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How to Stay Calm in a Raging World

This article was adapted from psychotherapist and meditation instructor Mindy Newman’s lecture at the Night of Philosophy and Ideas, a dusk-to-dawn marathon of philosophical discussions and events at the Brooklyn Public Library on February 2, 2019. Newman’s talk was part of a Tricycle series that presented perspectives from Buddhist thinkers and scholars.

How do we stay calm in a raging world? Most of us think that we need the world around us to change in order for us to change. We think that if the people in our life were more responsive to us or if politicians were thinking about things in the right way or doing the things we wanted we wouldn’t have to be so angry. But from the perspective of Buddhism, staying calm comes from healing our own anger. This is because as long as we’re meeting the world’s rage with our own rage, more rage is guaranteed.

We experience the world through the lens of our own habitual patterns: our cognitive mental patterns, our emotional patterns, and the legacy of all our interactions with other people. If we have intense habit patterns of anger, we become angry that much more easily. Even though we might appear happy or cheerful, it’s like the anger that we have within us all of the time is simmering right below the surface. It can be ignited in an instant—say, if we come across something that we’d rather avoid or that we find frustrating or that is the opposite of how we want things to be.

This is all the more so if we’ve developed a habit of not just experiencing our anger but acting out of it. Doing this reinforces the rage inside of us. Given that we’re in New York City, we have a prime example of this in front of us all the time: the subway. You can get on the subway in the morning in a perfectly fine mood, except maybe you’re a little bit more tired than usual and you really want to sit down on one of the seats. But then  somebody shoves past you to get to the seat before you can, and suddenly you have this irrationally intense feeling of anger. If you regularly ride on the New York subway, chances are you will recognize this experience.

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The Asian American Heritage of Buddhism in the United States

Six articles to honor Asian Pacific American Heritage Month

By TricycleMay 23, 2019

Chinatown, San Francisco. Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress | https://www.loc.gov/resource/highsm.25489/

May is Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, an opportunity to reflect on the vital contributions Asian Americans have made throughout the history of the United States—including the role Asian communities played in laying down the path for American Buddhism. Here are six stories from our archives that touch upon the trials and triumphs of American Buddhists of Asian descent.

Who is the Angry Asian Buddhist? An interview by Emma Varvaloucas
The writer behind the “Angry Asian Buddhist” blog explains his frustration over the “two Buddhisms” framework, which distinguishes between “immigrant” and “American” Buddhism.  He argues that the tapestry of practitioners in the US is far more complex. In 2017, the blogger, Aaron Lee, who went by the pseudonym arunlikhati, died from cancer at age 34.Brown Body, White Sangha by Atia Sattar
A mindfulness of the body meditation takes on a different meaning for a Pakistani practitioner in a mostly white sangha. “Nowhere does race blindness feel more hurtful,” writes Atia Sattar, “than in well-intentioned white sanghas presently striving for diversity and inclusion.Thus Have I Heard: An American Sutra by Duncan Ryuken Williams
Scholar and Zen priest Duncan Ryuken Williams pieces together the story of how Japanese internment camps gave birth to a uniquely American Buddhism. You can also listen to “When Buddhists Were a ‘National Security Threat’” on the Tricycle Talks podcast to hear Williams in conversation with Tricycle Editor and Publisher James Shaheen.Young Adult Novelist Emily X. R. Pan Didn’t Mean to Write a Buddhist Book by Lakshmi Gandhi
Author Emily X.R. Pan reflects on how writing a novel led her to discover a deeply ingrained personal Buddhism.Whose Corruption and Whose Compassion? by Russell Leong
A Buddhist temple in Los Angeles played a key role in a fundraising scheme for the 1996 presidential election. Chinese American author Russell Leong explores how xenophobia around both race and religion may have contributed to the media fallout.  Real Refuge: Building Inclusive and Welcoming Sanghas by Mushim (Patricia) Ikeda-Nash
Building inclusive, welcoming sanghas necessitates “looking around the room and seeing who’s here and who isn’t here.” In this Dharma Talk series, Buddhist teacher and community activist Mushim (Patricia) Ikeda-Nash instructs us in “seeing the unseen,” a practice in examining our unconscious assumptions that binds us to racism, classism, or ableism.

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12 Things You Should Never Say to Sick People

Even the most well-intentioned people often don’t know how to talk to the chronically ill. This is because we live in a culture that treats illness as unnatural. As a result, people have been conditioned to turn away in aversion from those who aren’t healthy, even though it’s a fate that will befall everyone at some point in his or her life. 

The consequences of taking this unrealistic view of the realities of the human condition is that many people feel uneasy and even fearful when they encounter people who are struggling with their health. I admit that this was true of me before I became chronically ill. Now I find it as natural to talk to people who are chronically ill as I do to people who are the pinnacle of health. 

I hope this list encourages people who know someone who is chronically ill to become more mindful of their speech. I also hope it will help those who are sick and those who are in pain feel less alone. I expect that those of you who are chronically ill will recognize many of the comments you’re about to read.

1. “You look fantastic!”

It’s a challenge to respond to comments such as “You look fantastic,” or the dreaded “But you don’t look sick,” because we know that the speaker is only trying to be nice. If we respond truthfully with “Well, I don’t feel fantastic” or “Thanks, but I feel awful,” the other person might be embarrassed or think we’re being ungrateful. I admit that I’ve never come up with a satisfactory response to this comment. I usually mumble “thanks” and try to change the subject.

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Buddha Buzz Weekly: A Violent Buddhist Mob

Buddhist nationalists arrested over deadly anti-Muslim riots in Sri Lanka, a look at Ladakh’s ice stupas, and the Zen Center of Los Angeles gets a new abbot. Tricycle looks back at the events of this week in the Buddhist world.

By Karen Jensen, Matthew AbrahamsMay 18, 2019

A mosque attacked during anti-Muslim mob violence in Sri Lanka on May 14. | Photo by Pradeep Dambarage/ZUMA Wire/Alamy Live News

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

Sri Lanka Eyes Buddhist Extremists in Anti-Muslim Violence

Violent anti-Muslim riots broke out in northern Sri Lanka this week, leaving one man dead, and authorities said Buddhist extremists were most likely responsible, Al Jazeera reports. On Sunday and Monday night, mobs burned Muslim-owned shops and raided mosques and homes in an apparent act of retaliation for the Easter Sunday church bombings that killed more than 250 people, mostly from the country’s Christian minority. But government officials said on Wednesday that Christians seem to have turned the other cheek and that hardline Sinhalese Buddhists were behind the attacks, according to Al Jazeera. Authorities arrested three heads of extremist Buddhist groups who allegedly organized the riots: Mahasohon Balakaya leader Amith Weerasinghe, Anti-Corruption Force Operations director Namal Kumara, and the Nawa Sinhale National Organization’s Suresh Priyasad. Authorities also arrested dozens of other rioters, instituted a curfew, and blocked access to social media.

Related: Sri Lanka Struggles to Contain Its Violent Buddhist Extremists

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Nuns Push for Investigation into Molestation Allegations against Teacher Dagri Rinpoche

After becoming aware of allegations of sexual misconduct against the prominent Tibetan Buddhist teacher Dagri Rinpoche, the Foundation for the Preservation of the Mahayana Tradition (FPMT) suspended him from their list of teachers, the international Buddhist group said in a statement on their website on Tuesday. The following day, ten senior Buddhist nuns—including Jetsunma Tenzin Palmo, the founder of Dongyu Gatsal Ling Nunnery, and Thubten Chodron, the abbess of Sravasti Abbey in Washington—sent a letter to FPMT calling for a third-party investigation into the accusations.

Dagri Rinpoche—a tulku [reincarnated master] in the Gelug school of Tibetan Buddhism and a touring teacher who regular visits centers in the United States, such as Sravasti Abbey, where he had been listed as a spiritual advisor—was suspended after being accused in a formal complaint of molesting a woman onboard an Air India flight on May 3. Following media reports of the charge against him, a former nun, Jakaira Perez Valdivia, posted a video on YouTube entitled “Dagri Rinpoche is indeed a serial molester,” in which she claims that Dagri Rinpoche molested her ten years ago while she was living in Dharamsala, India. Soon after, another woman, Shin Young Sun, stepped forward, writing in a Facebook post on May 13 that Dagri Rinpoche groped her breast while she was a student at Sarah College in Dharamsala between 2005 and 2009.

Dagri Rinpoche has denied any wrongdoing.

In their letter to FPMT, the senior nuns said there are even more women who have remained anonymous, “Some of us personally know other Western nuns who have reported that they were molested by Dagri Rinpoche,” they wrote. The letter continues:

We urge the FPMT to commission an independent, third-party investigation into these allegations, and to make the conclusions of this investigation public. This investigation should be conducted in such a way that plaintiffs and/or witnesses feel safe to come forward and tell their stories confidentially—and anonymously, if they so wish . . . Holding an independent investigation sends a clear message that this behavior will not be tolerated and there will be repercussions for perpetrators. This is crucial in order to ensure an environment in which students’ trust can be rebuilt.

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