From US Marine to Zen Monk (Video)

A commonplace in the discussion of Buddhism as it is taken up by Americans and other Westerners is the flattening out and commodification of the practices. And indeed this is happening and will continue to happen. Zen and mindfulness have become buzzwords that are used to sell soft drinks, potato chips, jewelry, and stationary, among other things. And don't get me started on tantra. Words like 'Theravada' and 'vipassana' are just a bit too difficult on the American tongue to find their way onto … [Read more...]

3 shirts, 4 pairs of pants, 150 total belongings: inspired by Zen philosophy

Years ago, a Buddhist teacher of mine told me that "you don't own stuff. The stuff owns you."Every thing you have costs you an attention tax, a worry tax, eventually a loss tax, as you waste precious energy on the objects around you that could be used in activities and in caring for people and the world.As I wrote about my recent time in the desert, there is a kind of simplicity developed there that makes clear the great cost of having so much stuff. That cost is … [Read more...]

Zen Buddhist teacher Dogen: “The Greatest Philosopher You’ve Never Heard Of”

Writing for NPR today, Adam Frank introduces us to Eihei Dōgen. Dōgen was a thirteenth century Japanese Buddhist thinker and founder of Sōtō Zen. And Frank is an astrophysicist teaching at the University of Rochester. Why would a 21st century astrophysicist be praising a long-dead Japanese guy as a "philosopher"?As Frank writes, "it doesn't do much good imagining that Europe cornered the market on creative thinking about being human." He, like me, my friend Amod Lele, and a lot of other fol … [Read more...]

Your Summer in a Chinese Buddhist Monastery – Woodenfish HBMLP in China

In 2009 I traveled to China to experience Chinese Buddhist monastic life and learn about the practice, philosophy, and history unique to Chan/Zen Buddhism. Back then, it was focused mostly on graduate students in Buddhism or Chinese culture/religion/history but it has since grown in size and scope to look a bit like the program 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 t … [Read more...]

Among the Sangha: An African American Buddhist in the Zendo

Today I am again honored to share another wonderful guest post in our ongoing series of expanding perspectives on race and diversity in American Buddhism. Recent posts include yesterday’s "Crossing the Great Divides in U.S. Buddhism" by Mushim (Patricia) Ikeda, Wednesday's (forthcoming) book excerpt from Lama Choyin Rangdrol, “African American Buddhism…” an interview discussing emerging voices in the Western Buddhist world, the Tibetan Feminist Collective, and two excellent academic pieces that s … [Read more...]

Buddhist Teacher Thich Nhat Hanh returns to Plum Village after US treatment

Thich Nhat Hanh (Thay) has returned to his adoptive home monastery in southern France after six month in the United States to receive specialist care after his stroke in November 2014. As written in an update today by the Monks and Nuns of Plum Village: Since the dawn of the New Year, Thay has very clearly communicated to us a wish to return to his hermitage in Plum Village, France. Thay is satisfied with the progress he has made so far, thanks to the phenomenal care and attention of the … [Read more...]

A Christmas Eve health update on Thich Nhat Hanh

The monastics at Plum Village have issued a new update today on the health of Thich Nhat Hanh (Thay). They are in the midst of an annual three-month Winter Retreat. Thay is joining the monastics in regular activities, including sitting meditations. Despite noting his "remarkable progress" in June, they write today:  Sadly, at this time, Thay has made only slight improvements and is still unable to speak. He continues to sing with us, and is making more and more recognizable words whenever we s … [Read more...]

Buddha in the Classroom: A little Zen for the Workplace

Subtitled: “Zen Wisdom to Inspire Teachers,” this is a book filled with much more than just “Zen” wisdom and it will surely inspire pretty much anyone who reads it. “The Burned-Out Professor.” To be fair, some of my appreciation for the book is purely selfish: the book feels like it was written specifically for me. The author, Donna Quesada, is a philosophy professor in California, a Buddhist, a yoga instructor, a connoisseur of world-wisdom, and a watcher of good movies. She tells us the … [Read more...]