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Archive for the ‘Buddhism’ Category

Why the Dalai Lama is Wrong to Think Meditation Will Eliminate Violence


by: on November 15th, 2012 | 22 Comments »

This quote by the Dalai Lama is going viral on the internet, “If every 8 year old in the world is taught meditation, we will eliminate violence from the world within one generation.” Marianne Williamson shared this quote via her Facebook account and it received a tremendous reception. Google the quote and you will find tens of thousands of web sites, Facebook pages and twitter feeds where it has appeared. Needless to say, the enthusiasm over the Dalai Lama’s statement is profound. It has struck a cord for sure.

His words reflect the more widespread belief that spiritual practices can provide grounding for more ethical and wise action. One could substitute meditation in the quote with yoga, prayer, chanting or sacred dancing and people would generally agree that these types of things will inspire compassion, kindness and generosity. Through meditation one can hopefully gain a better realization of the interconnectedness of all things. Many believe, or at least hope, like the Dalai Lama, that this renewed sense of awareness will inspire us to take action against injustice in the world.

While for much of my life I’ve also shared this popular sentiment I’ve now come to see it much differently. Based on years of research and writing as well as personal practice of yoga, meditation and Chi Kung I’ve discovered some very strong flaws in the Dalai Lama’s argument. Furthermore, I actually see these types of statements are very irresponsible as they mislead the public about the causes and solutions to violence. The real conversations about these very challenging issues that need to take place could potentially be minimized by these types of statements.

The first and most obvious problem with his statement is the ambiguity of what violence actually constitutes. Takes these few examples: spray painting over a sexist billboard, using violence to defend against rape, eating meat, the prison industrial complex, throwing tear gas canisters back towards the police who fired them, the capitalist system, racial microagressions, stealing food to support oneself…etc. Many would argue that abortion is violent. Would this be eliminated with meditation? There are so many forms of violence and ways that we all participate in systems that are violent that it would be nearly impossible to reach a consensus on who’s criteria of violence gets to be used. How can one eliminate something if we can’t agree on what it is that is being eliminated?


Leavening and The Oneness of God: Spiritual + Cultural Paradigm Shifts


by: on August 20th, 2012 | 2 Comments »


In my last article I discussed The Wild Goose Festival as a paradigm shift. Now I want to explore the shift in a greater, and lengthier context as I lead into describing (in coming articles) the way it is informing and being informed by a larger global culture, a larger spiritual and religious culture, and shifts within all which also lead to increased conversations within and outside of all current contexts of identity. We are restructuring the world, in tiny steps so small that it is often hard to see at the micro-level.

I think the greatest piece of this is the understanding that there is something bigger and better in God than we ever before conceptualized. We are beginning to see that within “my Christianity,” “my Judaism,” “my Islam,” “my Buddhism” there is a small sliver of God we are allowed to see, illuminated both through our own personal sacred texts and our visceral experiences of God in relationship to the faith we have learned (or as I sometimes call it, “faith of origin”). The second half to this is that we are realizing that my sliver of God-light and your sliver of God-light emanate from the same source and that saying that is no longer easily poo-pooed as heretical within my tradition but enhancing the basis of my traditional understanding with a God greater than we have ever been able to see or frame in our world-view before.

We are able to see that God can be many things to many people and to say that doesn’t make me a heretical Christian but makes me a Christian able to see God’s light from many different angles–like a prism refracting and dividing the sun’s light and sending it outward in millions of different directions.


Spirituality and Social Change: A Response to Be Scofield’s Analysis of Eckhart Tolle


by: Marisa Handler on July 9th, 2012 | 7 Comments »

In Buddhism, wisdom and compassion are seen as two wings of the same bird. "Building awareness builds clear-seeing, which fosters wisdom," the author writes. "But it is of little use without compassion, the other wing." Credit: Creative Commons/Kelcey Loomer.

I was grateful to read my friend Be Scofield’s post, “Why Eckhart Tolle’s Evolutionary Activism Won’t Save Us.” As someone who thinks a good deal about the intersection between spiritual practice and work in the world — and as someone with a longtime committed spiritual practice — this felt, to me, like the ocean does when you first step in: bracing, a little painful, ultimately rejuvenating. I noted in myself (good Buddhist practitioner that I am) some real discomfort upon reading, and after recognizing what it was – that some of my feel-good notions about my own spirituality were getting rocked — I welcomed it. Scofield’s piece got me thinking.

For those of us navigating the path between inner work and activist/service work, it’s a little easy, given that both carry such lofty agendas, to get self-righteous. To get comfortable, ideologically. I spent a large chunk of my twenties constantly occupied in some kind of global justice or peace organizing. I then submerged myself in graduate school, and I’ve spent the past couple of years since engaged in some pretty deep (and necessary) inner work. I think it’s normal, and healthy, to move in phases; that there is an intuitive cycling, when we are open to it, between our work for outer transformation and our work for inner transformation. And I believe both are needed. Especially now.


Sacred Snapshots Brings a Justice-Seeking Connection to the Holy


by: on April 17th, 2012 | Comments Off

On Saturday, April 21, Sacred Snapshots, a day-long Sampler for the Spirit, will invite participants to experience the divine, celebrate spiritual practices from a range of religions and traditions at Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley, California (9 a.m. to 6 p.m.) Whether exploring religion in pop culture, engaging 12-step spirituality, or experiencing Hindu ritual, attendees will create a multi-religious, multicultural and international community for one day. Rumi wrote that “there are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground,” and at Sacred Snapshots, you will have the chance to try at least a dozen.


Book Review: When “Karma” Stops Us From Deciding Our Destinies


by: Devadatta Kali (David Nelson) on March 2nd, 2012 | 1 Comment »

Courtesy of Kashi Publishing

Ma Jaya Sati Bhagavati is the spiritual head of Kashi Ashram, an interfaith community she founded in Florida in 1976. Her spiritual teaching derive from universal principles underlying the world’s great religious traditions. Along with the typically Hindu emphasis on meditation, self-knowledge, and seeing beyond appearances into the heart of reality, there is the Buddhist emphasis on putting compassion into action, on doing something to relieve suffering wherever it is found. At the same time, owing to her own heritage, Ma’s outlook is also Jewish to the core with an ardent emphasis on social justice. Ma Jaya is more than a spiritual teacher or guru. She and her service organizations have been active for several decades in calling attention to the plight of various groups and addressing their needs – among them the homeless population, low-income seniors, Ugandan orphans, the LGBT community, and people living with HIV/AIDS.

The Sanskrit word karma means “action” or “deed,” so it is not surprising that it should be the subject of Ma Jaya’s book, The Eleven Karmic Spaces: Choosing Freedom From the Patterns That Bind You (Kashi Publishing, 2011).


How Mindfulness Can Overcome the Greed of the 1 Percent


by: Rick Heller on November 15th, 2011 | Comments Off

I have led mindfulness and loving-kindness meditations at Occupy Boston. Meditation is, of course, valuable as a refuge from stress. Participating in an occupation, which may involve living outdoors under threat of possible arrest and police brutality, can certainly be stressful (I myself am only a day visitor to the Occupy Boston encampment). But I believe mindfulness can actually address the core problem that the Occupy movement confronts, i.e. the greed of the wealthiest 1 percent.

The thesis of my eBook, Occupy the Moment, is that greed is literally an addiction, a distortion of the brain systems that govern habits and rewards. The way to overcome greed is to “be in the moment” or to practice mindfulness.

In the Four Noble Truths, the Buddha identified inordinate desire as the fundamental source of human suffering. To overcome suffering, he identified a path that included mindfulness, the practice of focusing on the present moment with a friendly, nonjudgmental attitude.

Recent findings in neuroscience validate the Buddha’s claims. When we want something, the brain transmits a chemical called dopamine. When we get what we desire, internal opioids are released. The latter are substances chemically similar to morphine and heroin. So you can start to see how desires become literally addictive.


Fire Under the Snow: Tibet’s Self Immolations of Protest


by: on October 11th, 2011 | Comments Off

A Tibetan monk burns himself in February of 2009 to protest the occupation of Tibet by the Chinese government. He was shot and arrested, and his whereabouts (if he's still alive) are unknown. / Students for a Free Tibet

by Tenzin Mingyur Paldron

“To burn oneself by fire is to prove that what one is saying is of the utmost importance.” Thich Nhat Hanh, “In Search of the Enemy of Man.”

In the current era, we believe communication is possible almost instantaneously, across all spaces. A message can be transmitted across the world. It doesn’t matter where it stems from. Once digitally transmitted, it is carried, expanded, recreated…the trace of its owner is easily made invisible. Such technologies conquer time and boundaries, rendering divisions like individual status and national boundaries impotent. Nameless, ‘we’ can finally mean ‘everyone.’ In such an evolved world, what is left in a name?

The message reaching me now, the one that grasps hold of me in this moment, does not use a nameless, voiceless channel. Its speech is an action, incredibly rooted in a specific place and time. Its message brings something into being – by the same process, it destroys something else. The consolation of the message is that thing it leaves; life has been sacrificed, but by the same act it may be offered anew.

On March 17 of this year, twenty-one-year-old monk Lobsang Phuntsok set fire to himself outside Kirti monastery, located in Ngaba county in China’s Sichuan province. His actions set off a month-long siege of Kirti monks and Tibetan residents of Ngaba by Chinese forces, where phone lines were cut off and tourists were banned as residents and monks engaged in massive peaceful protests. Hundreds of monks were reportedly sent to “re-education through labor” camps as a result of their standoff with authorities.


Enlightenment from a Sea Gull


by: on March 9th, 2011 | 2 Comments »

What is spiritual fulfillment? What is reaching the heights of spiritual development? Or, to use the classic term — what is enlightenment?

Classical Buddhist sources describe it as a state of mind in which we no longer think: “I am this, this is mine, this is my self.” Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra defines it as the ability to control, and cease, the modifications of the mind. More emotionally oriented traditions offer images of total oneness with the universe, complete submission to God, or a limitless capacity for love and compassion.

Usually enlightenment is understood as a total state of being — something so completely present that the nagging demands of ego (greed, jealousy, envy, ambition, fear, resentment — that sort of thing) simply evaporate in the face of the Ultimate Truth. We are, at last, at peace, at one with the One, freed from sin, ignorance, and Really Bad Habits.

Here is another way, a very different way, to understand it.


America Meditates 2010: 30 Cities Throughout the Continent Meditate for Peace


by: on October 21st, 2010 | 1 Comment »

America Meditates 2010 - Lima, Peru

The international nongovernmental organization The Art of Living — founded in 1981 by Sri Sri Ravi Shankar — held a massive meditation ceremony last Sunday under the motto: “America Meditates — Because Peace Is Contagious.” Joining in for a synchronized meditation session were over thirty cities throughout the American continent, from Buenos Aires to New York City. Last year, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s event gathered over 20,000 people:

The aim was to soothe the suffering of people post a period which has seen economic challenges, political turmoil and natural disasters. Comfort, a sense of belonging and responsibility toward the community, and a positive approach were the natural outcomes when thousands of people united in an atmosphere of peace and calm. Some of the experiences of people: “Thank you for coming to my city and share this wonderful experience with us,” and “We need this kind of events in my country. Please keep doing them.”

Before or after the event, I could not find any information pointing to meditation sessions being scheduled in any West Coast city. Did any Tikkun readers hear about/participate in the event?

Here are some videos from last Sunday:


Religion Can Help Queer Youth (and How Buddhism Helped Me)


by: on October 21st, 2010 | 4 Comments »

buddhism rainbow archYesterday an estimated 1 million people wore purple to raise awareness about bullying of LGBTQ youth. In light of the highly publicized series of suicides related to homophobic bullying, many of us are wondering how we can help LGBTQ youth. To answer this question, I’ve been reflecting on what helped me as a queer teenager in an aggressively homophobic community. By the time I was 15, nearly every one of my LGBTQ-identified friends had tried to kill themselves. I was alone in not attempting suicide. There are many factors of course, but I keep thinking of Noach Dzmura’s comment in the current issue of Tikkun,”Liberal religions save queer lives daily.” Having a loving, inclusive religious community was the biggest sources of inspiration and support that I had, one that my queer friends and peers lacked.

I grew up in a fairly rural small town in an extremely conservative state. Bullying because of queerness, perceived queerness or gender difference was common and ranged from verbal harassment, threats, and having our lockers defaced to being kicked, pushed, beaten, and pelted with rocks. In high school, one of my out gay male friends received death treats at school, and as far as I knew, nothing was ever done about it. Though the peer bullying was terrible, it was adult acceptance of our harassment that wore us down.

I had a handful of wonderful teachers who I knew cared about us and would fight for us, but many others who ignored or even encouraged homophobia. There was no gay-straight alliance at our school and starting one, even less than a decade ago, felt impossible and unsafe. More than one teacher told their class that homosexuality was wrong or that gender nonconforming people were “mixed up” and needed fixing. Most teachers and administrators simply said nothing, especially when they needed to speak up. This wasn’t limited to homophobia. They were just as silent when boys groped objecting girls in class or when racial slurs were casually used by white students, even when students asked them to intervene. My town was just a few hours away from the then-headquarters of the Aryan Nations, and I remember very few teachers ever speaking a word against the violent hate group. (As I left for college, the Aryan Nations was sued into bankruptcy for shooting at two Native Americans who’d pulled over near the group’s compound).