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…”

Buddha Buzz Weekly: Arrest Warrant for ‘Buddhist Bin Laden’

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

Myanmar Issues Arrest Warrant for Buddhist Nationalist Ashin Wirathu

A Myanmar court has issued a warrant for the arrest of the infamous Burmese Buddhist nationalist Ashin Wirathu on sedition charges after he took a break from his usual anti-Muslim fear-mongering to criticize the controversial leader of the country’s civilian government, Aung San Suu Kyi, according to the New York Times. Authorities in Myanmar have long ignored the extremist monk—dubbed the “Buddhist Bin Laden” by critics—and his hateful sermons against Muslims, a minority group in the majority Buddhist nation. His tirades took on a new significance in 2017, when the country’s military began a genocidal campaign of violence against the Rohingya, a Muslim ethnic group in Rakhine State. More than one million Rohingya refugees have since fled to camps across the border in Bangladesh.

Suu Kyi, a Nobel laureate who was once praised as a nonviolent advocate for human rights, has been widely criticized for her refusal to challenge the military’s brutal campaign and, at times, has appeared to help cover up or defend the atrocities. However, in his allegedly defamatory remarks against the leader, Wirathu said that she has been hindering the military’s attacks on Muslims and that her government was secretly supporting a Muslim agenda.

Related: Who Is the Real Aung San Suu Kyi?

As of Friday, police had yet to arrest Wirathu, who on Wednesday appeared to taunt the government, telling the Times, “I’m in Yangon. I am not hiding. They can come arrest me. I’m not afraid of prison.” On Thursday, at least 300 of Wirathu’s supporters gathered at Yangon’s Shwedagon Pagoda, one of the most sacred sites in Myanmar, to protest the arrest warrant.

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The Name(s) On My Birthday Cake

“The perfect place to get free of your name.” That’s how the prolific Tang Dynasty poet and devoted Chan (Jp. Zen) student Po Chu-i described Thatch-Hut Mountain, a complex of approximately 90 peaks in south China. When he arrived there in 815 C.E., monks and sage-recluses had already resided among the craggy ridges for centuries: chopping wood, growing veggies, attending to their breathing, slowly and steadily emptying their minds. Thatch-Hut was a hotbed of name-escapers.

It could be argued that Chan practice—the hours sitting in meditation, the weeks and months and years contemplating paradoxical riddles, the entire shebang—is fundamentally concerned with the prison of the name, in other words the illusory self and the not-so-illusory limitations it puts on our experience of the world and our way of being. Better to establish a home in the nameless rhythm of inhale-exhale, the flow of weather and seasons out your hermitage window, than in the ego’s fears and desires, right?

Well, maybe. Although I want to assume Po’s ancient ideal of Chan namelessness resonates across the ages, it’s likely that your typical 21st-century American relates to the ink on her birth certificate differently: “S-A-M-A-N-T-H-A. I was born Samantha, and thus I will forever be Samantha. I know who I am. I am me. Samantha. When I die, that’s what they will engrave on my headstone.”

OK, sure, easy enough for Samantha—this imagined woman—to identify with her name, but what if that string of letters wasn’t so approachable? What if it failed to offer the security of the familiar and was instead slippery, amorphous, a moving target? What if Samantha’s name was…

“Hi, I’m Leath. Pleasure to meet you.”

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New Retreat Search Site Helps You Find a Place to Find Some Peace

Meditation retreats may be calming, but finding one can be stressful. But a young programmer and meditation enthusiast is trying to make it easier for people to find the right retreat with a new searchable database that launched on Wednesday, May 29.

RetreatBase currently lets users browse more than 750 retreats at 150 centers, making it more straightforward for people to find programs that fit their schedules, budgets, and traditions. While similar services already existed for yoga retreats, creator Alan Ni said that there was no centralized resource for silent meditation retreats.

Ni, 26, began working on the site shortly after leaving his position as a product manager at Google. He first posted the idea to the “/meditation” subreddit, where it received an enthusiastic response. He returned to Reddit with a beta later that year and said he encountered an outpouring of gratitude from meditators who previously could not find a retreat that worked for them.

“Part of what is motivating to me is hearing from a few folks who . . . were able to find a retreat center that they wouldn’t have found otherwise,“ Ni told Tricycle. “I find it super gratifying.”

Currently, users can search the site to find a retreat and the contact information for the center. But later in June, Ni plans to roll out a program that would allow meditators to contact registered hosts and book retreats directly—like Airbnb for contemplative practice. He is also creating a waitlist tool and other features to make it easier for hosts to organize retreats, in addition to making them easier to find.

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Tips for the Procrastinator Practitioner

Resistance to meditating is familiar to all meditators. This is one of the main obstacles to practice. Usually, it manifests most strongly when we are moving toward the cushion. Suddenly, I may realize that I have forgotten to take out the trash. It’s Thursday and the garbage must go out. I decide to do that first, and while taking out the trash, I notice that the garden is really dry, and it is supposed to be a hot day! I try to turn the water on, but I can’t remember how to override the automatic irrigation system. So I place a call to the irrigation expert, and so on, until pretty soon the 45 minutes I had set aside for meditation are gone. I console myself that I can meditate tomorrow. Of course, some chores are important and must be taken care of, but we need to keep our meditation time nonnegotiable.

Avoiding or resisting spiritual practice arises for many reasons, but there are common threads. We might feel intimidated by the idea of meditation, thinking, My mind is too busy; I will never be able to do this. One part of us might be determined to meditate, while another part may feel: No way, I might lose my incentive if I simply let go and sit. If I’m meditating, I’m not getting anything done. Or we might wonder, Is it really okay to take time for myself? These types of thoughts are often semiconscious. Many times we don’t even know why a part of us doesn’t want to meditate. Underneath these thoughts and feelings is often fear of some kind. Usually people need to exert extra willpower in order to just start meditating. One lama I know says, “You might as well just put out two cushions for your meditation sessions—one for you and one for your resistance. It will accompany you a lot of the time.” That is, it’s important to acknowledge any resistance: Give it some space, and move on with the meditation.

As our meditation becomes more of a daily habit, new patterns form. If we treat our daily meditation as non-negotiable, like brushing our teeth, this can help—the same way a child might resist going to school until she realize school is unavoidable, and so she settles down and accepts going every day. Meditating with others once a week or more is also helpful. Somehow, if we have a schedule to meditate with others, the ego often relaxes into the program. In a group, the combined intention of the meditators supports each individual to do it. Being accountable to our group, even if we only meet with them once a week, can help sustain our commitment to meditate.

Related: Why Can’t I Get to the Cushion?

Another option is to take some time off the cushion to inquire into the resistance. Sit quietly and ask yourself, What is coming up for me? Without trying to analyze it, simply listen carefully to what answer pops up. Keep questioning. Ask yourself, Tell me more. Don’t reject any response. Just listen and keep inquiring. Responses that arise from the subconscious often don’t make sense initially, but in my experience, if we keep following the threads without judgment, it all eventually becomes clear. An important point is to meet yourself with kindness, be present with your human self, just like you would be patient and kind with a small child you care about. Criticizing yourself simply adds to the difficulty.

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Buddha Buzz Weekly: Vesak, the Buddha’s Birthday

Buddhist celebrate Vesak, Sri Lanka president pardons a Buddhist nationalist leader, and a new app offers meditation by and for people of color. Tricycle looks back at the events of this week in the Buddhist world.

By Karen Jensen and Matthew AbrahamsMay 25, 2019

At a Vesak celebration on May 19, participants release lanterns outside the Borobudur Temple in Magelang, Indonesia. | 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.

Buddhists Around the World Celebrate Vesak

On May 19, Buddhists around the world celebrated Vesak, the holiday that marks the birth, death, and enlightenment of the Buddha. In Sri Lanka, the festivities were subdued following the April 21 bombings by Islamic extremists, and last week’s attacks by Buddhist extremists on Muslim-owned homes, businesses, and mosques. According to Reuters, witnesses reported that the number of worshippers at Keleni Raja Maha Viharaya—a temple near the city of Colombo that  some worshippers believe dates back to the time of Shakyamuni Buddha—appeared significantly lower than the previous year. Despite more stringent security, a sense of unease about safety may have been the cause. As one woman commented, “I still feel unsafe and will make a floral offering at the temple and return [home] as soon as I can.” In Vietnam, the United Nations hosted the UN Day of Vesak for the third time, the Star reports. Festivities spanned three days and were attended by over 20,000 Vietnamese Buddhist dignitaries and monastics. In line with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, event workshops covered “responsible leadership for sustainable peace, Buddhist approaches to family issues, healthcare, education, morality, responsible consumption,” as well as other issues. In Indonesia, thousands gathered at a ceremony outside Borobudur Temple in Magelang, where monks recited prayers and mantras before participants filled the night sky with lanterns as a symbol of enlightenment. Meanwhile, United States Secretary of State Michael Pompeo wished “peace and joy” to Buddhists around the globe. “The Buddhist community in the United States contributes to the strength of our country and our people, and Buddhism’s contributions to the world over more than two thousand years have enriched our culture and our history,” the statement reads.

Sri Lanka President Pardons Buddhist Hardliner

With little explanation, Sri Lanka President Maithripala Sirisena pardoned a hardline Buddhist monk on Wednesday, only a week after violent anti-Muslim riots allegedly organized by Buddhist nationalists swept through the country, Al Jazeera reports. Officials had accused Galagoda Aththe Gnanasara, leader of the “Buddhist Power Force,” of inciting violence against Muslims and Christians—both minorities in the majority-Buddhist nation—before his 2016 arrest and subsequent conviction on contempt of court charges for interrupting a journalist’s trial, according to Al Jazeera. The previous week, three other Buddhist nationalist leaders were arrested for allegedly stoking a violent mob that attacked Muslim establishments over several days and left one man dead.

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