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…”

Shock and Sadness

On the night of February 25, a man climbed over the fence protecting the Higashi Honganji Buddhist Temple in downtown Los Angeles. According to the temple’s security camera, he started a fire that torched two wooden lantern stands, tipped over and smashed two metal lanterns, and, before leaving, threw a rock through a panel of glass near the front door. 

Bishop Noriaki Ito has been with the temple, part of the Jodo Shinshu or True Pure Land tradition, since 1976. Bishop Ito is the rinban (head minister) of the temple’s Los Angeles location and director of the Higashi Honganji North America District. He spoke to Tricycle Contributing Editor Daniel Burke on March 17, the day after eight people, including six Asian American women, were murdered in Atlanta. 

I feel extreme sorrow for the continuation of these kinds of acts. Shock and sadness. What can we do? That question has been asked a lot at our temple. Maybe  the man who attacked our temple felt that other religions besides his own are not valid. Or maybe it was just an attack on an Asian American institution because of what is happening in our country. It certainly seems like much of the hostility came after the coronavirus and the election of President Donald Trump. At least, those are the main reasons.

We moved to our location in Little Tokyo in 1976, one year after I joined the staff. There was a stretch of time when the economy was bad and downtown was empty and perceived to be dangerous, with car break-ins and such. We had some things stolen. But I haven’t had any kind of negative experience like this in the past fifteen years or so. The temple is mainly Japanese American, but we have diversified and have active members from a variety of backgrounds. 

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A Buddhist Memorial for Those We’ve Lost

Four Buddhist teachers hold a service on the anniversary of the official declaration of the coronavirus pandemic.

By TricycleMar 16, 2021

On March 11, 2020, the World Health Organization declared that COVID-19 was a global pandemic. Last week, Tricycle hosted a memorial ceremony for the more than 2.5 million people who have died across the world from the virus (500,000 in the US alone, the highest death toll of any country) and many others are living with long-term health issues. 

To honor and remember those we have lost to this pandemic, we asked four Buddhist teachers—Myokei Caine Barrett, Zenju Earthlyn Manuel, Osho; Lama Dawa Tarchin Phillips, and Venerable Pannavati—to lead us in chants dharma talks, guided meditations, and music from across traditions and backgrounds. 

What follows is a recording of that ceremony for those who were unable to attend.

A transcript of this event will be available soon.

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Buddha Buzz Weekly: Dalai Lama Gets Vaccinated

His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama receives his first coronavirus shot, one of South Korea’s oldest temples loses its main hall in suspected arson, and a buddha statue destroyed by the Taliban in 2001 is replicated with 3D projection. Tricycle looks back at the events of this week in the Buddhist world.

By Amanda Lim Patton, Emily DeMaioNewton, and Karen JensenMar 13, 2021

The Dalai Lama received his first dose of the Oxford-AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine at a hospital in Dharamshala, India, on March 6. | Youtube

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

Dalai Lama Gets First Dose 

His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama has been vaccinated. The Tibetan spiritual leader received his first dose of the Oxford-AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine last weekend, according to the BBC. India, where His Holiness has his residence in exile, launched its vaccination program on January 16, initially limited to healthcare workers and first responders. Since March 1, vaccine access has expanded to people aged over 60 and those between the ages of 45 and 59 with underlying illnesses. His Holiness, who is 85, urged others eligible to “take this injection.” 

Fire Destroys Main Hall at One of the Oldest Buddhist Temples in South Korea

Naejangsa, one of South Korea’s oldest Buddhist temples, erected in 636 CE in Jeongeup, North Jeolla Province, lost its main hall in a suspected arson attack on March 5. According to the Korea Herald, the fire destroyed the entire structure of Daeungjeon, the temple’s main hall, and the Buddha statue housed there, resulting in approximately $1.51 million in damages. Local police arrested a monk who first reported the fire and later confessed to starting the blaze after a disagreement with another monastic. The monk, who had been living at the temple for three months, allegedly poured inflammable materials on the temple and set it aflame while under the influence of alcohol, the Chosun Ilbo reports. In response to the arson, the Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism released a statement apologizing to the Buddhist community. The monk will receive the order’s highest level of disciplinary action, the statement said.

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A Ministry of Presence

Bed-ridden patients lined the hallway, some gasping for their last breaths. This was a day in December, during the post-Thanksgiving spike of COVID-19 infections, at a hospital in Los Angeles near Skid Row. The rooms were full, so a hallway had been converted to an ICU, stuffed with nursing stations, boxes of protective equipment, and dying patients.  

Nat De Luca, a chaplain at the hospital, remembers the Code Blue alarms announcing medical emergencies. On a normal day, he might hear it bleat three or four times. On this day, De Luca lost count around fifteen. The chaplain spent his whole shift meeting with patients’ families, suiting them with PPE and leading them to their beloved’s bedside to say final farewells. “Death kept occurring in that little hallway,” he said, “over and over and over again.” 

Nat De Luca

De Luca had biked to work from Venice Beach, where he shares a home with his husband. The 40-year-old chaplain, who practices in the Plum Village tradition of Vietnamese Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh, said life in Venice Beach was relatively normal, all pandemic things considered. People biked outside, walked their dogs. But just a few miles away, large numbers of people were suffering.

“It was like going to war every day,” De Luca said. 

As pandemic grinds into its second year, the grim death toll continues to rise, even with new vaccines providing some relief. More than half a million Americans, and millions more around the world, have died after contracting COVID-19. The numbers are hard to grasp, especially because so many deaths occurred in hospital wards and nursing homes, where we can’t see or hear the dying.

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Three Methods for Letting Go of Thoughts

Photo by Park Troopers | http://tricy.cl/3kDzbRa

When we sit down for long hours of meditation, we’re inevitably confronted with intrusive thoughts, such as frustration over our inability to focus, regrets about the past, or plain self-hatred. How can we let go of these thoughts in order to break through to transformative meditative experiences? Are there practices we can use to confront and calm our feelings of self-doubt?

In my years of practicing meditation, I’ve learned several ways to quiet my inner monologue. What follows are three different methods for dealing with thoughts, depending on the type of thoughts you’re having and how you’re feeling in the moment.

Method I

The first method for letting go of thoughts is using thoughts to counteract thoughts. This approach is useful if you have a very logical mind and need to have a reason to let go of your thoughts . In that case, whenever your mind is preoccupied with thoughts during meditation, consider these questions:

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