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Buddha Buzz Weekly: Buddhist Appetites

Monk’s hunger strike leads to Sri Lanka Muslim ministers’ resignations, a Zen master will send 10,000 tons of food to North Korean kids, and a California man tries to pass his swastika off as a Tibetan symbol. Tricycle looks back at the events of this week in the Buddhist world.

By Karen Jensen and Matthew AbrahamsJun 08, 2019

Leader of the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress Rauff Hakeem speaks at a press conference in Colombo on June 3, 2019. | Photo by Pradeep Dambarage / ZUMA Press, Inc. / Alamy Stock Photo

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

Buddhist Monk’s Hunger Strike Pushes Sri Lanka’s Muslim Ministers to Resign

An influential Buddhist monk in Sri Lanka went on a hunger strike on May 31 to call for the removal from office of a Muslim minister and two Muslim provincial governors, accusing them of being associated with extremist groups. In response, all nine of the country’s Muslim ministers and the governors resigned on June 3, apparently as an act of solidarity, the New York Times reports. The monk, Athuraliye Rathana, who is also an adviser to the country’s president, ended his fast upon their resignations. One of the ministers, Rauff Hakeem, said at a press conference that they hope that the move will relieve tensions that have deepened in the wake of the Easter Sunday church bombings that killed around 250 people and was claimed by the Islamic State. “Our people fear a blood bath,” he said, according to the Times.

Tech Upgrade Shows Mahabodhi Temple in a New Light

The Mahabodhi Temple, the stupa that marks the site of the enlightenment of the Buddha in Bodhgaya, India, is undergoing a major illumination project. Initiated by Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse Rinpoche, a Bhutanese-Tibetan lama, filmmaker, and writer, the “Lighting the Mahabodhi” campaign has received over $1.4 million from Buddhists all over the world, more than 30 percent of the total cost of the project, according to the Butanese newspaper Kuensel. Lightning has been a consistent problem for the Mahabodhi—restrictions on candle offerings and butter lamps have been in place for several years, and the present electric infrastructure does little to create a safe space for evening worship and circumambulation. The planned lightning upgrade would introduce efficient LED light fixtures and management software. Despite its designation as a UNESCO World Heritage site, there were no architectural drawings of the stupa complex before the project began, India’s Buddhist Times observed.

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A Psychological Report on The New Kadampa Tradition

 
For those who were harmed by the New Kadampa Tradition (aka Kadampa Buddhism or Modern Buddhism), it is of grave concern that the National Health Service (NHS) in the UK as well as mindfulness organisations or mindfulness groups are either sending vulnerable people to meditation classes run by the NKT or collaborate with the NKT without any critical awareness of the controversial background of this group. The NKT movement has harmed the mental health of many of its followers causing among others complex trauma, PTSD, depression or suicidal thoughts. Those who survived the NKT refer to themselves as New Kadampa Survivors. For a brief overview about the controversies regarding the NKT and for some self-help groups of NKT Survivors see here.

Michelle Haslam (PhD), a clinical psychologist who works in the field of safeguarding, wrote a 39 page “Psychological Report on The New Kadampa Tradition” which can be dowloaded here (PDF).

If you lack time to read Michelle Haslam’s report in full, the following excerpt is her summary (from page 36):

Myself and many other survivors believe the NKT to be a highly psychologically damaging and exploitative organisation that attract people through their attachment trauma, depression and dissatisfaction with life. They are not qualified to offer or teach mindfulness classes, andare benefiting from the ‘mindfulness movement’, and the naivety of Western people regarding Buddhism. It is clear that they have no understanding of mental health, but strongly believe that they do, which makes them a particularly dangerous group. All of their practices (aside from the brief breathing meditation which is mostly harmless on its own if itwasn’t aimed to put people in a relaxed state) could be potentially severely damaging to both mental and eventually to physical health.

Potential psychological damage whilst within the group includes:

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Bringing Insight to Berlin

Peter Doobinin has spent the past 20 years starting two successful New York City meditation centers with the philosophy that refuge is possible amidst the city’s stress, traffic, and noise. So what’s a lifelong New Yorker with a rent-stabilized apartment to do during a period of transition and curiosity? Leave it all behind.

“This is a real leap for me,” said Doobinin, 63, who moved to Berlin in July 2018. “I figured if I’m going to do this, I’ve got to do this while I still have a chance and am relatively young.”

There’s no shortage of Buddhist offerings in Berlin, and the city is home to Europe’s first Theravada temple, Das Buddhistische Haus, which was established in 1924 and opened to monks after the Second World War. But Doobinin identified an important need when he realized that there weren’t any Insight teachers offering regular classes in English.

Doobinin sat down with Tricycle to talk about his move, as well as his new and growing endeavor, Berlin Dharma, which offers weekly sittings, daylong retreats, and courses.

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BuddhaFest Online Festival

Pick up a pass to our biggest online festival yet to access wisdom talks, music, films, and guided meditations. The festival starts on June 17 and runs through August 11. 

By TricycleJun 04, 2019

Tricycle is proud to co-present BuddhaFest Online, a digital festival that embraces the principles of mindfulness and compassion through inspiring films, modern wisdom teachings, meditation, and music.  The festival starts on June 17 and runs through August 11.

Your Online Pass Includes:

8 BuddhaFest 2019 Wisdom Talks with Robert Thurman, Sharon Salzberg, Roshi Joan Halifax, Sylvia Boorstein, Norman Fischer, Dawa Tarchin Phillips, Roshi Pat Enkyo O’Hara and Dr. Nida ChenagtsangBuddhaFest 2019 Opening Night Event – Living a Life that Matters: A Tribute to Zen Master Bernie GlassmanBuddhaFest 2019 Musical Performance with Drukmo Gyal Dakini of Tibet5 New Buddhist Films

PLUS Bonuses from Last Year’s BuddhaFest:

6 Wisdom Talks with Jack Kornfield, Ram Dass, Lama Surya Das, Lama Tsultrim Allione, Sharon Salzberg, JoAnna Hardy and Trudy GoodmanAn Incredible Live Performance of The Tibetan Book of the DeadPlus a Bonus Film from Actor Michael O’Keefe 

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The Faultless Faulty Guru: Teachings from the 14th Dalai Lama

Statements from the 14th Dalai Lama on the Instruction to See All Actions of the Lama as Perfect, from Lamrim and from Tantric Perspectives

At a time when there are credible accusations that some Tibetan Buddhist masters of the Vajrayana are abusing their power and exploiting students sexually, emotionally, spiritually or financially for their own needs, it may be helpful to read the Dalai Lama’s differentiated explanations on the subject of the teacher-disciple relationship to find inspiration, orientation or guidance on how to deal sensibly with such a situation.

The following quotes were taken from two publications, one in 2018 and one in 1982.

From a Recent Publication

From the section entitled: Unusual Behavior [an exerpt]

Some texts make statements such as ‘See all actions of your spiritual mentor as perfect’ and “Follow your mentor’s instructions exactly with complete devotion.” These statements are made in the context of highest yoga tantra and apply to exceptional cases in which both the spiritual master and the disciple are highly qualified—for example, Tilopa and his disciple Naropa, and Marpa and his disciple Milarepa. If we are not the calibre of Naropa and our mentor does not have the qualities of Tilopa, these statements can be greatly misleading. Hearing stories of Tilopa’s seemingly abusive treatment of Naropa—instructing him to jump off a cliff and so forth—and Marpa instructing Milarepa to build some buildings and then tear them down, some people think that following their teacher’s instructions included allowing themselves to be abused. This is not the case at all! Marpa told Milarepa, “Do not treat your students like I treated you or the way the great Naropa treated me. Such practice should not be continued in the future.” This is because it is very rare to find both a teacher and a disciple who have realizations comparable to those great masters.

I have had many teachers whom I value greatly, but I cannot accept seeing all their actions as perfect. When I was in my teens, my two regents fought each other in a power struggle that involved the Tibetan army. When I sat on my meditation seat, I felt both teachers were extremely kind and had profound respect for them; their disagreements did not matter. But when I had to deal with the difficulties caused by their dissension, I said to them, “What you are doing is wrong!” I did not speak out of hatred or disrespect, but because I love the Buddhadharma, and their actions went against it. I felt no conflict in loyalty by acting in this way. In our practice, we may view the guru’s behaviour as that of a mahasiddha, but in the conventional world we follow the general Buddhist approach, and if a certain behaviour is harmful, we should say so.

The advice to see all the guru’s actions as perfect is not meant for general practitioners. Because it is open to misunderstanding, it can easily become poison for both mentors and students. Students naively whitewashing a teacher’s bad behaviour by thinking anything the guru does must be good gives some teachers a free hand to misbehave. On the teacher’s part, poor behaviour is tantamount to drinking the hot molten iron of the hellish states, and it contributes to the degeneration of the Dharma in the world. Only in particular situations and to particular practitioners should it be taught that all the guru’s actions are perfect. Buddhism is based on reasoning and wisdom and must remain so.

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