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Buddha Buzz Weekly: Buddhists Call for ‘Moral Leadership’ from Senate on Impeachment

Buddhist leaders urge the US Senate to fairly assess impeachment evidence, two scholars create a database of Jataka tales, and Tibetan Nyingma master Garje Khamtrul Rinpoche dies. Tricycle looks back at the events of this week in the Buddhist world.

By Karen JensenJan 18, 2020

Clerk of the US House of Representatives Cheryl L. Johnson (2nd, R) and appointed impeachment managers carry the two impeachment articles from the U.S. House of Representatives to the U.S. Senate on Jan. 15. | Ting Shen/Xinhua/Alamy Live News

Nothing is permanent, so everything is precious. Here’s a selection of some happenings—fleeting or otherwise—in the Buddhist world this week. 

Buddhist Leaders Urge Senate to Hold Fair Impeachment Trial

Buddhist leaders asked the Senate to hold a fair and complete impeachment trial for President Donald Trump in a letter sent to all sitting US senators this week. At least 149 Buddhist teachers, scholars, authors, and practitioners, including Roshi Joan Jiko Halifax, Professor Robert Thurman, Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi, Ven. Thubten Chodron, Rev. angel Kyodo williams, David Loy, and Ven. Karma Lekshe Tsomo, have signed the letter, which urges senators to “provide moral leadership” and “assess the evidence . . . without prejudice or partisanship” during the critical impeachment hearings. “If each of you pauses, breathes, and takes some moments to honestly look into your heart and conscience, we hope you will recognize that the current president is not capable of providing moral leadership or acting in a manner consistent with ethical conduct or truth,” the letter reads. “Since he cannot, you must.”

Read the full letter here.

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You Absolutely Can Tackle the Big Things You’ve Been Avoiding

By Leo Babauta

What big task, project, chore, conversation have you been avoiding facing?

It’s one of the biggest problems in many people’s lives — procrastination is one word for it, but I’ve found that “avoiding” is more accurate. We have something we don’t want to tackle or face, and so we keep ourselves busy and distracted so we can avoid it.

Avoidance, of course, leads to a host of problems, including:

If we avoid self-care, exercise, meditation, healthy eating, flossing … it leads to long-term health problems (including mental health stress).Things piling up can cause us to feel stress.Things not being taken care of can cause lots of difficulties as problems get worse.People might start to feel that we’re unreliable.We lose trust in ourselves, and we can often criticize ourselves and be harsh on ourselves.

The last problem, by the way, is something we can address with the practice of trying to always be kind to ourselves. Harshness on ourselves is not useful, and we can transform our relationship to ourselves by practicing kindness as consistently as we can.

But most of the problems above would be best address by getting good at facing and diving into what we’re avoiding.

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Pema Chödrön Steps Down as Senior Teacher at Shambhala

The American Buddhist nun and bestselling author Pema Chödrön has stepped down as an acharya (senior teacher) at Shambhala International in response to the group’s handling of the allegations of sexual abuse against Shambhala lineage holder Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche. Pema Chödrön, who had remained a part of the organization after the Sakyong stepped away from teaching and administrative duties, decided to resign after the Sakyong announced that he would resume teaching and a transitional board of directors invited him to lead an upcoming event in France. 

In her letter to the board, released publicly on January 14, 2020, Pema Chödrön wrote, “I have decided to step down as an acharya.  As you know, I haven’t actually served as an acharya for a long time, and I have been considering retiring for a few years.  And now, the time has come.”

She said she was “disheartened” at the Sakyong’s decision to start teaching again:

I experienced this news as such a disconnect from all that’s occurred in the last year and half. It feels unkind, unskillful, and unwise for the Sakyong to just go forward as if nothing had happened without relating compassionately to all of those who have been hurt and without doing some deep inner work on himself.

Then came the letter from the Board informing the Shambhala community that they have invited the Sakyong to give the Rigden Abhisheka [an initiation ceremony] in June, and I was dumbfounded. The seemingly very clear message that we are returning to business as usual distresses me deeply. How can we return to business as usual when there is no path forward for the vast majority of the community who are devoted to the vision of Shambhala and are yearning for accountability, a fresh start, and some guidance on how to proceed?  I find it discouraging that the bravery of those who had the courage to speak out does not seem to be affecting more significant change in the path forward.

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A Guide to Dealing with Uncertainty About What Path to Take

By Leo Babauta

 The amount of time we spend fretting over what path to take, when we’re feeling uncertain, can sometimes be staggering.

We’re entering into unknown territory, and we don’t know how to proceed. It happens all the time for many of us: we start a new job, launch a new venture, change careers, have to deal with incredible change, decide to write a book or create something online, put ourselves in a new social situation.

Some of the things we do in response to this uncertainty:

Extensive research, often to the point of very diminishing returns, sometimes to the point of being overwhelmed by how much information we’ve found.Buy books, courses, programs, other materials that we think will guide us — this isn’t necessarily a bad idea, but in truth, none of this will give us certainty.Try to find teachers or other people who will guide us, who have been there before — again, hoping that they’ll give us certainty, but often this isn’t a magic pill either.Delay making a decision, putting it off over and over because it’s too hard to decide. Avoid, avoid. This might be the most common option, actually.Give up because you don’t know if you can do it, don’t know what to do, don’t know what the hell you’re doing. This is pretty common too — in fact, most people give up before they even start.

These are very common reactions to entering into uncertainty, but usually not very helpful. They get in the way of doing the work and living the life we’d like.

So how do we deal with the uncertain path that we’d like to embark upon?

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“My Consciousness Can Now Prepare for Death”

Once a month, Tricycle features an article from Inquiring Mind, a Buddhist journal that was in print from 1984–2015 and now has a growing number of back issues archived at inquiringmind.com. To remember the spiritual teacher Ram Dass, who died last month at the age of 88, we are reprinting Inquiring Mind co-founder Wes Nisker’s interview with Ram Dass after he suffered a stroked in 1997. The article first appeared in the Fall 2000 “Impermanence” issue as “Interview with Ram Dass: A Stroke of Luck.” Be sure to check out related articles in the archive, such as Joseph Goldstein and Robert Thurman’s explorations of impermanence and scriptural quotations on impermanence, translated from their original Pali by Buddhist scholar Andrew Olendzki. If you feel so inclined, consider making a donation to help Inquiring Mind continue adding articles to its archive!

When he is not out promoting his new book, Still Here (Riverhead, 2000), or appearing at conferences and benefits, Ram Dass can usually be found at home these days. He lives in a modest house in Tiburon, California, where he likes to sit in a big overstuffed armchair and look out a picture window over the waters of the San Francisco Bay and nearby Marin County hills. He and Inquiring Mind editor Wes Nisker recently met there for a conversation.

Ram Dass (RD): I love my little cabin here overlooking the bay. I’ve always taken vacations near water, so it feels a little like I’m on vacation here. You can hear the cars passing on the road, which runs right beyond these bushes, but you can’t see the road. You look out at the bay, which is so calm, and then you hear the road, which is a river of mechanized humanity. So from my home, I can hear the river of humanity. And then at night, I see their lights across the water in Sausalito. It’s like being on vacation here.

Wes Nisker (WN): Does it seem as though your stroke helped to put you in vacation mode?

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