Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Indian Rapists, Death Penalty not the Answer

During a panel discussion last week at the DSC Jaipur Literature Festival in Jaipur, India, His Holiness the Dalai Lama touched on the controversial trial that began last Thursday in the bustling Indian city.

The five men on trial could be hanged if they are convicted, according to the Associated Press. The family of the 23-year-old victim, who died of her injuries two weeks after the attack, have called for the execution of all the accused. But the Dalai Lama, during his appearance at the Jaipur festival, demurred.

“I do not like the death sentence,” he said, adding that there are other ways to deal with the alleged perpetrators. The Dalai Lama said that "the 21 century belonged to dialogue and not to confrontation or violence."

The Tibetan leader has been a steadfast opponent of the death penalty, which contradicts the Buddhist philosophy of non-violence. In July 2011, the Dalai Lama travelled to Chicago, where he praised Illinois Governor Pat Quinn for abolishing the death penalty in his state.

The Delhi rape case has sparked debate over the Indian legal system, and public anger has been directed at officials in a city informally christened India's "rape capital," according to Reuters.

Sunday, 27 January 2013

FULL MOON - and Winter Retreat, Sunday 27th January 2013

Here is Ajahn Munindo's latest reflection from the Dhammapada. Today at West Wight Sangha we are
having our first Winter quarterly retreat day and this verse seems particularly appropriate.

In the past we've run Spring, Summer and Autumn retreats but January has proved to be either too near to christmas and new year or the weathers been foul or everyone's gone down with a seasonal bug, so fingers crossed for a fruitful day................

Just as a fletcher shapes an arrow,
so the wise develop the mind;
so excitable, uncertain
and difficult to control.

Dhp. v. 33

Bringing body and mind in line with that which is true, calls for a special kind of skill. Just when we thought we had our spiritual practice in order, we trip and fall again. It doesn’t matter if we stumble from time to time, learning to walk is like that, falling over is part of it. The skill worth developing is the agility which finds us readily picking ourselves up and beginning again; without looking back.

With Metta,

Bhikkhu Munindo

Thursday, 17 January 2013

Note - Reposting, "The Nuns of Drapchi Prison"

Looking back over previous postings I came across one from 2008 about the Nuns of Drapchi Prison. I am now able to add an embedded audio player to this item and so have updated the post and put it onto our Miscellaneous Audio Page.

In 1993, a group of Tibetan nuns, in the notorious Drapchi prison in Lhasa, secretly recorded songs of freedom. Against all odds, the recordings were smuggled out of prison and the songs were heard by the outside world.

Monday, 14 January 2013

Self-immolations, Writer Arrested, Artwork Banned

Prominent Buddhist writer, Gartse Jigmey, was arrested by Chinese police last week in the Amdo region of
Eastern Tibet. Jigmey, 36, had recently finished the second volume of his book Tsengpo’s Power of Heart, which describes “the self-immolations in Tibet, rights of minorities in China, human rights issues in Tibet and peaceful uprisings of Tibetans in Tibet,” Jigmey is a monk at Gartse Monastery.

At the same time Beijing-based artist Liu Yi, who is a follower of Tibetan Buddhism, is working on a series of black-and-white portraits he knows will never be shown in a Chinese gallery. His varied subjects — men and women, young and old, smiling and pensive — have one thing in common: They are Tibetans who have set themselves on fire to protest repressive Chinese rule. Liu wants to paint a portrait of each of the hundred-or-so Tibetans who have self-immolated over the past three years, as a way of bearing witness to one of the biggest waves of fiery protests in recent history.

Liu is rare among his contemporaries for addressing the largely taboo topic. Only a tiny handful of activists from the Han Chinese majority have spoken out, among them the prominent legal scholar Xu Zhiyong.

At the heart of the silence is Han Chinese indifference or even hostility to the Tibetan cause, despite some overlap with liberal Han activists who chafe at authoritarian controls. "We are victims ourselves," Xu wrote in a recent op-ed piece in which he apologized for the silence.

Many among the majority see the immolations as part of attempts to break away from China and wonder why Tibetans aren't more grateful for government development of their region with rail links, expressways, houses and factories.

Saturday, 12 January 2013

Biggest Czech Buddhist Centre Being Built in Prague

The biggest Buddhist centre in the Czech Republic is being built in a former factory in the Holesovice district in Prague.

The reconstructed building will host a meditation room for 250 people and exhibition space and there will be courses and lectures on Buddhism. The Gompa Praha will be opened to the general public by the end of the year, the project costing 28 million Koruna, about £636 000.

"Buddhists from across the country as well as from abroad were collecting the money for ten years," said organiser Jan Matuska.

The centre will be used by followers of Diamond Way Buddhism which has some 2,000 supporters in the Czech Republic. Diamond Way Buddhism is a lay organization within the Karma Kagyu school of Tibetan Buddhism.

At present, the biggest Czech Buddhist centre is in Brno, the country's second largest city. Across the Czech Republic, there are some 50 Buddhist meditation places.

Diamond Way was officially registered in the Czech Republic in 2007 and is the only official  Buddhist organisation in the country.

Friday, 11 January 2013

NEW MOON - Friday 11th January 2013

Those who arrive
at the state of perfect freedom
through right understanding
are unperturbed
in body, speech or mind.
They remain unshaken
by life's vicissitudes.

Dhammapada v. 96

The very best way to accommodate uncertainty is through right understanding, or right view. It would be naive to expect to always be at ease with uncertainty. But we shouldn’t assume we must be defined by it. Life and change and all the rest of it might appear to be ‘too much’, but life itself is never too much; it is always ‘just so’. If life was really too much, the Buddha could never have realized freedom while still alive. The view we hold is what makes the difference.

Taking ourselves too seriously and the situation can seem intolerable; we become tense, limiting possibilities for insight and sensitivity.

Relaxing our view, we could try imagining an unconditioned reality in which all the changing conditions appear to arise and cease. Wise letting go leads to an expanded awareness and a fresh perspective on what it was we were doing that made it look like we had a problem.

With Metta,
Bhikkhu Munindo

Wednesday, 9 January 2013

Campaign to nominate Thich Nhat Hanh for Nobel Peace Prize

Forty-five years after the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., the team behind Peace is the Way Films and Peace Comics is trying to fulfill one of King’s dreams: for his friend Thich Nhat Hanh to receive the Nobel Peace Prize. They’re encouraging people to spread the word about the campaign so Thay can be nominated.

”I do not personally know of anyone more worthy of the Nobel Peace Prize than this gentle Buddhist monk from Vietnam.” 

Martin Luther King Jr, in his 1967 Nobel Nomination Letter to the Nobel Committee nominating Thich Nhat Hanh for the Nobel Peace Prize.

Friday, 4 January 2013

Zen Priest Marries Her Same Sex Partner

Following on from the news that the Church of England and Church in Wales has managed to get itself exempted from offering same-sex marriages, the government has announced that all other religious organisations will be able to “opt in” to offering ceremonies.

As to Buddhism and gay marriage, Soto Zen priest and Abbot of the Village Zendo, Enkyo O’Hara Roshi recently married her partner, Barbara, at City Hall in New York.

Enkyo Pat O’Hara is a dharma successor of Tetsugen Bernard Glassman Roshi and is a member of the White Plum Asanga, an organization of affiliated teachers in the lineage of the late Taizan Maezumi Roshi.

Wednesday, 2 January 2013

Through the Stained Glass Ceiling, or Not?

Firstly, a happy and secure 2013 to everyone.

Talking of the new year, some things are moving towards change whilst others are struggling to stay the same (the latter an impossibility, according to the Buddha).

So, what's changing. As regular readers of this site will know we have been supportive of the moves towards gender equality within the Buddhist monastic community, particularly as regards the Theravada tradition, but that's not to ignore the wider diminishing of the role, value and status of women across the board when it comes to religion.

Here in the UK the General Synod of the Church of England rejected a revision of canon law which—coming after years of deliberations, defections, redraftings, and often ugly debates—would finally have allowed the appointment of women bishops. Curiously, while this act of potential cultural suicide was taking place in Britain the Anglican Church of Australia had just appointed its fourth female bishop (you might recall that it was also in Australia that Ajahn Brahm facilitated first full bhikkhuni ordination of women in the Forest sangha of Thailand’s most famous meditation master, Ajahn Chah, back in October, 2009).

Elsewhere; Amid outrage across the Jewish diaspora over a flurry of recent arrests of women seeking to pray at the Western Wall with ritual garments in defiance of Israeli law, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has asked Natan Sharansky, the chairman of the Jewish Agency, to study the issue and suggest ways to make the site more accommodating to all Jews.

A call for Mormon women to wear trousers to church, begun this month by a small group of women, has stretched across the globe, but not before creating a backlash and even generating death threats.

“Wear Pants (yes, I know it sounds kinky but Americans insist on calling trousers pants) to Church,” an event on Sunday, was meant to draw attention to the role of women in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, using attire as a symbolic first salvo in a larger struggle over gender inequalities.

Though the Mormon Church has no official policy against women wearing trousers to church, many say they feel peer pressure to wear a dress, particularly in the Western United States, organisers said. So on Sunday, thousands of Mormon women arrived at church in trousers in places like Cambridge, England; Heidelberg, Germany; Austin, Tex.; the Marshall Islands; and Kotzebue, Alaska. A number of the women posted their photos on Facebook and other Web sites. Others said they could not participate because they were fearful of ridicule or reprimand.

I've nothing topical to add to the sad litany of denigrations against women re: the third of the Abrahamic faiths but dogma and culture, as always, seem to have far more influence than anything actually taught by any of these religions' founders.