Zen Blog

This blog collects various internet feeds aimed towards information, experience and technique exchange in support of our shared spiritual journey.....

”Namaste - may the light in me, honor the light in you…”

Steven D. Goodman, Translator of Tibetan Buddhism for the West, Has Died

Steven D. Goodman, a noted author, professor, and translator of Tibetan Buddhist works, died at his home in Oakland, California on August 3rd. He was 75, and had been treated for a rare blood disorder for some time.

For the past two decades he taught at the California Institute of Integral Studies in San Francisco, and at the time of his death was Research and Program Director of Asian and Comparative Studies there. His most recent book, The Buddhist Psychology of Awakening (Shambhala), was published on July 21.

He received his Ph.D. in Far Eastern Studies from the University of Saskatchewan, Canada, under the pioneering Buddhist scholar Herbert V. Guenther. He lectured and taught Buddhist philosophy and comparative religion at the University of California at Berkeley and Santa Barbara, Rice University, the Graduate Theological Union, Nyingma Institute, and Naropa Institute, and was the recipient of a Rockefeller Fellowship at Rice University Center for Cultural Studies. He was a founding board member and president of Buddhist Film Foundation.

He frequently served as a translator for leading Tibetan Buddhist teachers including Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse, Tenzin Wangyal, Bhaka Tulku, Thinley Norbu, and Lama Tharchin. He was a founding member of the Working Committee for The 84000 Project: Translating The Words of The Buddha, and was an advisor to Khyentse Foundation. He co-edited Tibetan Buddhism: Reason and Revelation, a source book for the study of Tibetan philosophical and visionary literature (SUNY Press, 1992), and was the author of “Transforming the Causes of Suffering” in Mindfulness in Meaningful Work (Parallax Press, 1994).

Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse, founder of Khyentse Foundation, said in a statement, “Steven had all the requisite academic knowledge and achievements, and he was also one of those very, very rare scholars who looked at Buddhism directly for what it truly is. And so he dared to go beyond both the subjective and the objective. Steven Goodman’s passing is a major loss for Buddhism in America, and especially for the study of Tibetan Buddhism in the West.”

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Work Less

By Leo Babauta

When it comes to work, I’ve found that most of us fall in one of two camps:

We work way too hard, constantly churning, never feeling like we got enough done; orWe put off work, going to distractions, feeling guilty about how little we’re getting done.

Either camp results in long working hours. And it drains us. It leaves us feeling depleted, not alive.

There’s no simple solution to this, of course, but I’d like to propose something here, to both camps:

Work less.

Do fewer things.

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3 Mindful Ways to Learn from Cancel Culture

We’ve probably all heard about instances of some celebrity or other getting “canceled.” Besides being a dramatic social-media call-out, what does “cancel culture” say, and how can we respond to it?

First, we have to understand the basic assumptions that underlie “canceling”: X person has shown that they will not change their harmful behavior (often harming people with less power and influence than themselves). Therefore, the only recourse is to publicly shame them—a reaction that’s not unique to this age of internet. 

As we look to the dream of creating a more just, equitable world than we’ve ever lived in, grappling with this trend is surprisingly helpful. Because our feeling of personal okay-ness is innately tied to feeling we are liked and accepted by others, realizing that some aspects of how we show up in the world actually do harm others can be deeply painful. It might even feel like who you are has been canceled. Cue emotions of panic, denial, guilt, groundlessness. 

It’s a lot to process. But here’s the response part. You can accept all of those stormy emotions, honor them, and still not “cancel” yourself. In other words, don’t accept the belief that you yourself are beyond the ability to grow through this moment.

As the visionary author and Afrofuturist Octavia E. Butler wrote, “The only lasting truth is Change.” Whatever critique you get, who you are is a person capable of resilience, learning, and aligning more deeply with compassion. That, friend, is the polar opposite of canceled. 

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Living with Bears

Bears swish when they walk. Their legs are chubby, with thick fur rubbing smoothly as they amble along. I didn’t know bears made this particular sound until one happened upon me at a meditation retreat as I sat on a bench atop a mountain knoll in North Carolina. My memory of this encounter is based almost entirely on sound alone. I saw the bear for only a moment when I turned my head at the noise, expecting to see a fellow retreat attendee emerging from the woods to join me. Instead I saw her (I am not sure, but I think of the bear as her), head heavy, sunlight flowing down the soft slope of her forehead to the bridge of her nose as she bowed towards the earth. 

*** 

Earlier that morning I lay with my back against the wood of the meditation hall, eyes closed as our instructor Cindy led us through a visualization meditation. She’s a spritely, slight woman, with a cheerful Southern accent and a ready smile. Cindy began in a familiar manner. We were discussing compassion that day, and I expected Cindy to follow the natural course of a metta, or lovingkindness, meditation. 

“Bring to mind someone you care deeply for,” she said.

I imagined my mother.

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The Future We Choose

When it comes to the climate crisis, expressing optimism can come across as being out of touch with reality. And yet, this is exactly the mindset we need if we are to avoid irreparable damage from climate change, says Christiana Figueres and Tom Rivett-Carnac.

Figueres served as executive secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change during the Paris Climate negotiations, and has said that Vietnamese Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh’s teachings helped her find the fortitude she needed to finalize the 197-nation agreement. During the negotiations she worked closely with Tom Rivett-Carnac, a senior strategy advisor to the UN who lived as a Buddhist monk for two years. 

In their new book, The Future We Choose (Knopf, February 2020), Figueres and Rivett-Carnac stress two scientifically established goals for staving off the worst effects of climate change: halving global emissions by 2030 and reaching net zero emissions by 2050. To accomplish these goals, they say, we need to start with the counterintuitive task of looking inside ourselves. Tricycle spoke to Figueres and Rivett-Carnac about their Buddhist practice, climate solutions, and how to co-create the world we want.

I’m devastated about climate change and feel helpless to make any meaningful contribution to address the problem. What can I do?

Christiana Figueres (CF): Solving the climate crisis involves many issues and solutions. However, all of them point toward radically cutting emissions in half over the next decade. In order to achieve this, institutions, companies, governments, and individuals must all play a role. Individuals often feel their actions are less important, but that is simply not true. The most effective way to move beyond fear is to take action.

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