Zen Blog

This blog collects various internet feeds aimed towards information, experience and technique exchange in support of our shared spiritual journey.....

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Buddha Buzz Weekly: Thieves Steal from California Buddhist Temples

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

Donation Money Stolen from Buddhist Temples in Southern California

Several Buddhist temples in Southern California reported thousands of dollars of donation money stolen within the past week, KNBC reports. The station notes that the string of thefts appear to have a similar M.O., but police have not said if the crimes are connected. In La Puente, monks from the Lankarama Buddhist Temple filed a police report after thousands of dollars in donations were stolen. Monk Bhante Sumitta told KNBC that he believes a group who recently asked them to chant for their sick grandmother was actually distracting the monks as others searched for valuables. When the group left, the monks realized their safety deposit box was missing. Sumitta said the alleged burglary seemed “well-coordinated.” 

Last Monday, a group visited a San Bernardino Buddhist temple with a similar request. While the monks were chanting, a surveillance camera captured one woman attempting to break open a door in the temple and another woman struggling to take a large box. A monk said the group took their safety deposit box with thousands of dollars in donations. Police in the nearby Riverside also received a report over the weekend about a temple theft. 

“Buddhabot” Programmed with Sutras to Give Advice to Troubled Souls

A Kyoto-based research team recently unveiled an artificial intelligent chatbot called “Buddhabot” that answers questions and gives advice to troubled souls, according to the Asahi Shimbun. Seiji Kumagai, an associate professor of Buddhist studies at Kyoto University, came up with the idea for the bot while researching scientific methods to address people’s worries. Kumagai said that in Japan Buddhism has become less popular and people mainly encounter it through tourism and funerals. He hopes Buddhabot can help bring Buddhism’s “essence of teaching the way to happiness” back to the country. 

Buddhabot isn’t available to the public yet, but so far it has been programmed with the Sutta Nipata, a collection of early Buddhist discourses, which have been reformatted as a series of more than 100 questions and answers. Buddhabot isn’t the first robot bodhisattva in Japan: In 2019, a Zen Japanese temple created a robot version of Kannon, the bodhisattva of compassion, also with the goal of making Buddhist teachings more accessible. 

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Meditation Q&A with Guo Gu

Congratulations on making it to the last day of Meditation Month! We’re more than a year into the COVID-19 pandemic, so we hope that this year’s articles, resources, and discussion pages offered helpful tips for reinvigorating, sustaining, or kickstarting your practice. 

This month, teacher Guo Gu hosted multiple live meditations online and answered participants’ questions in two informal Q&As. We hope that his advice can provide extra guidance and help you carry the daily practice that you cultivated throughout the month into our ever-changing world.

You hear different things from different teachers about how long to sit in meditation: 10 minutes, an hour, twice a day. How long should I practice for? As you continue to build a foundation and practice progressive relaxation and somatic integration, half an hour is ideal. The more you practice, the faster you’ll be able to relax and cultivate awareness, and the more you’ll be able to engage in the method of silent illumination. Sitting for half an hour helps you to build a routine and serves as a great container for a grounding practice. If you don’t have half an hour, practice for however long you can—even if it’s just for ten minutes. 

If you don’t have 10 minutes, I suggest something I called “one-minute Chan.” Integrate meditation into five one-minute periods throughout your day. Choose five things that you already do every day: maybe it’s a stroll down the same street, climbing a flight of stairs, gardening, washing dishes, or whatnot. For the first minute of those routine tasks, notice the bodily sensations at three different points: the eyes and eyebrow region, the shoulders, and the abdomen. Access the sense of presence, ground yourself in those sensations, and then engage in whatever you’re doing. This practice is a good one even if you’ve already dedicated 30 minutes to sitting practice. Right from the beginning, you’re learning not to separate meditation practice, that is, “practice” from your daily life. 

I’m confused about the concept of embodiment. When I become more aware of my body, I feel like I am reifying it and become more attached to it. I go around in this little loop where I try to not feel my body so I can feel an expansive awareness. What should I do? This question points to our discursive thoughts, our thinking mind, which tend to reify things—it’s normal to make everything into a “thing,” and when we relax, we can automatically make the body into a thing, too. This is why I teach relaxation of the body through focusing on the actual, lived sensations of the skin, muscles, and tendons. Forget about the body as one, solid thing; just focus on different areas of bodily experience. When the body is truly relaxed, you don’t actually feel the body. What you do feel is an embodied experience of groundedness and connection, a far cry from “my body” as an idea. 

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Buddhist Justice Reporter and the George Floyd Trials

Ever since Rodney King in 1991 was mercilessly beaten by several Los Angeles police officers, the world has known that police who brutalize or kill unarmed Black people in the US are unlikely to be found guilty of their crimes. The fact that the nation for thirty years has watched visual and audio documentation of police perpetrating violence with impunity most certainly emboldened the cops who killed George Floyd in Minneapolis on May 25, 2020. What else in our culture could explain an officer kneeling on Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes, in broad daylight, surrounded by many witnesses with cameras pleading with the officer to release Floyd as he struggled to breathe? 

Floyd’s death and the response to it—peaceful and destructive protests calling for the officers involved to be arrested and charged—were predictable. 

It seems to be an endless cycle, but I believe we can do better. 

That’s why my colleagues and I have created the Buddhist Justice Reporter: The George Floyd Trials, an engaged dharma practice project that may offer a constructive interruption and inject a fierce and wise compassion into all of this. We see an opportunity to bear witness to the existential plight of the policing of Black people, equip Buddhist activists with insights into criminal law and the Constitution, and constructively engage in society—all guided by compassion for our collective suffering. And we intend to do this by writing about the trial of the police officer charged with Floyd’s murder.  

This project began with Floyd’s death, which happened as Cheryl A. Giles and I were putting the finishing touches on our anthology, Black and Buddhist: What Buddhism Can Teach Us About Race, Resilience, Transformation, and Freedom. We asked our publisher to delay the book’s production while we wrote something in honor of his life. About a month later, I wrote an open letter to BIPOC Buddhist communities in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area where George Floyd was killed and where I was living at the time. I wrote that I had been changed by this attack, and that I felt we needed a different kind of sangha to address BIPOC Buddhist practitioners’ wholesome desire to live and work for justice. I suggested that there were some principles we might consider including being committed to collective wisdom, collective action, freedom, and justice, as well as choosing or creating our own bodhisattva archetypes for inspiration. 

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Buddha Buzz Weekly: Fire Devastates Rohingya Camp

A fire destroys shelters and leaves thousands homeless at a refugee camp for Rohingya Muslims, Bhutan prepares to vaccinate its population, and Buddhists respond to the Atlanta shootings and the rise in anti-Asian hate crimes. Tricycle looks back at the events of this week in the Buddhist world.

By Amanda Lim Patton and Emily DeMaioNewtonMar 27, 2021

A refugee camp in Cox's Bazaar, Bangladesh. | https://tricy.cl/39hY4NS

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

Fire Leaves Thousands Homeless at Rohingya Refugee Camp 

A devastating fire tore through the Rohingya refugee camp in Cox’s Bazaar, Bangladesh, on Tuesday and killed at least 15 people, injured hundreds, and left thousands homeless. The United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) estimates that at least 400 people are still missing and over 10,000 shelters have been destroyed or damaged. The fire is the latest horror for the Rohingya, a Muslim ethnic minority from Rakhine State, Myanmar. Since 2017, over a million Rohingya have fled brutal military violence in Buddhist-majority Myanmar and sought shelter in Bangladesh, where refugees live in densely packed camps and squalid conditions. “This is the second time I lost everything in my life,” said refugee Ro Anamul Hasan, whose shelter was destroyed in the fire. 

According to the New York Times, witnesses say that the fire started in one of the camp’s shelters but quickly spread after hundreds of nearby cooking gas cylinders exploded. A government official reports that over 250 acres were burned in the massive fire. The Bangladeshi authorities, UNHCR, and other international relief organizations are rushing to provide support to those who lost their shelters and belongings in the blaze. 

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The Buddhist Action Coalition Turns 3 

The Buddhist Action Coalition began, in 2018, with a question. The Theravada monk and scholar Ven. Bhikku Bodhi had read a public letter protesting Donald Trump’s latest act of racial injustice. Clergy from varied religious traditions had endorsed it, but where were the Buddhists? 

A month or so later, Bodhi and nearly 300 other Buddhists gathered at Union Theological Seminary in New York to see about changing that. On Tuesday, the group born from those discussions—the Buddhist Action Coalition—marked its third anniversary with a live Zoom session. 

The online-only celebration began on a somber note, as the organizers paid respects to Asian American victims of racist violence, including six Asian women murdered in the Atlanta area on March 16.

During his keynote address, Bodhi, the group’s spiritual leader, proposed three principles to support Buddhist social consciences: solidarity, particularly with the marginalized; a commitment to social justice; and wise discernment. 

Each has roots in the Buddhist tradition, he said. 

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