Buddhist Monastic Life in China (Photos)

In 2009 I traveled to China to experience Chinese Buddhist monastic life and learn about the practice, philosophy, and history unique to Chan Buddhism. That trip was organized mostly for graduate students in Buddhism or Chinese culture/religion/history but the program has since grown in size and scope to look a bit like the one that was then run separately at Fo Guang Shan monastery in southern Taiwan.My experience with the 2009 program was so positive that I applied for and participated in … [Read more...]

A history of Buddhist Social Engagement

Not long ago, a friend and colleague of mine posted a query in a Buddhist academic group: what sutras or other suitably ancient Buddhist writings could one read today as appealing to something like the social activism we see in America now?The ensuing discussion was lively and, for some perhaps, disappointing. In short, there are none. No pre-modern Buddhist writing can be found that will exhort people to go to the streets, to directly help the poor, or work to overcome systemic … [Read more...]

The Nature of Reality: Buddhist Scholar Alan Wallace in dialogue with Physicist Sean Carroll

During my undergraduate studies in philosophy at the University of Montana, I took a 'capstone' class on Philosophy of Mind. We started with Descartes, setting out the direction that Western thinkers would take: the problem of mind (immaterial, without spatial relations) and body (material, spatially located) interacting with one another. This is the "mind-body problem" and it vexed Descartes 400 years ago and it vexes those who look deeply into it today.The "problem" is not only in regard … [Read more...]

Psychologists test the Dalai Lama’s teaching on Compassion, and it works

Anyone in a relationship knows that it feels good to do something nice for your significant other. In fact, in general, it just feels good to give. Theorists have posited a spectrum of reasons why this is so, from the "egoist" position that we only give in hope of receiving back to accounts that suggest that "we" are merely giving to support similar genetic material or to strengthen social bonds.The Dalai Lama's famous quote (or paraphrase) is that "If you want others to be happy, practice … [Read more...]

In the Obituary of a Tibetan Buddhism scholar, some ominous words

The obituary for Elliot Sperling begins as most do, noting the peaks of the man's life: 66 years of vitality, a MacArthur (genius) Fellowship, and a reshaping of our understanding of Sino-Tibetan relations. Of particular note, the obituary's author Tenzin Dorjee, writes: Through his seminal writings on Tibet’s relations with China during the Yuan, Ming and Qing dynasties, he became arguably the first historian to extensively use both Chinese and Tibetan sources to bring to light the separation a … [Read more...]

Buddhist Activism in an age of neo-fascism and “alternative facts”

I sit in a basement cafe in downtown Seattle. I worry a bit about finances here, or class sign-ups there. But I'm okay. And odds are, so are you. Who is next? We're in the midst of something, though, that could change all of that. There is a range of wise view on just how quickly that will happen and how severely, from the oft-quoted "we're screwed" to the increasingly pollyannish "wait and see."Already, if you're one of estimated 100,000 people who had your visa revoked due to the recent … [Read more...]

On Kant, Contempt, and our Buddhist path(s) forward

Karen Stohr, associate professor of philosophy at Georgetown University and senior research scholar at Georgetown’s Kennedy Institute of Ethics, wrote a thoughtful piece for the NYTimes this week titled, "Our New Age of Contempt." Her article concludes: Privately expressed contempt may be cathartic. Publicly expressed contempt, however, is perilous. As Kant recognized, it threatens the foundations of our political community by denying the central moral idea on which that community is based — tha … [Read more...]

Buddhist Ethics Today – or can we all be a little more enlightened?

Seth Zuiho Segall has a lengthy and thoughtful piece in the latest Tricycle Magazine, titled, "A More Enlightened Way of Being." The topic is ethics, specifically Buddhist ethics in the contemporary world.Segall's writing is wide-reaching and wonderfully fluid. He mentions Aristotle, Kant, Hume, Kierkegaard, and other luminaries of the West. He also surveys the long history of Buddhism and its developments and encounters with Bon (Tibet), Daoism (China) and Kami worship … [Read more...]