Monday, December 27, 2010

Springs woman sells business, possessions for Buddhist life

by MARK BARNA, THE GAZETTE, December 19, 2010

Gwyn Waterfield, her head shaved and wearing a white robe, walked slowly down an aisle at Shove Chapel on the Colorado College campus last week during her Buddhist Precept Ceremony.
Nine months ago, Waterfield was an Austin, Texas, business owner with 10 employees. She gave it up and most of her possessions to pursue becoming a Buddhist nun.
“I have some nervousness and fear about my new life,” Waterfield said, “but mostly I have an enormous amount of gratitude.”
The ceremony signified Waterfield becoming an Anagarika within Buddhism’s Thai Forest Tradition.
As an Anagarika, Waterfield will adhere to the Eight Buddhist Thai Forest Precepts: refraining from sexual activity, speaking falsely, ingesting mind-altering products, eating after noon, entertainment, beautification, adornment and oversleeping.
After one year, Waterfield will be a novitiate, which requires, in addition to the precepts, prohibition from preparing food and driving a car. Two years from now, she may be an ordained Buddhist monastic, though the process usually takes longer. 
Waterfield is the first to join the monastic arm of the nonprofit Awakening Truth, founded by Ajahn Thanasanti earlier this year in west Colorado Springs. Awakening Truth also offers Tava Sangha, a free meditation and talk from Thanasanti for lay people.
Monastics within the Thai Forest Tradition take a vow of poverty, making them dependent on donations for survival since they never charge for their talks and good works.
Donors pay the rent on Thanasanti’s small cottage and on an apartment, which doubles as Waterfield’s sleeping area and communal meditation site for lay people.
Everything Thanasanti and Waterfield eat has been given. One day it might be a McDonald’s meal, and on another it might be a chef salad from a family restaurant.
“You can’t show preference (for what you are given),” Waterfield, 40, said.
At the Precept Ceremony, Thanasanti said the purpose of the monastic life is “awakening.” Monks benefit society by revealing a path to a happiness deeper than anything the world can offer.
“We live in a world where self-discipline, restraint and self-renunciation are not popular,” Thanasanti, sitting cross-legged on a pillow, said. Monastics “open the door for people to question their choices. There is another choice.”
Raised on a ranch in Canadian, Texas, Waterfield got a double-shot of Christianity. Mom was a Roman Catholic and Dad a Methodist. Her teen and early-adult years were marked by drinking and drug use, she said.
Because of her wayward lifestyle, it took her a number of years to finish her math degree at St. Edward’s University, a Catholic college in Austin.
In 1998 she founded “Gwyndows,” a window-cleaning operation in Austin that quickly grew into a formidable residential and commercial business.
All the while she was exploring Buddhism. She practiced at Austin Buddhist centers and attended days-long retreats around the country.
“The world started to look different,” Waterfield said. “There is something transformative and powerful about sitting still.”
After attending a 10-day retreat in CaƱon City this year run by Thanasanti, she made a decision. “I knew I had to pursue this,” said Waterfield, who has never been married.
About 50 people attended the Precept Ceremony. Waterfield’s mother, Gail, and her brother, Bruce, traveled from Texas.
The ceremony took place at an altar adorned with flowers, candles, and the statues of Buddha and Kuan Yin, the embodiment of compassion within the faith.
“I was prouder of her than I’ve ever been,” Gail Waterfield, 70, said after the ceremony. “The peace I see that has come over her is something that a mother prays her child will have.”
To learn about Waterfield’s daily life as a monastic, go to Barna’s blog, The Pulpit, at
Awakening Truth
What: Tava Sangha, a Buddhist program for lay people
When: Wed. 6:15-7:15 p.m.,meditation only; Sat. 6:30-8:30 p.m., meditation and talk by Ajahn Thanasanti.
Where: 511 Columbia Road
Cost: Free

Read more:

Monday, December 20, 2010

Becoming a Buddhist in Guernsey

by Richard Moorman, BBC, Dec 20, 2010

Guernsey, UK -- Guernseyman Richard Moorman became a Buddhist in 1997 but said he had been "flirting with the idea" since 1971.

He explained that in that time he had researched the faith and had been practising elements of it before his official conversion.

He said the Guernsey Buddhist Group held meetings open to anyone from any branch of Buddhism or any faith.
Richard said: "We've had Zen and Tibetan Buddhists and people of other religions come to our meetings."

He explained: "They enjoy the chanting, the meditating and the things we do."

Even though meditation is a central part of Buddhist practice Richard said it had its origins in the pre-Buddhist religions of northern India and today was practised by many people both as a religious activity and in secular life.

He said: "Meditation has been shown to lower blood pressure and reduce stress levels - it's a very good thing to do irrespective of the religious sharpens powers of concentration."

Richard decided to make the step of taking on Buddhism in an official capacity following his step-daughter's move to the faith and, along with his wife, began practising a Japanese derivation of the religion.

He explained when they converted to Buddhism they took part in "taking refuge" which involves accepting "the Buddha as your teacher, the Dharma as his teaching and the Sangha as the community of Buddhists".

Richard said Buddhists have "a profound respect for all sincere religious practice".

Using the example of Christmas he said they respected Christians and their celebration of Jesus' birth.
Richard said as he lives in a Christian culture he still celebrated the event: "It's not a religious festival for me but its certainly a time to enjoy being with family."

He said the main teaching of Buddhism is: "We don't exist in isolation to everything else, we are one with everything and everything is one with us... once that becomes a profound insight, it produces great happiness."

Friday, December 3, 2010

Buddhism Enjoys A Revival In China

by Mitch Moxley, IPS News

BEIJING, Dec 1 (IPS) - Quan Zhenyuan discovered Buddhism by accident. After the owner of a vegetarian restaurant here in the Chinese capital gave her a book about the religion, she became hooked. Today, Quan is one of a growing number of urban Chinese who turn to Buddhism for spiritual fulfillment.

"I always used to believe Buddhism is a kind of superstition, but I changed my mind completely after reading the book" called ‘Recognising Buddhism’, says Quan, 32, an executive manager at a tourism agency in Beijing. She says Buddhism has taught her how to better solve problems and cooperate with employees and clients. "Buddhism gives me peace of mind."

China, an officially atheist country, is experiencing a Buddhism revival.

In the three decades since Premier Deng Xiaoping announced the ‘Reform and Opening Up’ policy, a spiritual void has opened among many Chinese, experts say. Stressed and overfocused on careers and material gain, many of its citizens have started to look for answers in religion, none more than Buddhism, which has a 2,000-year history in China.

A 2007 survey by the Research Centre for Religious Culture at East China Normal University found that of 4,500 people questioned across 31 provinces and autonomous regions, 33 percent claimed to believe in Buddhism.

Liu Zhongyu, the research team’s leader, told Phoenix News Media that "Buddhism is the major belief among intellectuals and young people" in China. He said that more than 300 million Chinese likely believe in Buddhism. Ten years earlier, the State Bureau of Religious Affairs pegged the number at 100 million.

Liu attributed the growing interest in Buddhism to social instability, pressures and anxiety caused by the rapidly developing market economy in China.

The Chinese Academy of Social Sciences’ ‘Blue Book on China’s Religions’ said Buddhism has experienced a "golden period" during China’s three decades of reform. During this period, nationwide organisational systems have been created, conducting summer camps and public education activities.

Research by the Centre on Religion and Chinese Society at Purdue University in the United States, announced at the 7th Symposium of the Social Scientific Study of Religion in China in July, found that interest in Buddhism has exploded in the last three decades. About 185 million Chinese follow Buddhism today, the Centre found.

Around the first century AD, Buddhism began to spread from India to China via the Silk Road. Gaining the support of emperors and royalty, the religion’s teachings spread rapidly. Indian dignitaries were invited to teach Buddhist philosophy and many sutras were introduced in China.

Mao Zedong, who was famously hostile toward religion, did not ban Buddhism outright, but many temples and Buddhist organisations were soon overtaken by the state.

When China brutally suppressed Tibetan Buddhism in 1959, this was supported by the government-controlled Buddhist Association of China. During the Cultural Revolution, many Buddhist holy sites were ravaged, but following Mao’s death in 1976, the suppression of Buddhism and other religions eased somewhat.

Like many young urban Chinese, a man in his thirties who gave his nickname as Eddie has turned to Buddhism to find meaning in his life. Buddhism has helped him answer questions about mankind’s purpose and about what comes next, he says.

"It shows me a brand new world. It’s like a light to guide my life, it gives me hope. It makes me understand the power of now," says Eddie. "I think I’m on the right track in connecting with myself."

But Duan Yuming, a professor at Sichuan University’s Institute of Religious Studies, says that while interest in Buddhism is growing, very few Chinese can actually call themselves Buddhist. "They practice Buddhism just for peace of mind."

Still, even a cursory interest is a good thing, Duan tells IPS.

"Buddhism is a spiritual development leading to true happiness. Buddhist practices, such as meditation, are a means of transforming oneself and developing the qualities of awareness, kindness and wisdom….Chinese people today are always urgent to do things. They don’t even know how to relax. Meditation can help them find peace of mind," he says.

Over the past decades, Buddhist monuments have been erected and restored across China, and tourism to Buddhist and other religious sites has increased. In 2006, China organised the World Buddhist Forum, and the next year banned mining on Buddhist sacred mountains.

Part of the rising interest in Buddhism stems from a growing fascination with Tibet. Although the vast majority of Chinese view the Autonomous Region as an inalienable part of China, many urban Chinese think of Tibet as a romantic, rugged frontier. As a result, tourism to the capital, Lhasa, and beyond has exploded in recent years.

Duan says that the growing interest in Buddhism among the majority Han Chinese can help improve understanding of and relations with Tibet – something the exiled Dalai Lama, who fled China for India in 1959, has said himself.

He told his biographer, the author Pico Iyer: "If thirty years from now Tibet is six million Tibetans and ten million Chinese Buddhists, then maybe something will be O.K."

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Disgraced Ex-Congressman Bob Ney Studying Buddhism at Indian Temple

Politics Daily
He's traveled quite a path. Former Rep. Bob Ney (R-Ohio) served six terms in Congress, then spent 17 months in federal prison for his role in the Jack Abramoff scandal. Now he is studying meditation at a Buddhist Temple in India. 

Ney, 56, told the National Journal in a phone interview that since September he has lived in a $10-a-day rented room in Dharamsala, the Dalai Lama's headquarters-in-exile for more than 50 years. The ex-congressman quit drinking, dropped 60 pounds and spends his days meditating with monks and learning the Tibetan language.

Ney, who pleaded guilty to conspiring to defraud the government and making false statements, said he started to try to meditate while in prison to help him cope with the stress of being locked up. Something about it clicked with him, he said, and now he practices meditation daily. 

"You pick a quiet spot, as quiet as you can get," Ney told the National Journal. "You can do it any length of time you want. I usually do it about 10 or 15 minutes. And you focus on your breathing. ... Breath in, breath out. If you hear a sound, you acknowledge it and you just move on back to your breathing."

He said he plans to bring a Tibetan monk back to Ohio with him to train others in meditation. He wants to help the homeless, battered women and veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress syndrome.

"My life is good," he said. "I'm a very lucky person, and I'm just very happy -- very, very happy. I'm doing what I want to do."

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Ralph Steele

Ralph Steele is the founder of Life Transition Institute in Santa Fe, New Mexico where he serves as the guiding meditation teacher. He has practiced Theravadin Buddhist meditation for over three decades and taught since 1987, including at such venues as Spirit Rock Meditation Center and Insight Meditation Society. He completed a year of intensive practice as a monk in Burma and in Thailand. Along with his interest in preserving the Theravada tradition, he is dedicated to making the dharma available to culturally diverse populations. He has also worked with youth around the country.

Ralph received his M.A. degree from the University of Santa Clara in Marriage, Family, and Child Therapy in 1979. He holds BA degrees in Humanistic Psychology, and Religious Studies with board honors. Ralph is also the Founder of the Elisabeth Kubler-Ross Hospice Training Program at Northern New Mexico Community College. During his tenure as the Chair of the Board of Trustees of Southwestern College in Santa Fe, New Mexico, he was instrumental in transitioning the EKR Hospice Program, from a two year Associate Degree program to a Master’s Degree program in Grief, Bereavement and Counseling. He is a member of the following organizations:

  • Spirit Rock Meditation Center
  • Insight Meditation Society
  • The American Association of Marriage and Family Therapy
  • The American Academy of Pain Management
  • The American Pain Society
Spirituality runs in Ralph Steele's blood. The grandson of a minister, Steele's family has run a church for the past 150 years. A devout Christian upbringing is one of the things that Steele shares with Willis and Jarman—and the vast majority of African-Americans.

He also shares with them the experience of living as an outsider. Steele grew up on Pawleys Island, a then-isolated speck of land off the South Carolina coast populated by freed slaves from Sierra Leone. Steele grew up speaking Gullah, a Creole language formed from Elizabethan English and African dialects. He was 12 years old before he spoke English.

"It has always been a practicing Christian community," he said. "What that means is that when some Christians elsewhere started saying they were 'born again,' that never happened there because no one ever left Christ."

An Army brat, Steele's first exposure to the dharma came during his high school years in Japan, when he began to study martial arts. He remembers the day his instructor leaped up and kicked the rim of a basketball hoop.

"That's when my life began to change," he says. "Right then I knew that life was different from how you see things."

Like so many Vietnam veterans, Steele was nearly destroyed by the war. Along with physical and psychic scars, Steele brought home an addiction to heroin and a five-pack-a-day cigarette habit. He credits devotion to his martial arts teacher and to the discipline of martial arts practice with getting him through.

"It wasn't the martial arts itself," he says. "It was the teacher, the trust in the teacher." Back in the States, Steele enrolled at the University of California at Santa Cruz and signed up for a course on Buddhism—taught by a young black professor named Jan Willis. "I was pretty tough on him," Willis reports without elaboration.

Among the things he learned from her were techniques of meditation from the Tibetan tradition. "That helped, because I was simultaneously going down to Palo Alto VA hospital to deal with flashbacks," he says. "Meditation allowed me to begin to get some balance."

His Christian connection still strong, Steele would go on frequent meditation retreats at a Catholic hermitage in Big Sur, and, for a time, even considered joining the order. But his link with Buddhism was cemented when Willis went on sabbatical and Lama Thubten Yeshe came to teach in her place at UC-Santa Cruz. Not long after, the 16th Karmapa, head of the Kagyu lineage of Tibetan Buddhism, came to town: "I went on a one-week retreat to prepare to meet him. When I went up to get his blessing, we had this exchange: I gave him a rosary and he gave me refuge."

Now a psychotherapist, Steele runs the Life Transition Institute in Santa Fe, a center built around the body-mind meditation practices pioneered by Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn. But Steele had several stops en route to New Mexico. He practiced briefly in Seattle, using Buddhist psychotherapy techniques, but he began to receive death threats and left for Portland, Oregon, where he spent many months with the renowned Tibetan teacher Kalu Rinpoche. In those days, the idea of teaching Buddhism never crossed Steele's mind. But then, nine years ago at a Metta retreat with Joseph Goldstein, co-founder of the Insight Meditation Society (IMS), Steele looked around and realized that he and one Vietnamese practitioner were the only non-whites in the crowd. Steele recalls that he said, "Joseph, something has to change," to which Goldstein replied, "Yes, but for now just do the practice."

Steele did. But eventually, during a retreat in Santa Fe, he told Jack Kornfield, another IMS co-founder, that he was ready to teach. "I saw myself starting to become a closet practitioner, and I didn't want to do that," he says now. And how does his Christian family back on Pawleys Island take his new role? "They all accept what I do. People walk their practice there. They have a deep understanding of what practice is."

From Baptist to Buddhist, One Woman's Spiritual Journey
Jan. 26, 2006
Tibetan Buddhist scholar Jan Willis grew up Baptist in the U.S. South but began her spiritual journey at Cornell
Growing up in the deep South during the 1950s and '60s left Jan Willis '69, M.A. '71, asking a lot of questions. Willis, who went on to earn a Ph.D. in Indic and Buddhist studies from Columbia University, sought answers to the roots of hatred and whether peace in the face of such hatred is possible.

Her search would eventually take her to Nepal and back and lead to her current position as professor of religion and the Walter A. Crowell Professor of the Social Sciences at Wesleyan University.

It all started, however, with a trip to Cornell University when she was still in high school.

Willis grew up in Docena, Ala., a small mining town just outside of Birmingham, which she described as the most segregated city in America at the time. Her father, a steelworker, was deacon at a Baptist church the family attended. "Racism was palpable" during her childhood, she said, and hate crimes against blacks -- including children -- were common. Willis experienced this firsthand when a burning cross was planted on the lawn of her family's home.

By the 1960s, however, the civil rights movement was gaining momentum. In 1963, while still in high school, Willis faced police dogs and fire hoses to join a march through Birmingham led by Martin Luther King Jr. "Who wouldn't march?" she said, adding that the experience had been empowering.

Another seminal event in Willis' life occurred during her junior year in high school, when Beatrice MacLeod, associate secretary of Cornell's Telluride House, a living and learning center near campus for exceptional students, visited Willis' school to recruit high school students for the Telluride Summer Program. Willis was accepted, and the program proved to be an eye-opening experience. "It was the first time I had left Alabama ... and the first time I'd been in a mixed-race learning environment," she explained. Although Brown v. Board of Education , the landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision outlawing public school segregation, had occurred a decade earlier, many schools -- including the ones near Willis' home -- were still fighting integration.

The Telluride experience prompted her to apply to Cornell. She was accepted and returned to campus in the fall of 1965 as an undergraduate, becoming the first person in her family to attend college.

She originally planned to major in physics but soon realized she was more interested in philosophy. Her involvement in civil rights issues, however, continued throughout her time in Ithaca. She wrote the constitution for the Black Students Association (BSA) and was the only woman among its eight founding members.

During her senior year, members of the BSA took control of Willard Straight Hall, the student union, during Parents' Weekend. "We were responding to an episode where someone had burned a cross in front of the residence of 12 black students, an often-ignored fact," explained Willis, who, as one of the few women seniors in the BSA, was responsible for the women members' safety.

The takeover garnered much negative press for Cornell at the time, after the protestors were photographed carrying guns as they emerged from the building. But despite the presence of weapons, the surrender was a peaceful one, and BSA demands for black studies were subsequently met when both the Africana Studies Program and the Africana Studies and Research Center were created, Willis noted.

The era of campus unrest also was marked by protests against the war in Vietnam. It was around this time that Willis first became interested in Buddhism, having seen news footage of Vietnamese Buddhist monks and nuns immolating themselves to protest the war. "I wanted to know how someone could be brave enough to do that," she recalled. Her interest solidified when, while studying in India, she met several exiled Tibetan Buddhists. Despite the fact that they had recently fled from their home country following persecution by the Chinese, they struck her as being incredibly cheerful, she remembered.

More than 30 years later, Willis is considered one of the premier American scholar-practitioners of Tibetan Buddhism. She has studied with Buddhists in India, Nepal, Switzerland and the United States and has published numerous essays and books on the subject, including her memoir, "Dreaming Me: From Baptist to Buddhist, One Woman's Spiritual Journey" (Riverhead Books, 2002). She was recently profiled in Newsweek's "Spirituality in America" issue and in 2000 was named one of Time magazine's six spiritual innovators for the new millennium.

For Willis, however, the public recognition is not as important as the private benefits. "[Buddhism] has helped me in real ways to find what I was looking for as a young person in a world that was violent," she explained. "It showed me how to locate deep wounds that racism caused in my early life ... and having found them, how to heal them."

To this day, Willis credits her time at Cornell with having changed her life. "It was as if [MacLeod] reached down into the Jim Crow South and liberated me," she said. "I know how different my life could be if it had not been for that."

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Thousands embrace Buddhism on Vijaya Dashmi

Abhinav Malhotra, TNN, Oct 18, 2010

KANPUR, India -- On a day when the country was busy burning the effigies of demon king, the villagers of nondescript Pukhrayan village in Ramabai Nagar had gathered to worship Ravana and to embrace Buddhism on the occasion of Dussehra or Vijaya Dashmi on Sunday.  Over 5,000 dalits embraced Buddhism in the presence of 12 Buddhist monks during Ambedkar Baudh Deeksha ceremony held at the Krishi Mandi Samiti `maidan' in Pukhrayan, 70-km from the city. In addition to the converts, several thousand other persons came to witness the ceremony. The converts were mostly from Allabahad, Hardoi, Azamgarh, Auraiyya, Kannauj, Unnao, Agra, Firozabad and rural pockets like Bhognipur, Akbarpur, Rura, Derapur, Sikandara and Shivli villages of Kanpur Dehat.

Before taking the oath, they took out a long procession. A man seated on a chariot and depicting Ravana's character was hailed by them. They showered flowers and threw colours on the procession.

Later, Bhante Angulmal, a Buddhist monk, along with many other monks delivered a sermon and made people take oath to follow principles of the Buddhist religion with utmost dedication.

"From today onwards, we would only abide by the principles of Lord Buddha," said middle-aged Ram Vilas Sachan, who had travelled all the way from Fatehpur to attend the ceremony in Pukhranya.

Dhani Rao Baudh Panther, president, Bharatiya Dalit Panther party, who has been conducting the annual ceremony against the discrimination in the society, said: "We believe that Ravana was a `Dravidian' king of `Gond' tribe and a learned person, well-versed in the vedas. We have been organising this Baudh Deekhsha ceremony every year so that the future generation can remember his (Ravana) sacrifice and continue the tradition."

Retired IAS Chandrapal Arun, former vice-chancellor, Jhansi University, Anil Kumar and deputy general manager, enforcement, Base Yamuna Power limited, Ramesh Chandra were present on the occasion.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Cher a Buddhist Now

By Robin Leach, June 9, 2010

Las Vegas, USA -- Superstar entertainer Cher has said she is now a Buddhist, but added with characteristic self-deprecation, “who should always be in after-school detention.”
In an interview with Architectural Digest, the record-breaking Caesars Palace headliner shows off her spectacular 4,000 square-foot, two-floor “apartment” perched high above L.A. The magazine describes it as an irrepressible mix of spirituality and spunk.

“My houses,” Cher muses, “are passions.” They also are decorative barometers of the state of her never-boring, ever-expanding consciousness.

“I’ve played around with Buddhism for years,” continues the actress, a devotee of the American Buddhist nun Pema Chodron. “The soul of the universe, everything that I need, I can find in its practice.” Cher turned to friend and interior designer Martyn Lawrence-Bullard to help her conjure “something ethnic, spicy and romantic” in creams, ivories, whites and buttery beiges.

“Though I loved collecting Gothic and can spend hours drawing with every shade of Pantone pen, I prefer a neutral palette, especially in my bedrooms, because the colors are so easy to live with.”

Source: The Buddhist Channel

Friday, April 30, 2010


Dr Tan Eng Kong, MBBS, MPM, FRANZCP, was born in Malaysia and graduated as a Medical Doctor from University of Malaya in 1971. He is the Founder and Chairman of Metta Clinic, a group practice consisting of psychiatrists and psychologists in Sydney. He is a Fellow and former Councilor of the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists. He has served as a Clinical Supervisor at the Australian Society of Hypnosis, and on the Training Faculties of the New South Wales Institute of Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy (NSWIPP) and the Australian and NZ Association of Psychotherapists (ANZAP). Eng-Kong has taught psychological medicine at the University of Malaya, and analytic psychotherapy at the University of Sydney and University of New South Wales.

He is the Founder President of the Young Buddhist Association of Malaysia (YBAM) and a Trustee of the University Buddhist Education Foundation Fund of Australia. He is also the Founder President of the Australian Association of Buddhist Counselors and Psychotherapists (AABCAP). In 2008 he assisted in establishing the Malaysian Buddhist Mental Health Association for Buddhist doctors, counselors, psychologists and health care professionals.


Dr David Loy has held the Besl Family Chair of Ethics/Religion & Society at Xavier University in Ohio, USA, since 2006. He has taught as professor at Bunkyo University, Japan, and at National University of Singapore. David received his B.A. from Carlton College, Minnesota, M.A. in Asian philosophy at the University of Hawaii, and Ph.D. in philosophy at the University of Singapore. His main research is in comparative (East-West) philosophy, especially bringing Buddhist perspectives to bear on contemporary social issues such as terrorism and violence, restorative justice, economics and globalization, biotechnology, environmental crises, and “the clash of civilizations.”

David authored several books on philosophy including “Nonduality: A Study in Comparative Philosophy, Yale University Press, 1988”, “Lack and Transcendence: The Problem of Death and Life in Psychotherapy, Existentialism, and Buddhism, Humanities Press, 1996,”, “A Buddhist History of the West: Studies in Lack, SUNY Press, 2002”, “The Great Awakening”, Wisdom, 2003)”, The Dharma of Dragons and Daemons”, Wisdom, 2004)”, and “Money, Sex, War, Karma, Wisdom, 2008.”
David is an authorized teacher in the Sanbo Kyodan lineage of Zen where he completed formal koan training under Yamada Koun Roshi.


Venerable Bhikshuni Thubten Chodron graduated with a B.A. in History from the University of California, Los Angeles, and did post-graduate work in Education while working as a teacher in the Los Angeles City School System. In 1975, she met the Dharma and ordained in 1977. In 1986, she received bhikshuni (full) ordination in Taiwan. She has studied under H.H. The Dalai Lama, Tsenzhap Serkong Rinpoche, Zopa Rinpoche, and other Tibetan masters. She directed the spiritual program at Lama Tzong Khapa Institute in Italy for two years, was the spiritual program coordinator and later the director of Dorje Pamo Monastery in France, and was resident teacher at Amitabha Buddhist Center in Singapore.

For ten years she was resident teacher and spiritual advisor at Dharma Friendship Foundation in Seattle, USA. Active in interfaith dialogue, she also works with prison inmates and is the author of several Dharma books, including Buddhism for Beginners, Working with Anger, and Open Heart, Clear Mind. Seeing the importance and necessity of a monastery for Westerners training in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition, she founded and is the abbess of Sravasti Abbey in Eastern Washington State, USA.


Dr Joan Halifax Roshi, an anthropologist by training, is the Founder, Abbot, and Head Teacher of Upaya Zen Center, in Santa Fe, New Mexico. She has worked in the area of death and dying for over thirty years and is Director of the Project on Being with Dying. For the past twenty-five years, she has been active in environmental work. She is also Founder and Director of the Upaya Prison Project that develops programs on meditation for prisoners. She was appointed Honorary Research Fellow at Harvard University, and has taught in many universities, monasteries, and medical centers around the world. Recently, was appointed a distinguished invited scholar to the Library of Congress and the only woman and Buddhist to be on the Advisory Council for the Tony Blair Foundation.

Her teachers included Zen master Seung Sahn, and she was also teacher in the Kwan Um Zen School. She received the Lamp Transmission from Thich Nhat Hanh, and was given Inka by Roshi Bernie Glassman. A Founding Teacher of the Zen Peacemaker Order, her work and practice for more than three decades has focused on engaged Buddhism.


Venerable Wei Wu was born in Penang and had his studies at the University of Canterbury, New Zealand, where he graduated with a Bachelor of Electrical Engineering degree in 1973. He worked with Hewlett Packard in Malaysia as a Quality Manager before starting his own consultancy company in 1987 to serve many multi-national companies including Procter and Gamble, Philips, Fiat, and Astec in Asia, Europe and the United States of America. Venerable Wei Wu was ordained as a Buddhist monk in the Mahayana tradition in 1992 and established the Than Hsiang Foundation in Malaysia and Thailand and the International Buddhist College (IBC) in Hatyai, Thailand.

He is currently the President of the Than Hsiang Foundation and the Council Chairman of the IBC with its main campus in Southern Thailand, and a new branch campus in Korat, Thailand. He is also Abbot of Tham Wah Wan Temple in Kuala Lumpur where many IBC courses are being conducted for participants in the central region of the country. Venerable Wei Wu is also very active in social welfare projects, having established homes for the poor, as well as kindergartens throughout Malaysia.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Chicago Area Buddhists See Tiger's Return To Faith As Positive Move

BY FRANCINE KNOWLES, Chicago Sun Times, February 22, 2010


Revelations by Tiger Woods last Friday that he will turn to his Buddhist faith as he seeks to atone for his infidelity and the damage it wrought is a wise decision, according to Chicago area Buddhists.
But his path will be a challenging one, they said.

"With Buddhism, there's no easy way out," said Rachael Conniff, just before morning service Sunday at the Buddhist Temple of Chicago. "There's no magic way for forgiveness. You can't pray it off. You can't pay it off. You have to work. It's what you make of it. Buddhism is a lot about self-reliance and self-responsibility, so if he's serious about that, then he will get back on track."

In his first public apology last week, Woods said he's dedicated to becoming a better person and will return to his Buddhist roots. His mother is a Buddhist and native of Thailand.

"I actively practiced my faith from childhood until I drifted away from it in recent years," he said. "Buddhism teaches that a craving for things outside ourselves causes an unhappy and pointless search for security. It teaches me to stop following every impulse and to learn restraint. Obviously, I lost track of what I was taught."

Buddhism, a faith practiced by an estimated 350 million to 500 million globally, has served Woods well in his professional career, said Bill Bohlman, who has attended the Chicago temple for about 20 years.

"A lot of his Buddhist upbringing is the reason he's such a good golfer, the idea of being in the moment and letting the past be the past," Bohlman said. "He wouldn't focus on the last bad shot. He wouldn't carry it into the next one. He could have a bad tournament and go win the Masters. So, this was the underpinning of a lot of his success."

But besides the importance of focus and concentration, Buddhism teaches the importance of dealing with one's desires and realizing the causes of one's unhappiness, said the Rev. Patti Nakai, associate minister at the Chicago temple.

"A lot of attention is put on overcoming defilements, craving for this, craving for that," she said. "Craving is something you need to be aware of, and instead of letting it control you, you need to see where it's coming from. One of the tenets is analyzing your cravings, why do you want that so badly, and by doing this analysis, it starts to break it down."

She and others said Buddhism does allow for forgiveness and redemption, but not in the same way as Christianity. She was addressing controversial comments Fox News' Brit Hume made earlier this year urging Woods to turn to Christianity because Hume didn't think Buddhism offered the forgiveness and redemption offered by Christianity.

Buddhism "has no divinity figure to ask forgiveness from," but you learn from your actions and you move on, said Bohlman.

It focuses on the need for followers "to get to that place where you can totally accept who you are and all the circumstances that brought about that," said Nakai.

While there is no one "to wipe the slate clean," she said, "you, yourself, have to do the hard work of confronting what you did and hopefully finding ways from this point on to the future to do things differently, in a [non-destructive] way to yourself and the people around you."

Nakai was pleased that Woods spoke about Buddhism.
"It was a very good statement," she said. "I'm glad he made this. I hope people get a positive feeling about Buddhism from his statement."

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Buddhism is an Eastern Way of Life Appealing to Westerners

Ground Report, January 27, 2010
By Jessica Porter

Scarlett Sams works in a Presbyterian Church during the day, but on Thursday nights she attends a meeting of Tibetan Buddhist’s at Ekoji Buddhist Sangha in Richmond, Va. She is a part of a growing Buddhist movement in the United States of every day Americans finding comfort in this Eastern tradition.

“It’s a great community and they are my friends. They are genuine and if I need something, they are there for me. If I’m going through a crisis they are there for me. That is why I am a Buddhist,” Sams said. Although there are no exact statistics, the 2004 World Almanac estimates there are two to three million Buddhists in the United States.  But that number includes not only converted Buddhists such as Sams, but Buddhist immigrants who have brought their religion from Eastern countries.

“Buddhism in American is two camps. One is the Ethnic communities that have centers practicing their own variety of Buddhism. At those places they speak in Vietnamese, or whatever language,” Virginia Commonwealth University Religious Studies Professor Daniel Perdue said. “But by and large it is middle class to wealthy white folks who have adopted Buddhism in all varieties.”

            Buddhism in America is very different from Buddhism in Eastern countries and there the reasons are two-fold. It is a lay person religion, meaning anyone can participate. There is not the same emphasis on monks and monasteries as there is in other parts of the world.

            “[In Tibet] major monasteries had more than 10,000 monks in a country with only six million people. By the time of the fall of Tibet, about one out of three males was a monk. And about 1 out of 4 females was a nun,” Perdue said, emphasizing the monastic importance in the East.

Also, many Americans do not view Buddhism as a religion or as strictly as it is practiced in the East. It is more often viewed as a philosophy or lifestyle.

“Some very famous Buddhist masters made a statement that ‘Buddhism in the East is like an old tree and has no more capability of producing good fruit. Buddhism in the West, even though still young, is very capable of making good fruit,” Huang Tran said. He believes the open-mindedness of Americans and their constant need to question things has allowed Buddhism to take root, unlike people in the East who just accept the religion and don’t question, not allowing any room for change.

Tran grew up in a Buddhist family in Vietnam, but never found comfort in the religion as a child. Due to economic and political hardships he left Vietnam and came to Virginia, where he has lived the past 24 years. Since then, he has become a mixture of Vipassana and Zen Buddhism. He often goes to Saddhama Vipassana Meditation Center, a monastery in Louisa County, and Hue Quang Temple, a Pure Land Temple, in Richmond.

Buddhism can be divided into two types, Mahayana and Theravada. Theravada is more monastic and emphasizes study and meditation while Mahayana is more ritualistic and holds the belief that any person can become enlightened at any time. Mahayana forms of Buddhism are Tibetan, Zen and Pure Land. The Theravada form of Buddhism is Vipassana.

Unlike Buddhism in Asia, where it is most prevalent, there are very few statistics about the amounts of people celebrating types of Buddhism in the United States. There is disagreement in the Buddhist community about which form is most popular in America.

“Tibetan is exploding in the U.S. right now. There’s a combination in Tibetan teaching of the concept of Zen and Vipassana, some practitioners prefer Zen and some prefer Vipassana, but in Tibetan they have both, it’s cool,” Tran said.

But others believe Zen is the most popular. Zen is considered a more intellectual type of Buddhism that goes beyond words and concepts, Kevin Heffernan, leader of the Zen group at Ekoji and Zen Buddhism professor at V.C.U., said.

Ekoji is a row house in Richmond’s Museum District that is home to Zen, Pure Land, Tibetan, Vipassana and a Meditative Inquiry group. Most members are people in the community, like teachers and hospice volunteers, who are not ethnic Buddhists but have found comfort in Buddhism, said Sams. 

Zen also emphasizes the arts like haiku and calligraphy which is appealing to many people. But others have a different idea about why Zen has found such popularity.

“My honest answer is that it has such a nice catchy name. You can market Zen a lot better than you can some of the others because it sounds so cool … nothing quite so sexy in Theravada,” Vipassana Leader at Ekoji Andy Wichorek said.

Wichorek turned to Buddhism after facing hardships in his life. After choosing Vipassana he has been able to see life more clearly. He is now able to make better decisions and holds a higher degree of calm and collectedness. Although Buddhism is not as prevalent as other religions, others like Wichorek are turning to its teachings.

“Buddhism is sort of unique among the seven world religions for its slow spread, it take s a while for the ideas to sink into a culture. Often it is popular among the wealthy before it is popular among the entire population,” Perdue said.

            Although changing slowly, American society is certainly seeing more Buddhist influence. For example, Hollywood has made Buddhism trendy. In many movies Buddhist symbols or references can be seen in the background and many celebrities are openly Buddhist. It is almost as if they are promoting Buddhism, Perdue said.

            Examples of this are Seven Years in Tibet starring Brad Pitt about the fall of Tibet and the Dalai Lama and actors such as Richard Gere and Orlando Bloom who have converted to Buddhism.

Buddhism will only continue on its path to change and grow to become a greater part of American society. According to Tran it is becoming so accepted because it promotes ideas such as harmony, peace, love and kindness that is knitted among all people. But like many aspects of Buddhism, opinions of the future of Buddhism in America are very diverse.

 “[Buddhism] is probably going to continue to get more popular, I don’t know what the ceiling is. Certainly it’s going to remain fairly obscure but there is so much room for growth … but there’s a lot more to go before it really hits the mainstream,” Wichorek said.

            One idea is Buddhism will simply continue to change. People will be drawn to meditation and practice at home and occasionally at a center. A few of them will become more serious and actually go to temple, and then a few of those will go on retreats and seek harder practices. They will become the leaders at places like Ekoji for the people who want to come to a center once in a while, Heffernan said. Cliff Edwards, Religious Studies Professor at V.C.U. has a similar opinion.

            “It’s going to splinter considerably. It doesn’t want to be called Zen, just Buddhism. And if meditation is the special interest just call it meditation. That is what America needs and wants,” Edwards said.

            But everyone agrees that it will gain more popularity. It has grown a lot in the past 30 years and will remain obscure, but will become more popular, Wichorek said. Tran believes that everyone would become Buddhist, if they only had the knowledge.

            “I can see that people offend Buddhism, but Buddhism doesn’t offend anyone, so if one recognizes and they can see, they would know and they would come,” Tran said.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

11,000 people convert to Buddhism in Ahmedabad

Express News Service

Posted: Jan 25, 2010

Ahmedabad   Close to 11,000 people, including those from the Koli and Kshatriya communities as well as Christian families, embraced Buddhism at a function in Saijpur Bogha here on Sunday. Buddhist monks from Bhante Pragnyasheel administered the pledges to the new converts. The Ahmedabad district collector, however, said no conversion could be effective unless an official permission was granted.

“Five Hindu Dalit families that had earlier converted to Christianity also converted to Buddhism at the function,” said Balkrishna Anand, convenor of the Bauddh Dhamma Deeksha Angikar Abhiyan (Gujarat).

“We were working on the event for the last few months, touring many districts and conducting meetings to mobilise people,” he said, adding that in all, 350 meetings were held to spread the message across the state.
Maintaining that nearly 11,000 people converted to Buddhism at the function, Anand said the neo-converts had come from places as far as Patan, Surendranagar, Rajkot, Vadodara, Junagadh and Mehsana.

Renowned Buddhist leader Kalpana Saroj was the chief guest at the function, which was presided over by five Buddhist monks from various parts of the country.
Asked whether an official permission was sought to carry out the conversions, the convenor said applications for conversion were submitted in the respective districts and they were under process.

Ahmedabad District Collector Hareet Mehta, however, said he did not have details of the applicants off hand.
On the occasion, the Vadodara-based Buddhist Mahasabha urged the state government to work towards inception of the Buddhist relic at M S University into a stupa.

“The state government, the Vadodara Municipal Corporation and M S University should join hands to execute the project with help from Acharya Satyanarayan Goenka of Mumbai, who had set up a grand pagoda,” a memorandum of the Mahasabha to the CM read.