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…”

Mindfulness and Protesting: How to Show Up Without Burning Out

Have you ever wondered about the societal impact of your personal mindfulness practice—especially now, in this moment we are collectively facing? How does sitting in individual meditation have an impact on your family, community, country, or the human race? Many meditations, such as loving-kindness meditation, directly focus on how you feel about yourself and others. Learning to be present with yourself during a moment of societal turmoil may not seem like it is directly influencing efforts to create societal change, but it absolutely impacts how you show up, speak out, and protest. 

The recent protests about police brutality against Black bodies have erupted in an already tumultuous social moment as we reckon with the public health and emotional effects of COVID-19. Taking the time to care for yourself in the midst of advocating for justice is not simply a form of self-indulgence but a vehicle to improve efforts in supporting social justice.

The practice of mindfulness has a lot to contribute to help you prepare for, be present for, and understand the significance your efforts have in creating change through protesting. Meditating on and about the subject you are protesting can deepen your awareness and experience of the subject. 

1. There is a dialogue between your internal and external wounds

Protesting is a practice that allows public acknowledgement of societal wounds. Mindfulness meditation is a practice that allows an individual to acknowledge their emotional wounds. The relationship between the two is integral, as the degree to which you have been able to connect and engage with your personal pain increases your capacity to feel and be with the pain of others. Your capacity to notice feelings in your mind and body serve as a template for how you experience and understand the pain of others within our society. There is a reciprocal relationship between the pain you have been willing to face and acknowledge within yourself that allows you to open to the pain you can acknowledge in others and in society.  

Your capacity to notice feelings in your mind and body serve as a template for how you experience and understand the pain of others within our society.

Continue reading
  20 Hits
  0 Comments
20 Hits
0 Comments

Online Rituals in Newar Buddhism

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!

Nepal entered a nationwide lockdown on March 24, closing its borders and suspending international flights. Set to expire after a week, the lockdown remained in place, ending last week on July 21. Although the number of COVID-19 cases in Nepal remains low, even a minor outbreak would swiftly overwhelm the small country’s already strained healthcare infrastructure.

In Kathmandu, usually awash in noise and heavy with smog, the streets were mostly empty and the air was clean. Temple courtyards, typically packed in the early mornings, were abandoned for months. In a city where religious practice is a major component of life, most worshipers have found themselves unable to participate in group rituals. But one group—the Newar Buddhists—have found new ways to continue their centuries-old practice.

Newars are the indigenous people of the Kathmandu Valley. Although Newar Buddhism has received comparatively little attention in the global Buddhist community, the importance of Newar Buddhists cannot be overstated. It was in their libraries that the Sanskrit originals of texts such as the Perfection of Wisdom sutras were preserved. This is because Newar Buddhists practice the only extant form of the Vajrayana tradition in which all liturgical material is in Sanskrit. Theirs is also the only form of the religion with specifically Buddhist hereditary roles, typically called “castes” and loosely divided along priestly (the Vajracharyas and Shakyas) and mercantile lines, such as the Uray. (There are also broader Newar castes, such as Shreshthas and Maharjans, that elude categorization as either “Buddhist” or “Hindu,” with members making offerings to deities from both religions.)

Vajracharyas, most notably, perform rituals in urban public spaces, often involving a few participants, or even, on occasion, hundreds of people. These rituals, scheduled around the lunar calendar, are a crucial component of the religious life of practicing Newar Buddhists. Along with Shakyas and Urays, Vajracharyas also perform the role of teaching the dharma to the local community.

Continue reading
  18 Hits
  0 Comments
18 Hits
0 Comments

Strange Situation

When Bethany Saltman’s daughter, Azalea, was born fourteen years ago, she felt love—and impatience and anger and other strong emotions she knew were inside her that we don’t often associate with motherhood. 

Saltman, a writer and longtime Zen practitioner who spent several years living at Zen Mountain Monastery in New York State’s Catskill Mountains, decided to investigate these difficult feelings. Her curiosity about the connection between her and Azalea led her to attachment theory and the American-Canadian developmental psychologist Mary Ainsworth (1913–1999). Attachment theory, first developed by the British psychologist John Bowlby and expanded by Ainsworth, posits that our future relationships and many other aspects of our lives are determined by the way that our parents tended to us in our early months, teaching us to regulate our emotions (or not) and to develop qualities such as empathy and insight.

 Ainsworth is credited with developing the Strange Situation, a 20-minute laboratory procedure that ascertains the type of attachment shown by a one-year-old baby toward a caregiver (usually, but not always the mother). In the Strange Situation, the child toddles into a room that doesn’t look like a laboratory, making a beeline for the blocks, dolls, or poster on the wall. The parent and child play for a few moments. Then there’s a knock at the door and the parent leaves the child in the room, either alone or with a stranger who has entered and tries to keep the child entertained. Researchers believe that what happens next—tears, ambivalence, anger—determines so much about how we relate to others, not only at a year old, but throughout the rest of our lives.

Ainsworth’s procedure, based on her field research of attachment styles in mothers and their babies in Uganda, was a major development in attachment theory and remains the “gold standard in psych labs everywhere for assessing security between children and their caregivers,” according to Saltman. 

Saltman’s own “discovery” of attachment theory led to more than a decade of research into Ainsworth’s life and work, as well as to an examination of her own relationships and the intersections between attachment and karma. Her book about her findings, Strange Situation: A Mother’s Journey into the Science of Attachment, was published by Ballantine Books in April. Saltman joined Wendy Biddlecombe Agsar, Tricycle’s editor-at-large and resident new mother, to talk about the intersection of dharma and attachment.

Continue reading
  22 Hits
  0 Comments
22 Hits
0 Comments

Buddha Buzz Weekly: Is Buddhist Culture Helping to Fight COVID-19?

News outlets observe stunning numbers in the fight against the coronavirus in Southeast Asia, a monk in North Carolina is killed by a gunshot wound, and a temple in Tokyo helps struggling Vietnamese workers. Tricycle looks back at the events of this week in the Buddhist world.

By Emily DeMaioNewton and Karen JensenJul 25, 2020

A Buddhist monk on his morning alms round receives alms from a laywoman in Phuket, Thailand. | Rainer Krack/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.

How Did Majority Buddhist Countries Achieve COVID Success? 

Vietnam, a country of 97 million people, and Cambodia, at 16.25 million, have reported zero COVID-19 fatalities. Thailand, with a population of 70 million people, has had only 58 deaths. Myanmar, at 53 million, only six. What’s going on? This week the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) asked if Buddhism has something to do with it. In an interview for the ABC’s Religion and Ethics Report, Jill Jameson, who serves on the executive committee of the International Network of Engaged Buddhists, said that Buddhism’s emphasis on interconnectedness—and the popular belief in some of its apotropaic rituals—may have helped stem the spread. There are other factors: Thailand and Vietnam have mostly agrarian economies, meaning more time is spent outdoors, and authoritarian leadership, which may account for the relatively easy enforcement of COVID restrictions. But Jameson thinks that something else is going on. “It’s not just authoritarian rule,” she said. “[The people in these regions] know when they’re asked to obey rules very strictly that they’re doing it for the benefit of each other, not just for themselves. So it’s that commitment to the other that has helped a lot in reducing the numbers.” There are also many religious practices in Southeast Asian Buddhism that are meant to prevent illness, which Jameson thinks “give people some sense of doing something. Some help, some hope.” In addition, social distancing measures are embedded in the culture itself, the New York Times pointed out last week. In Thai culture, for example, there is a habit of greeting others with one’s palms together, as if in prayer, rather than a handshake or an embrace. There is also speculation that some kind of genetic component has proven advantageous to the immune systems of people in the Mekong River region. 

At this point, it’s hard to say if these countries are completely in the clear—even if it may be true that Buddhist culture is working for, and not against, the fight against the pandemic. “With the disease still looming, we have to keep our guard up,” Dr. Taweesin Visanuyothin, COVID-19 spokesman for Thailand’s Ministry of Public Health, told the Times.

Continue reading
  32 Hits
  0 Comments
32 Hits
0 Comments

Expressions of Whiteness in Buddhism

By Kaitlyn Hatch

Recently the Black Lives Matter movement has gained incredible momentum, first in the United States and now globally. We are seeing a potential tipping point of white people committed to anti-racist actions and consciousness raising as almost every group, organization, community and business has issued messages of solidarity. Not all the messages of solidarity have been well-thought out or included actionable accountability protocols and follow-through, but almost everyone has put out a message.

There is, however, a notable silence from Buddhist communities dominated by white practitioners. Buddhism is a small religious community with only 7% of the global population identifying as Buddhist, compared to 31.5% Christian, 23.2% Muslim and 15% Hindu. The Buddhist population in the United States only makes up 0.8% of this global total, so it’s fair to say that if you know one Buddhist on this continent, you are probably connected to almost all of them.

My own dharma network extends from communities in Canada, to the UK, to the United States. In every case white-bodied practitioners dominate these spaces. Some of these communities have issued messages of solidarity, but overall, I am seeing very little direct action from white Buddhists. I would like to say I am surprised by this, but that wouldn’t be true. I am not at all surprised, just as I was not at all surprised to learn that many male Buddhist teachers abused their positions of power in various ways, including sexual abuse and manipulation.

This is a calling in of other white dharma practitioners, a way to share my practice of learning to see whiteness in the dharma. A significant part of this practice is informed by Zenju Earthlyn Manuel’s teachings in her profound book, The Way of Tenderness. Zenju was the first Black dharma teacher I studied and practiced with and one of the first teachers who presented the dharma through a queer lens. Zenju also teaches in ways that reflect my personal experience where cis-gender, straight teachers have not.

Continue reading
  27 Hits
  0 Comments
27 Hits
0 Comments

By accepting you will be accessing a service provided by a third-party external to http://taooflightyoga.com/