Returning, or “5 meditations on the desert”

A little over a week ago, I packed my bags, spent a night in Missoula, MT, picked up 3 (and then 4) fellow travelers, and headed into the wilds of Utah where we met two more friends. I'm not a seasoned backpacker or hiker, having spent usually only a day or two in the "back country" and six days last year hiking 80+ miles of the Wind River National Wilderness Area with two good friends who are much more knowledgeable than I probably ever will be.However, I am a long-time meditator (over 15 … [Read more...]

Unplugging, or “practicing mindfulness in the desert”

I'm off tomorrow for a week off the grid. Or, more truthfully, about 3.5 days of driving and camping with 3.5 days trekking through some of the remoter gullies and gulches of southern Utah with three good friends and three soon-to-be good friends.Mindfulness will be on the menu, though it is a hard thing to avoid when your life is on your back, the sun is hot overhead, and one missed step could mean a sprained ankle (or worse) and hours, if not days, of pain. Once you get the basic … [Read more...]

Bodhgaya, Buddhism’s holiest city, in pictures

September is a strange time in Bodhgaya. It's stretched between the hot and muggy monsoon season of N.E. India and the gradual onset of the cool season. Over the three weeks we've been here, the temperatures have gone up and down (highs ranging from around 95F/35C to a cool 85F /29C) but the humidity has steadily dropped from the stultifying 85+% to a merciful 65% during the day.It is still low season for tourists, so we get the city and her 38,000 or so inhabitants mostly to ourselves. Life … [Read more...]

Malaria, Maoists, and other news from India

I've once again found myself in rural India, Bodhgaya to be precise, teaching Buddhist Philosophy to American undergraduates. I was here in 2010, early in the days of my PhD, and coming here again as I near the end of this colossal project seems fitting.I remember when I first arrived in England for my MA all those years ago, marveling at how much history surrounded me: pubs dating to the 1600s, churches from the 14th century and before, castles, paths, and crossings all seeing centuries of … [Read more...]

Happy Saga Dawa Duchen – Tibetan Buddhism’s holiest day

Saga Dawa is the fourth lunar month of the Tibetan calendar, this year falling between May 29 and June 27. It is the holiest time of the year for Tibetan Buddhists.  The middle of the month, the full moon day, is the most important. On that day the fruits of one's karma (actions) are said to increase one billion (1,000,000,000) times or more. It is the day that Tibetan Buddhists celebrate the birth, awakening, and death of the Buddha.That day, known as Saga Dawa Duchen, is today, Friday, … [Read more...]

2014 Fo Guang Buddhist Montastic Retreat

The Fo Guang Buddhist Monastic Retreat program, hosted at Fo Guang Shan Monastery in southern Taiwan, is accepting applications for its 2014 summer Buddhist monastic retreat program.  The program runs from June 26th to July 24th and includes two weeks of introduction and classes, followed by a seven day intensive retreat, a International Youth Seminar on Life and Chán, and a tour of Taiwan. They will accept 50-60 university / college students (or graduates within 3 years after graduation aged 18 … [Read more...]

Buddhists in Pink, a look at nuns in Burma/Myanmar

The NY Times recently posted a video taking us briefly inside the world of female monastic life in contemporary Burma. Have a look:They report that, "Enrollment is rising at the Aung Thawada Nunnery School on the northern border of Yangon. The nuns, whose ages range from 9 to 94, join for a variety of reasons, including to escape poverty or abuse."It was great to see that the reporter, Chelsi Moy, is a young woman from my home town of Helena, Montana and I even remember her … [Read more...]

Burma (Myanmar) in HD

In commemoration of 8/8/88 I thought I'd post a short video showing the grand, beautiful, and peaceful side of Burma, the side I remember most strongly when reflecting on my short time there. This is shot in gorgeous ultra-HD, 4096x2304 resolution, four times greater than regular 1080p HD. Unfortunately, few of us have monitors that can do much with that, but even at the 1080 HD setting, it is stunning. You can follow the photographer, Jason Schwarz, on … [Read more...]