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…”

Tibetan Women Poets Share Their Stories

‘My mother built a story of tribes and raised me in it,” writes poet Tsering Wangmo Dhompa. “I memorized the names of people, rivers, and mountains. I promised to serve them when we met. Their absence did not mean they did not exist somewhere else.” 

Dhompa shared this excerpt from a work-in-progress as part of an Instagram Stories takeover in late February by Tibetan women poets arranged by High Peaks Pure Earth, a media outlet that provides commentary on Tibet-related news and issues.

Tibetan writing accessible to English-speakers has historically represented privileged voices—and many stories about Tibet that have entered mainstream consciousness are often not written by Tibetans at all. But in recent years, social media has been making conversations among Tibetans across the world visible and accessible to Tibetans and non-Tibetans alike.

During the High Peaks Pure Earth takeover, seven Tibetan women poets—Chime Lama, Kaysang, Lekey Leidecker, Sonam Tsomo Chashutsang, Tenzin Dickie, Tsering Wangmo Dhompa, and Tsering Woeser—shared their poetry and personal reflections, as well as their daily routines, writing prompts, poets that inspire them, and how they deal with imposter syndrome. 

While many of the poets who participated in the takeover regularly explore themes of diaspora and displacement in their work, some have expressed frustration that the “Tibetan experience” is often portrayed as a singular one. But representations of Tibetan culture and experience are becoming more nuanced as Tibetans connect virtually on Instagram, Facebook, podcasts, and even the video sharing app TikTok. “Just seeing how young Tibetans are doing that self-exploration and turning our view inward, that brings me joy,” said poet Kaysang. 

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Accessing Refuge

Many of us are experiencing heightened anxiety during the global coronavirus crisis. In response, Tricycle is offering free access to select articles during this uncertain time. If you are able to, please help support this offering with a donation. Thank you!

In the world of spiritual support and mental health, there has been a big push to offer services online to help people cope with the sudden change and loss spurred by the COVID-19 crisis. Lama Rod Owens is one meditation teacher who has begun offering daily meditations and dharma talks on social media and through his online sangha, Bhumiparsha, which he co-founded in 2018 with Lama Justin von Budjoss. A graduate of the Harvard School of Divinity, Owens is the co-author of Radical Dharma: Talking Race, Love, and Liberation, and the author of the forthcoming Love and Rage: The Path of Liberation through Anger

Owens also has wisdom to share for those feeling alone at this time. He spent three years “socially distanced” on retreat in upstate New York as part of his training as a lama in the Karma Kagyu tradition of Tibetan Buddhism. Tricycle recently sat down with Owens via video conference to talk about how we can work with the challenges and consolations of the pandemic from a tantric perspective.

During your three-year retreat, what did you learn about the effects of solitude on the psyche? Normally, we stay busy and moving and distracted all the time. Now we’re in this period where many people aren’t working; they’re sitting around, and they’re forced to deal with their minds. People might also be struggling with boredom. I had to confront that [reality] strongly on retreat. I learned to give everything space, which is the root of my teaching right now. I [learned to] look at boredom and say, OK, there you are. Same for the pain or the suffering or trauma that came up: OK, there you are. Welcome, and here is a lot of space for you to roam in.

I also experienced a kind of heartbreak. It was an intense period of learning how to have gentleness, patience, and kindness. I learned how to be alone with myself, which meant I had to work through the trauma and the hate and all the ways I struggled to love myself. In order to sit with myself, I had to unpack all the histories and narratives [that affect my life].

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Buddha Buzz Weekly: Praying Together, Apart

Buddhist and other religious leaders pray together from a safe distance in Japan, a translation project offers sutras for emotional resilience, and Thai temples face food shortages. Tricycle looks back at the events of this week in the Buddhist world.

By Emily DeMaioNewton and Karen JensenMay 02, 2020

Buddhist, Shinto, and Catholic leaders prayed together for the end of the coronavirus pandemic at Todaiji Temple in Nara, Japan | https://tricy.cl/2VVw9Nq

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

Buddhist and Catholic Leaders in Japan Pray Together 

On April 24, Buddhist, Shinto, and Catholic leaders prayed together for the end of the coronavirus pandemic in front of Todaiji Temple in Nara, Japan, SoraNews24 reported. During the broadcasted event, they sat two meters apart and encouraged their communities to pray together with them at noon every day while physically distancing. “Even though we must refrain from our usual activities for the sake of others, I would still like to pray together,” said Fumon Sagawa, the chief priest of temple affairs at Todaji Temple. 

Thai Buddhist Temples Running Out of Food

Some Buddhist temples in southern Thailand are facing a shortage of donations and food alms as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, Khaosod English reported. Wiwat Wankumpha, the director of Prachuap Khiri Khan province’s Buddhist office, said that temples in the area have requested 80,000 to 100,000 baht (about $3,000 USD) from the government. The Buddhist office has offered the temples rice and dried food, and encouraged them to rely on vegetable gardening, reduce the number of dependent lay people, and temporarily close temples to save electricity costs.

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A Wholesome Media Diet

Many of us are experiencing heightened anxiety during the global coronavirus crisis. In response, Tricycle is offering free access to select articles during this uncertain time. If you are able to, please help support this offering with a donation. Thank you!

The amount and speed of information coming out about COVID-19 are mind-numbing. While some of us may be glued to our TV or Twitter feeds in a state of anxiety and terror, others may have chosen to check out completely. The thing I still find fascinating about the novel coronavirus is the fact that the entire globe is affected—none of us is an outsider. Yet since this crisis began, I’ve wondered if there is a better, and perhaps more Buddhist, way to consume the news. 

I was twelve years old on 9/11. In the weeks following that day, I learned that of the 2,977 people who died, 50 were from my hometown of Manhasset, a small hamlet on Long Island. While the grown-ups around me navigated the mourning and economic fallout, I traversed my own muddy swamp: the middle school cafeteria, which I found to be a remarkably effective petri dish for culturing misinformation, not unlike today’s social media. It took me years to understand why anyone thought that Indian people like me had anything to do with the attacks. 

I learned to keep my mouth shut most of the time, but some questions in me couldn’t be silenced. I wondered, for example, why people do the things they do in times of crisis. Why respond with anger when you’re actually frightened? Why ignore reality when it could benefit from your assistance? Why hide when what you really want is to connect? 

As a teenager, I began practicing Soka Gakkai Nichiren Buddhism with my family. As an adult, I entered into a career in journalism, which gave me another set of tools to seek answers. Journalism taught me to sort fact from fiction—a skill that has come in handy in the last few months. In seeking to be more discerning in how I read the news, I put together a handful of guidelines, inspired by my Buddhist mentor, Daisaku Ikeda, the leader of Soka Gakkai International (SGI)—and by the things I’ve learned from working in the 21st century news world. 

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Beware Of What You Wish For

Many of us are experiencing heightened anxiety during the global coronavirus crisis. In response, Tricycle is offering free access to select articles during this uncertain time. If you are able to, please help support this offering with a donation. Thank you!

I am in the middle of nowhere: a remote farmhouse at the end of a dirt road in rural Cape Breton, Nova Scotia. I drove here from New York City with a friend, arriving on March 19 with two cats, bags of lentils and grains, a cooler with frozen cooked greens, and a dozen rolls of toilet paper. The decks around the house are slick with ice. Not wanting to risk falling, I stand at the threshold of the front door for fresh air. I see the barn, encircled in ice. Inside the barn sits my car. Not a problem, as I am in quarantine; but the conditions of the dirt road, now that it’s mud season, assure that self-isolation will last long after the mandated period. The temperature fluctuates between above and below freezing, turning the mountain snows into rivulets sliding down to the sea below the house, but not before pooling up on the road with its insufficient trenches. Mud, sinkholes, and black ice often make the road impassable. Against all caution we drove to my house—not up the long, steep drive, still packed with snow, but to the bottom, and then climbed up with frightened cats and supplies, following a narrow strip of gravel cleared by a neighbor who had come in on his four-wheeler. My friend returned to New York a few days later and I settled in, safely sheltered in place. 

For about ten days before leaving New York, I had responded to coronavirus news by stocking up and staying mostly separated from friends, alone in a one-room apartment in Chelsea. Even so, I went out for an hour every day, leaving by 7:00 am to walk on relatively empty streets, and saying good morning to people in my building. The isolation here in Nova Scotia is total. My feet may as well be nailed to the floor, they get so little use. But my mind roams, and frequently enough, it turns to my teacher, Mingyur Rinpoche, now in Nepal. 

The intense restriction of movement has inspired reflections on Mingyur’s wandering retreat. For four and a half years he lived as a homeless yogi, having left the protections of monastic residences to wander the world, sleeping in Himalayan caves and in rural Hindu temples on the Gangetic Plain. By becoming comfortable with sheltering anywhere, he deepened his understanding of sheltering in place, and explored the more profound levels of refuge, and of coming home to oneself. 

Within weeks of first setting out, Mingyur’s experiment with begging for food led to a severe intestinal infection, which brought him near death. In the fall of 2015, shortly after he returned to his monastery in Nepal, I went to visit him. At that time, he asked for my assistance in writing a book about his near-death experience and what he learned from it. He wanted to set his personal story into the larger framework of classical Tibetan teachings on living and dying, known as bardo teachings. This book was published in May 2019 as In Love with the World: A Monk’s Journey through the Bardos of Living and Dying. 

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