as Saunders does.”

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Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, Books, Buddhism, Death / Burial / Funerals, Eschatology, Other Faiths, Parish Ministry, Philosophy, Psychology, Religion & Culture, Theology

Amy Yee: Tibetans Sacrifice Their Lives for Their Faith

A 35-year-old Tibetan nun named Palden Choetso set herself on fire on a street corner in southwest China last November. The final moments of her life were captured by an amateur video camera. As bright orange flames engulfed her body, Choetso stood impossibly still until finally she dropped to her knees and toppled over.

Choetso is one of 49 Tibetans, ages 17 to 44, who have set themselves on fire since 2009 to protest repression in Tibet by Chinese authorities. The latest was on Monday, when two young men in their early 20s””one a monk””did so in a Tibetan region of China’s Sichuan province. This spate of self-immolations among Tibetans is unprecedented.

With China not changing its policies denying true religious freedom and civil liberties to Tibetans, the self-immolations are likely to continue. This presents an uneasy quandary for Buddhists, who consider the taking of life, including suicide, taboo.

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Posted in * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Asia, Buddhism, Other Faiths, Tibet

(NY Times) Mindful Eating as Food for Thought

Try this: place a forkful of food in your mouth. It doesn’t matter what the food is, but make it something you love ”” let’s say it’s that first nibble from three hot, fragrant, perfectly cooked ravioli.

Now comes the hard part. Put the fork down. This could be a lot more challenging than you imagine, because that first bite was very good and another immediately beckons. You’re hungry….

The concept has roots in Buddhist teachings. Just as there are forms of meditation that involve sitting, breathing, standing and walking, many Buddhist teachers encourage their students to meditate with food, expanding consciousness by paying close attention to the sensation and purpose of each morsel.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, Buddhism, Dieting/Food/Nutrition, Other Faiths, Religion & Culture

(Washington Post) Dispute exposes India-China contest over Buddhism

Buddhists from around the world chose India on Wednesday as the headquarters of a new international Buddhist organization and united in their criticism of the Chinese government for trying to prevent the Dalai Lama from speaking at their meeting here in New Delhi.

It was something of a victory for India in what observers increasingly see as a contest with China to win the favor of Buddhists around the world. India is the land where Buddha gained enlightenment and taught, but China has the largest population of Buddhists today.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Asia, Buddhism, China, Foreign Relations, India, Other Faiths, Politics in General, Religion & Culture

(RNS) Steve Jobs' private spirituality now an open book

He considered moving to a Zen monastery before shifting his sights to Silicon Valley, where he became a brash businessman.

He preached about the dangers of desire but urged consumers to covet every new iPhone incarnation.

“He was an enlightened being who was cruel,” says a former girlfriend. “That’s a strange combination.”

Now, we can add another irony to the legacy of Apple co-founder Steve Jobs: Since his death on Oct. 5, the famously private man’s spiritual side has become an open book.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * Religion News & Commentary, Buddhism, Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, Other Faiths, Religion & Culture, Science & Technology

In China, tensions rising over Buddhism's quiet resurgence

Breathless but beaming, Sheng Zisu sounds confident after five months in a maze-like Buddhist encampment high on the eastern Tibetan plateau, nearly 400 miles of bad road from the nearest city.

“Look around. They could never find me here,” Sheng, 27, says of parents so anxious about their only child’s turn to Tibetan Buddhism that they have threatened to kidnap her.

Sheng is far from her home ”” and from the bars where she used to drink and the ex-boyfriends she says cheated on her. She is here with 2,000 other Han Chinese at the Larung Gar Buddhist Institute in Serthar, Sichuan province, the rain-soaked mountainous region of southwest China.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Asia, Buddhism, China, Other Faiths, Religion & Culture