The Buddha on Prayer and other Secular Buddhist talks

I rarely follow podcasts, series, or youtube channels, but I have become fairly hooked on my friend Doug Smith’s YouTube channel called Doug’s Secular Dharma. Doug and I have co-written an article and a book chapter and I look forward to working more with him and possibly joining him on some of his future videos. Until then, I thought I’d share some of the more recent ones that I’ve especially enjoyed: What did the Buddha Say about Prayer?  This is… Read more

Buddhists and Christians share a Saint: Barlaam & Josaphat

This was the proclamation made on June 3, 1870 by F. Max Muller, described by Donald Lopez as “the most famous scholar of Asian Religion in the 19th century.” In a 2012 lecture at Harvard, Lopez offers a portion of Muller’s full quote: St. Josaphat is the Buddha of the Buddhist canon. It follows that Buddha has become a saint in the roman [Catholic] Church; it follows that, though under a different name, the sage of Kapilavastu, the founder of a religion which, whatever we may think of its dogma,… Read more

A Storm is Coming: Tibetan Buddhism in the West

Even before the #metoo movement went viral last month, a bombshell – or at least a hand grenade – had dropped in the Western Tibetan Buddhist world. In July, 8 former students of Sogyal Lakar (or ‘Rinpoche’ to devotees, famed author of The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying) co-signed a letter outlining his years of sexual, verbal, and physical abuse. In response, Lakar stepped down, leaving over 100 Rigpa centers that had been under his direction in limbo. At virtually… Read more

Meditations on Communities and Gratitude

This has been a year of numerous shifts in my life: officially finishing my Ph.D.; submitted just days after the swearing in of our current president, finding joy and fulfilment in offering courses on mindfulness to members of my community, moving to a new city – Seattle – followed by my second year teaching in China and finally, slowly, settling back into this, my new home. Leaving Montana for this city, not terribly far away, has been difficult. I had not… Read more

Similes for Buddhist Ethics: the traffic-light by Ven. Ajahn Brahm

In teaching and understanding Ethics in the West, it might be an apt generalization to say that we tend to use thought experiments. The oldest one that I know of is in Plato’s Republic, the Ring of Gyges. The experiment asks the listener to imagine a magic invisibility ring and asks whether any person could be so virtuous as to avoid using it for merely selfish gain. The argument, suggested by the interlocutor Glaucon, is that morality is a social… Read more

Explore Buddhism (and more) in India this new year

Ring in the New Year in India My friend Valerie Hellerman and I will be bringing a small group to India, starting Dec 28, for 14 days on a “Footsteps of the Buddha” and cultural/religious history of India journey with special focus on Buddhism’s holiest city, Bodhgaya. Our journey will be an opportunity to experience New Year’s Eve on the holy river Ganga (Ganges) in Varanasi before welcoming 2018 in Bodhgaya, and closing with a return to New Delhi to see the… Read more

The Buddha Spits on Old Age

The Buddha was a far more complex figure than we often give him (or tradition) credit for. Too often he’s reduced to a holy mirror image of the path to perfection, and idealized, even deified ideal far out of reach. Reading, and re-reading the earliest teachings, held in the Pali Suttas (and in other form, but this is most accessible to English speakers) one can find new treasure after new treasure about the life and personality of the Buddha. After… Read more

In Wake of #MeToo, a Tibetan Buddhist lama Offers a Teacher-Student “Sex Contract”

The post, which was taken down after circulating for around 24 hours, caused anger, sadness, and confusion as supporters discussed the immaturity and inappropriateness of the supposed joke. However, as a public posting it was archived and can be found elsewhere online. Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse, often addressed with the honorific “Rinpoche” and also known as Khyentse Norbu, is a well known Buddhist teacher, writer, and filmmaker from Bhutan. He caused ripples in the Tibetan Buddhist communities in August when he… Read more

Mindfulness, Mindlessness, and the Marketplace

In a spirited and thoughtful defense of secular mindfulness, Susan Kaiser Greenland has offered up several points worthy of our attention. The impetus for her article is Thomas Joiner, Ph.D.’s, Mindlessness: The Corruption of Mindfulness in a Culture of Narcissism, which she calls “a take-down of the ‘faux’ mindfulness movement.” For those unfamiliar with the term, mindfulness is a state of attention that’s strengthened through meditation. It was introduced to the West largely through the assimilation of trends in Buddhist thought. For… Read more

A message on the Rohingya from young Burmese American Buddhists

Setting their discussion in the context of traditional blessings to family and the three jewels of Buddhism, a group of young Burmese American Buddhists have put together a moving portrait of their thoughts on the Rohingya. The voices  present the case as a plea to their elders, who told them of the 1988 uprising by monastics against the military, and who came to America to pursue their dreams. We are grateful that you taught us to respect our elders, uphold… Read more

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