Saturday, January 30, 2010

500th post: Name change

The name change is something that's going to be going on throughout the FWBO entities, but the hope is that it's going to all go down on Wesak Day, though obviously each entity could not change. There is no central authority, per se. The College of Precepts decides who and when people get into the order. Of course since Sangharakshita founded the order, people tend to listen to him. He has said he's just another order member, perhaps modestly. He's also relinquished his formal roles. The history of the name change is a convoluted one, but basically since the Western Buddhist Order is not just in the west, it's also in the east, they wanted a more neutral name. Similar problems happened in India, where a name would mean something for one group, but not another. They began to discuss this around 1995. It's hard to create a consensus, though many thought the name should change. A name was agreed on, and then it turned out that there were 2 other sanghas with the same name. So recently some India order member have asked for the change. And now it's trying to be implemented. And the FWBO/TBMSG News has reported on it.

Please note I'm outside the heart of things, and I'm not an order member, so you it's the view of a a mitra being expressed here.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

fund raiser

Last night we had a gathering of the NYC sangha and friends to raise money for Vajra to go on a 6 month sabbatical. He's leaving next week for 6 months and will be back in August. So many people put in a lot of work, and people spent money and time to make it a lovely event. I saw a lot of people I haven't seen in a while, and met a lot of interesting new people.

Here's a photo on facebook.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Saturday, January 16, 2010

More about name changes

The Western Buddhist Order was changed to Triratna Buddhist Order. Instead of Friends of the Triratna Buddhist Order, Sangharakshita and the order want to just call it Triratna Buddhist Community. So instead of the WBO and FWBO, there's the TBO and TBC. I await the offical announcements on FWBO/TBMSG News. Thus I have relied on e-mails to the order, which were shared by order members.

A friend had trouble adding the first R in, because there's a mantra that has a similar word. Here is a link to the mantra.

More on change to follow.

Another order member blogs...

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Final Words on Brit Hume?

There are a few more articles, things are getting deeper, the initial reactions were a little reactive, but I think things are flowing more deeply now. I can't claim to know all the article, but here are 3.

First is Karen Maezen Miller's assertions, which seems pretty deep.

Second is John from Sweep the Dust, Push the Dirt.

Finally is an article from 2004, by Father Joseph S. O'Leary.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Ann Coulter steps in to defend Brit Hume

Here's the link to what she has written (printer friendly version without her adverts).

I question the premise that you need a God for forgiveness. And if there's no God, what is God given forgiveness? What's great about Coulter is that she's so sure she's right. Bold assertion as argument.

She writes: "Is Buddhism about forgiveness? Because, if so, Buddhists had better start demanding corrections from every book, magazine article and blog posting ever written on the subject, which claims Buddhists don't believe in God, but try to become their own gods."

She so boldly rails against ignorance, um, but I don't think Buddhism is about becoming your own god.

She writes: "On MSNBC, David Shuster invoked the "separation of church and television" (a phrase that also doesn't appear in the Constitution), bitterly complaining that Hume had brought up Christianity "out-of-the-blue" on "a political talk show."" (I added the link to Wikipedia.)


She quotes the Bible to prove her case. She doesn't realize she's arguing above the system, about different systems? To argue within the system of thought is absurd. Does she have any sense of modernity?

I never really learned to hate Ann Coulter. People rail against her and what she represents. I'm afraid she's living up to her reputation.

Further Links:

(Sweep the dust, Push the dirt blog has a response as well.)

Tom Shales asks for an apology at The Washington Post. You have to sign up to read articles, but it's worth it probably.

a fellow Buddhist

There's a woman in my book club, run by the school my son go to, and she's from Sri Lanka. So we had a conversation. She likes Buddhism because it gives an ethical foundation. She doesn't meditate, and she doesn't go to the temple, but she has a Buddhist necklace. She runs a summer camp where the monks teach and play with the children. I'm going to see if I can get my kids to go to that. I found it interesting that she find the ethics to be the most important thing about Buddhism.

I was listening to a patient the other day, and he'd cleared the decks ethically, so to speak, and he was feeling good. It reminds me that in the path of ethics, meditation and insight, we need a grounding in doing well in life, to move on further. I read once, perhaps I'm misplacing it, but "the gladdening". You just get happy because the clouds have parted to a certain degree and there's a new level of clarity.

Another patient of mine has gone on such a spiritual journey, but he's fickle, he flits from one path to the other, and has chosen paths that were more short cuts. It confirmed me with sticking to my tradition, now renamed.

Saturday, January 09, 2010

Envirnonmental? Simplifying?

We're all connected, and it's unBuddhist to bury your head in the sand. Our environment is struggling to adapt to the expansion of human population. Joanna Macy has instructed us in her lovely book Mutual Causality in Buddhism and General Systems Theory: The Dharma of Natural System that our connection to each other means that we do have influence. At times I've thought humanity is too stupid to stop our course of destruction. But there are things you can do.

Henry David Threau has pointed out that so-called time savers must take into account the amount of time you spent working to buy the "time saver." So I'm keeping this in mind as I "buy" the 3 following things.

Aside from biking to work, or using public transportation, and that kind of stuff, I've worked to reduce my amount of possessions. Reducing the clutter in my house is a way of simplifying my life. To that end, I have found 3 things to help reduce.

1. I don't like the idea of buying something to reduce objects, but the Kindle at Amazon can hold up to 1,500 books according to their own estimates. I don't want to advertise the kind, but I have read a book on it, and used it, and I feel it's a way to reduce the amount of paperbacks and books in my house. Plus you can just get books right away, which actually makes it easy to spend a lot of money. But you can send PDFs to yourself and read them on the Kindle. So I can send all the excellent PDFs available by Sangharakshita and from I uploaded the Diamond Sutra, the Puja, Bante's recent letters, and some seminars. I didn't realize before I bought it, I didn't know that to store documents on the Amazon website, they charge 15-30 cents according to the size. But you do have the option of putting it on the Kindle straight from your computer, so you can do it for free. You can upload the Pali Cannon, though I haven't found it all in one PDF so I just upload my favorites. It's a bit of a hassle, but the Pali Cannon has much of it available free on line. Also things like Yeats poems, Jane Austen and others are free because their copywrite has expired, so there's a lot of free content. I think free content is a big seller, plus the reduction of use of paper I might use in printing out a seminar or other items. They thought computers would cut down on the use of paper, but it's actually increased the use of paper. I think Kindle will definitely cut down on the use of paper. And you can use with your laptop and iPhone. There is also a very slow internet connection, so in a jam you can use it to look things up on Wikipedia. I haven't tried to upload MP3 yet, but it say you can do that too. I could become a fairly complete Dharma library with talks and texts. The books are cheaper than hard copies, though not every book in in the format. Unfortunately Windhorse hasn't used the format yet, though Sangharakshita's books on his website on PDF can be read for free.

So I would say the that most books aren't printed in an electronic version, and the fact that Kindle hasn't totally won the reader wars, yet, leaves it possible that something could come along and win the format wars, the way VHS beat Betamax. I've used Amazon for a long time, loving how easy it is to get a book, and they have won the early race. Apparently they rushed the Nook to market, and the Sony reader isn't as attractive, with even less available than the Kindle. But it's not a definitive victory so far, so there is risk involved. It takes a lot of books to make up the cost of the device, but I think ultimately it does pay for itself in book savings by itself.

2. is another way of changing your used books into unread books you haven't read. There was a point in my life when I was trying to create a library. But the reality of NYC living is that there's just not the space. In my last move (and I've moved a lot in my life) my friend was annoyed at the "trophies" that filled box after box. When I was in social work school, I started filling my backpack with books to sell at The Strand, to pay for my lunch. And now I'm trying to reduce my library by exchanging books I'm likely not to read again. I save Dharma, Psychotherapy books and poetry, but I'm letting go of other books.

The way it works is that you list 10 books, and they give you 2 books credits. After that you get a credit every time someone gets a book. You can also buy a credit. So when someone wants your book, you send it to them. It costs about $2.50 or less to send a book by mail in the USA. I think it's confined to the USA and I'm not sure if there are version in other countries. I've improved my son's library, my wife orders books when I don't need a book. Again, selection is limited. You can't get the complete works of Freud here, there's only one Sangharakshita book. So the 4 million books are mostly best sellers, but that's as usual the fun, to find the gems amongst all the drek.

3. Netflicks: If you're like most people after a certain age, storage of books and DVDs has become a problem. Joining Netflicks solves that problem, you no longer need to buy a DVD, and it's slick and quick. I've seen so many movies on DVDs. But I think the thing that puts Netflicks over the top, is that you can watch movies on line. I have a laptop and have watched so many cool movies on line, it's awesome.

Conclusion: I think these 3 things reduce and simplify, and that helps the environment. I'm not sure if the energy of computers to support these 3 services makes it not helpful. Maybe it's just more simplifying technology, though without the environmental factor it's not that simplifying. Please express your opinion in the comments!

Thursday, January 07, 2010

A new name

The Western Buddhist Order has always had trouble with it's name in the east, where it has had various names, and so the order has changed it name so that it can have a global name: Triratna Buddhist Order. Sangharakshita changed it January 6th 2010. I'm still trying to get used to it.

Vishvapani wrote a paper suggesting as such 15 years ago.

Sunday, January 03, 2010

Brit Hume

Check out this link, which is an article with accompanying video of Brit Hume suggesting that Tiger Woods should become a Christian because he can be forgiven. Of course he doesn't explain how that escapes the consequences of his actions, which I guess is the hidden premise of his comment, but it would be a popular move probably in terms of keeping or regaining his sponsorship, probably. Does Brit Hume really think this naked statement isn't just a plug for Christianity. It's the kind of drastic action that seems like he's doing something, when the reality is that he's tarnished his public image, hurt people close to him, and lost millions of dollars. He's revealed himself as human, with clay feet.

I think what Tiger did was against the precept of sexual misconduct, looking at it from a Buddhist context. When the scandal came out, I asked myself, "why would Tiger get married?" He can sleep around and that's OK if everyone knows what the score is. Sexual misconduct is avoided by being honest and open. You can shag as many multiple partners as you want as long as you don't hurt anyone, not hurt anyone beyond the disappointments of usual relationships. But when he commits to a marriage, he's locked himself in. Why would he do that? My answer is that he wanted it all, to sleep around and have a wife and children. His wife didn't agree to that, and he was duplicitous in hiding it from her, in conducting these affairs. I really don't know enough about the situation, but what the heck, I have an opinion on what Brit Hume said.

My response to Brit Hume is that converting to Christianity will have consequences, just as what Tiger Woods did, but I'm not sure they will be what he expects them to be. Perhaps Brit Hume should talk more about his own spirituality and connect that to why he said that, explain how concerting to Christianity evades consequences, or if he just thinks it's a good idea in general because of the forgiveness.

It's not clear to me that having metta, you wouldn't be forgiving, and that Christian forgiveness is superior to Buddhist forgiveness. Is Mr. Hume hoping for a metaphysical evasion of consequences? I find his comments confusing on many levels. Is Brit saying Christianity is an easier spiritual path? Is that how you choose your spirituality? I can honestly see the attraction of that, I sometimes feel the Buddhist path is hard. I still find it easier than the other ones. Is it that Christianity has loop holes? I remember a friend, who when he found out that you could give yourself supreme unction if no priest was around and clear your sins before you face God, he stopped confessing and holds out for doing that when he dies. Is that the kind of loop hole Mr. Hume is looking for a superficial cleansing? Or wouldn't Tiger Woods have to really convert, not just out of a venial desire to evade justice, and really be sorry? I suppose talking heads on political shows can say what ever they want, but I wonder if naked expressions of unselfconscious superficial spirituality are what the people tuned in for. Of course in this Christian country of USA, he will probably be more popular with unselfconscious superficial people.

In my post I thought it was silly to bring Bjork to trial for blasphemy, it was 14 years ago, and she was making a point out of ignorance. I hope Brit Hume learns from this comment, I hope people respond to him, and let him know what a naked kind of proselytizing his comment was. Perhaps that's what he intended. I'm genuinely curious about why he said what he said. Perhaps he could elaborate in public.

Tulku movie trailer

Friday, January 01, 2010


Blasphemy In Buddhism

I found this on Sweep The Dust, Push The Dirt. He links this article. Which leads to these 25 blasphemies in Ireland. Among them: "Bjork, 1995: “I do not believe in religion, but if I had to choose one it would be Buddhism. It seems more livable, closer to men… I’ve been reading about reincarnation, and the Buddhists say we come back as animals and they refer to them as lesser beings. Well, animals aren’t lesser beings, they’re just like us. So I say fuck the Buddhists.”

First of all, Sangharakshita deals very deftly with the idea in his essay "Buddhism and Blasphemy", which I can't find an on line edition, but can apparently be bought here. He doesn't seem to be giving it away on his site where he give away quite a lot of amazing content. What I remember from reading the essay was a feeling that blasphemy wasn't really a problem in Buddhism.

The Dharma are the practical teachings that lead towards Enlightenment. Thus theory, philosophy and whatnot is only another aspect of motivating oneself on the path, if it does that. You can avoid theory, philosophy and probably do better on the spiritual path. You just need to know enough to get you going.

Secondly, I think actually Bjork articulates the wisdom of equality and non-discrimination, which is actually in line with Buddhism. I don't take her comment as offensive, because it's based on a false premise. You know, if you're not guilty, not point in getting defensive when someone makes a false charge. And she says she's most attracted to Buddhism. It's unfortunate she's snagged herself on this bit, but people are not fixed, perhaps 14 years later she's not in the same place.

Many of the comments from Sweep The Dust, Push The Dirt, point out that as Buddhist they don't eat meat, and think that animals are equal. So there's also that point, most of my Buddhist friends are vegetarians and vegans.

When the Dali Lama ate meat because his doctors told him he had to for his health, many people said, "see the Dali Lama eats meat." Of course he's the head of one of the six Buddhist sects from Tibet, but he's generally seen as the closest thing the Buddhists will have as a pope. Paul Williams in his excellent book Mahayana Buddhism points out that some scholars think the reason why Buddhism was easily overthrown is that there is no central authority. I like the freedom of Buddhism. Sure, you can find someone to tell you how to think always, but there's a real respect for the individual, in my opinion. So anyway, when the Dali Lama went back to vegetarianism, did those people who noticed he wasn't notice, and follow him? I doubt it. You can always find exceptions. The question is what is best for you to do, and I think vegetarianism is the ideal to strive for.

Some people get mixed up about what spiritual ideals are for. I think they are for striving towards, not judging others, or beating yourself up about. Which brings us back to blasphemy. I think some people like to "defend the faith," but faith isn't so much what Buddhism is about. Do I like Bjork saying "F*ck Buddhists"? Well, she's trying to make a point, I don't think she's walking up to someone meditating and kicking them. So I think she makes her point. Some people are provocative, I can be at times, to get attention, to dramatize thing. Howard Stern and Don Immus are shocking and get rich from it. It's hard to see a Buddhist getting their "knickers in a twist" about Bjork's comment.

So Ireland, another changing cloud of being, if you're trying to be tolerant and protective of Buddhism in Ireland, I appreciate that, but I'm not actually worried about blasphemy. And with a Great Grandfather who is Irish, and an avid fan of Irish literature and the country in general, well, I felt like expressing my opinion, inspired by Sweep The Dust, Push The Dirt. Thank you for your post.