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Archive for May, 2008

While a lot of Buddhist popular media is emerging, like Buddhist Pop Songs, Buddhist Movies, and even Buddhist Videogames, and I find a lot of it very interesting, sometimes it sort of hits the wrong note.

I think one of the reasons why that is is because Buddhism is very much not about Buddhism. It is not an umbrella where a bunch of other stuff fits underneath it, but instead is a handful of practices and perspectives that looks at the stuff under the umbrella.

I think that any sort of sincere popular Buddhist media would have to be much more holistic, taking a Buddhist perspective amid a variety of others. That being said, I am reminded of the webcomic Sinfest [ironically enough], where the Buddha is an occasional character – used seldomly but to great effect.

Sometimes the creator, Tatsuya Ishida, hits just the right note.

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Tonight is the last of three nights that I’m staying at my brother’s place in the Bay Area. I came back up here for the first time in two years to run a race and see family that I don’t usually get the chance to see. This weekend has also made me realize the comforts and importance of having a Buddhist family.

Not all of my family is Buddhist. Five generations ago, everyone was supposedly Buddhist or followed our indigenous religion. Many converted to Catholicism and later to Protestant Christianity when they came to the US in the years before and just after WWI. My grandmother clung steadfastly to the “old ways”, and some aunts and uncles “reverted” to Buddhism. But it was the Buddhist practices of my grandmother that left the strongest imprint on me and my siblings, who have come to embrace our Buddhist heritage.

Buddhism was never forced on me, but neither did it hang as some sort of background tapestry on the wall. It was the little symbolic things that I built my practice on later in life, even if I didn’t know what they stood for.

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Buddha at BogalayOn May 19, the moon will pass into its full phase, marking the festival on which Theravada Buddhists celebrate Lord Buddha’s birth, enlightenment and parinibbana. This date marks the most important and largest Buddhist holiday.

Devotees often undertake the eight precepts, make donations to charity and also go to temple to pay respects to Lord Buddha, the Dharma and the Sangha. This festival is filled with celebrations of joy and also the intent to renew one’s dedication to the path.

But for the people of Burma, the full moon of the month of Kason will mark two and a half weeks since the landfall of Cyclone Nargis. I cannot begin to describe this tragedy, especially as many others have done so thoroughly already (also see here, here and here). How will this festival be marked in Burma? How will Buddhists celebrate this day around the world, while so many Burmese flounder in destitution, abandoned by their own government?

What is an appropriate Buddhist response on this occasion?

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Inspired by the always delightful DharmaRealm podcast which discussed the oddity of seeing Buddha statues in museums in a recent episode

A year or so ago, when I went to the Norton Simon museum for a completely non-Buddhist reason and found a basement full of Buddhist art, I had three main questions:

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For the community minded Buddhist in Southern California, May is a time of much bustling about. The region is blessed with a vibrant Buddhist community or laypersons and monastics of all different traditions. We also do Vesak up right, again and again and again.

It is not uncommon for each temple or center to offer their own celebration while also participating in one or two larger non-sectarian pan-temple ceremonies. Throwing in things like Tzu Chi, student groups, and other organizations, May can be a time of great celebration, and a time where a great number of brown cardboard boxes need moving.

Still, my favorite Buddha Day of all time, was two years ago when no one came. (more…)

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Statue of Jizo (NYTimes)
A garden statue of Jizo

More confessions: I am one of those liberal junkies who has the New York Times set as my homepage. And this is why I was pleasantly surprised when when I turned on my computer and my browser opened with Dharma in the Dirt as the feature article for the New York Times.

I’m not used to seeing mention of Buddhism in the news media. And when it is, it’s sometimes a little off target. (If you follow the previous link, note the correction at the bottom of the page.) There are many more opinions about advertising and misuse of images on other blogs.

The article is about Wendy Johnson, a former Green Gulch resident, and her organic garden. I enjoyed this article because (aside from my love for gardening) it didn’t put Buddhism front and center, but as a backdrop. Like other gardeners, I was curious as to how a Buddhist practitioner deals with garden pests. How do you deal with snails and slugs? But you’ll have to read that for yourself…

It’s also worth checking out the great slide show!

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I love the Dharma dearly, but sometimes I feel uneasy about the free ride that Buddhism gets from those who are prone to religious criticism. As reasonable and rational as it is, Buddhism has a very aspects which are just as silly as those found in other religions. There are times when I fear that the generally positive perception that so many people have about Buddhism is going to eventually swing the other way, and swing far. In some extreme corners this is already happening.

But I want to do my part; I want to defend against the backlash, and have good fun in doing it. Which is why I present:

Silly Stories from Samsara:
When Buddhism lacks mindfulness

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