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…”

The Divine Messenger

 

Tune into a conversation between Tricycle’s editor and publisher James Shaheen and author Douglas Penick about Penick’s new book, The Age of Waiting, on Sunday, January 24th, 3pm EST. To register, click here.

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It is said that we who live within the mists do not see the shapes of the clouds that are our dwelling place. We do not see the radiance of the sun, the moon, the stars, nor do we know the vastness of the sky.

There are many stories of children, young men and young women, princesses and princes, whose parents were determined to shield them from suffering and obstacle. They were raised behind high castle walls. There are many stories of men and women who never dared to leave the security of their palaces, but who could not silence the whispers of the high winds or avoid fugitive and nameless fears.

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How do we Practice as a Sangha

2000-06-03 (77-minutes) – It’s been a long while since posting a dharma talk for you all, and for that I apologize. Today for our Day of Mindfulness at Deer Park Monastery, we heard this talk from June 3, 2000 at New Hamlet, Plum Village. The talk is part of the 21-Day Retreat that year with the theme of Eyes of the Buddha.

For this talk, we take a deep dive into what it means to be sangha. Some of what Thay shares is for the monastic sangha, but can be equally applied to a lay community. Right out front, Thay says the very minimum number for a sangha is four people. He then proceeds to outline the steps for the Sanghakarman Procedure.

From this presentation, the rest of the talk focuses on the Six Togethernesses. A real sangha must practice all six.

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Putting a Face on Loss 

Director Kira Dane did not know much about the Japanese Buddhist concept of mizuko kuyo, a Buddhist ritual meant to pacify the distraught spirits of babies who have been lost, until shortly after she had an abortion a few years ago. A friend mentioned that the ritual might help her process her feelings, so she decided to participate in the ceremony in order to commemorate the loss of her own mizuko, or “water child.” Dane documents her emotional journey in the weeks after discovering she was pregnant and deciding to have an abortion in her new film Mizuko, which is produced by her NYU classmate and fellow filmmaker Katelyn Rebelo. Dane, who grew up bilingual thanks to her Japanese mother, narrates her story in both English and Japanese, and the film is interspersed with moving animations designed by Rebelo.

The pair quickly realized the need for an honest and open film. In 2018, before Mizuko began screening at film festivals across the country, they presented their vision for the film to a panel of judges at the Tribeca Film Institute. Afterward, they were approached by several women who “came up to us to say how excited they were about the film,” Dane told Tricycle. “People were eager for a conversation about abortion that lies outside of the pro-life or pro-choice binary.” Rebelo agreed:  “In a lot of ways it validated why we wanted to make this film—so people could release all of their emotions.”

Since completing the film with the Institute’s support, Mizuko has screened at some of the most prominent film festivals across the globe, including SXSW, the Seoul International Women’s Film Festival, and DOC NYC. Tricycle subscribers can also stream the film throughout the month of January as part of Tricycle’s Buddhist Shorts Festival

Tricycle had the chance to talk with both Dane and Rebelo about the process of making the film, connecting to modern Buddhist culture, and how they feel about releasing their film at this particular moment in American politics.

Kira, what does mizuko kuyo mean to you?

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Buddha Buzz Weekly: New Workshop Series Blends Buddhism and Constitutional Law

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

American Bar Foundation Sponsors Workshops on Buddhism and Constitutional Law 

The American Bar Foundation and the University of Chicago are sponsoring a series of weekly conferences on comparative constitutional studies and Buddhist legal thought, according to Buddhistdoor Global. On Thursday scholars from around the world met to discuss research on historical and contemporary intersections of Buddhist traditions and national legal codes.

While the intersection of secular law and religions such as Hinduism, Islam, and Christianity has been heavily researched in recent decades, Buddhism has mostly been left out of the conversation, researchers said. Organized by Dr. Tom Ginsburg, Professor of International Law at the University of Chicago, and Dr. Ben Schonthal, professor of Buddhism and Asian religions at New Zealand’s University of Otago, the workshops are funded in part by a grant from the National Science Foundation. More information about registration can be found at constitutionalbuddhism.org

Archaeologists in India Discover Earliest Known Female-Led Monastery

Archaeologists in the eastern Indian state of Bihar discovered the remains of an 11th- or 12th-century Mahayana Buddhist monastery that was headed by a woman, the Hindustan Times reported. “Monasteries have been discovered at many locations in this area, but this is the first setup located at the top of a hill,” lead researcher Anil Kumar, an archaeologist at Visva Bharati University said. “Seems the Mahayana Buddhists set up the monastery far from the hustle and bustle of the human population to practice Mahayana rituals in isolation.” Unlike in other historical Buddhist monasteries that have been excavated, all the cells had doors, suggesting that the monastics were either all women or a mix of women and men, according to the Times of India. Two burnt clay seals with Sanskrit writing and 8th- or 9th-century script indicate that the monastery’s name was “the council of monks of Srimaddhama vihara.”

UN Assigns Korean Festival of Light “Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity” Status

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has added the Korean festival of light, Yeondeunghoe, to their “Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity,” Buddhistdoor Global reported. Popularly known as the Lotus Lantern Festival, the event celebrates the birth of the Buddha, and festivities focus on sharing the light of wisdom, compassion, and peace with the world. The annual festival, however, was canceled last year for only the third time in modern Korean history to prevent the spread of COVID-19. By adding the event to the Intangible Cultural Heritage list, UNESCO aims to protect the tradition.

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Love, Wisdom, and Dr. King

On Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Americans remember the civil rights icon whose words inspired a nation. “I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal,” he said in his most celebrated speech, delivered from the Lincoln Memorial on August 28, 1963. While he dreamed of a future where people are not “judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character,” Dr. King also had in mind a more just and loving world. A few lines later, he alludes to Isaiah 40:4: “I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.”

For decades, scholar and award-winning author Charles Johnson has worked to bring attention to King’s spiritual and philosophical concerns, which often have been overshadowed by the impact of his nonviolent civil disobedience and political organizing. In 1998, some eight years after his novel Middle Passage won the National Book Award for Fiction, Johnson published Dreamer, a fictional account of the last two years of Martin Luther King’s life. (He was named a MacArthur fellow that same year.) Already having earned a doctorate in philosophy and a longtime student of Buddhism, Johnson recognized the rigor of King’s thinking and has sought—through Dreamer and other writings and talks—to restore this philosophical dimension of King’s work to his public image.

Here, Tricycle speaks with Johnson about his writings on Martin Luther King Jr. and what Buddhist practitioners, or any spiritual seeker, can learn from King’s message and vision. 

At what point in your life did you realize that your interest in Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. might be more intense than the average person’s? How did that interest lead you to write a novel about the last two years of his life? Even though I grew up in the 1960s, and even though I remember the day Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated, it wasn’t until the 1980s that I realized how little I knew about this man at the center of a civil rights movement that changed America, despite the fact that I invoked his name often. I felt the private man we call Martin Luther King Jr. had over time become a cultural object difficult to grasp in his individuality, in his humanness, and in the minutiae of his daily life, and this troubled me because those are the very foundations from which a public life arises. As a storyteller, the best way for me to correct these gaps in my knowledge was to make King the subject of my fourth novel, Dreamer, but I also co-authored with civil rights photographer Bob Adelman The Photobiography of Martin Luther King Jr., delivered many speeches across America on his eponymous holiday, and composed a short story and essays about his vision after seven years of research. By the time I was done, I’d devoted a fifth of my life to King’s memory and achievements, and I felt I could discuss his philosophy—he was a theologian and philosopher—as well as I can the positions of Plato, Aristotle, Aquinas, Descartes, Marx, or Heidegger.

You have noted many times throughout the years that most Americans have an incomplete picture of Dr. King. What do you think is the most detrimental misconception that people have about him? I feel any life in its totality is impossible to know. But what Malcolm X’s daughter once said of her father is also true for King: We selectively take pieces of him. So far too many Americans just see King as a civil rights leader for just black people. His vision was, of course, greater and more expansive than one with only political concerns.

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