Buddhism

Lindsay Lohan ‘turns to Buddhism’

Lindsay Lohan is reportedly turning to Buddhism to get her through her spell in prison.

The 24-year-old actress was recently sentenced to 90 days in jail for violating the terms of her probation and it is claimed she is taking to the religion to help her get through the ordeal.

A source said to UK newspaper Daily Star: ‘Lindsay’s been fascinated in the Buddhist faith for a while, as several of her inner circle follow the teachings of Buddhism.

‘Lindsay’s devastated about the jail sentence, she has been crying non-stop. She’s been told to seek spiritual guidance and find her inner peace. She’s decided to study the art of meditation so she can stay calm through breathing techniques while she’s in jail.’

[via Monsters & Critics]
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Buddha relics unearthed in Jammu-Kashmir

The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) recently unearthed a Buddha Stupa in Jammu and Kashmir’s Amvaran village.

It is reported to be the seventh site in the world where relics of the Buddha have been found.

The stupa is said to have been erected by the Kushana Empire in the first century BC.

“This site was established around first century BC in Kushana period, and the relic, tooth relic of Lord Buddha was deposited at the time, which we have found in the reliquary,” said ASI archaeologist A K Khanna.

“The reliquary found in the stupa contain part of a tooth, some ashes, then there are coins, along with 38 foils of gold and there are beads,” he added.

The digging revealed many idols, gemstones, bronze and copper artifacts, and silver and gold foils.

[via OneIndia]
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Buddhist tradition thrives in Austin

Area’s diverse Buddhist scene is home to dozens of temples, meditation groups and centers

One of the most popular ambassadors of Buddhism in the West, the Dalai Lama, met with President Barack Obama in February. The meeting, which riled Chinese leaders, happened right after Tiger Woods mentioned a return to his Buddhist roots in a public apology for his extramarital affairs. Then Fox News analyst Brit Hume sparked even more discussion on Buddhism when he suggested that Woods might be better off converting to Christianity.

The national attention on Buddhism has been echoed in the establishment of new Buddhist groups and temples in the Austin area over the past decade. The faith tradition emerged in the sixth century when the wealthy Siddhartha Gautama, who lived in what is now Nepal, renounced his social status to lead a life pursuing the comprehension of human suffering.

Dozens of types of Buddhism are now practiced all over the world by more than 360 million people. An estimated 1.5 million people identify themselves as Buddhist in America. Americans became more aware of Buddhism and the dharma, the law that orders both the cosmos and individual conduct as well as the teachings of the Buddha, in the 1960s.

Last month, the Interdependence Project, a Buddhist-influenced community group and activist organization whose mission is to foster the intersection of contemplative practices and social change, started a chapter in Austin (it’s also in Portland, Ore., and New York). The project, led by psychologists Michael Uebel and Uva Most, started with an art opening at the Pedernales Lofts on East Sixth Street. That led to interest from dozens of Austinites to start an informal meditation group, Uebel said.

The project adds to Austin’s diverse Buddhist scene, which offers dozens of ethnic temples, mindfulness or meditation groups and centers that follow specific traditions. Local Buddhist teachers, priests and laypeople say there has been a visible Buddhist presence in Austin since at least the 1990s, but there are no reliable estimates of the number of Buddhists in Austin because the U.S. Census Bureau doesn’t track information about religious affiliation.

Mark Adams, 42, a psychotherapist who runs his own private practice and counsels veterans struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder, said that he came to meditation about a year ago when he became interested in mindfulness, or the practice of being more aware in everyday life. While working with his patients, he said he became more interested in his own self-care as an extension of caring for others.

Like others who have participated in the Interdependence Project, Adams said he doesn’t feel as at home in more structured Buddhist communities.

“I visited some other places and nothing seemed to stick,” Adams said.

Adherents of Buddhism, a non-theistic tradition, follow a path of mindfulness and nonviolence toward others. Buddhism emerges out of at least two major lineages: Theravada, which is atheistic and the predominant religion of Southeast Asia, and Mahayana, which translates to “Great Vehicle” and emerged from India. Tibetan and Zen traditions that are also part of the larger Buddhism pantheon each have their own slightly different emphasis on the same general principles.

Nawala Lakkhana and Pandit Eluwapola Gnanaratana Thero, Sri Lankan monks at the 5-acre Austin Buddhist Center in Southeast Austin, say they practice Theravada Buddhism at the 4,500-square-foot space, which was built in 2007. About 50 families go there for meditation, said Dilum Chandrasoma, a philanthropist whose family has been in the Austin area since 1966. It’s one of a handful of temples in Northwest and Central Austin and smaller sanghas — or Buddhist communities — that meet in far Southeast Austin and have a mostly immigrant following.

Although Chandrasoma says the Austin Buddhist Center is open to all who want to meditate there, it caters mainly to Sri Lankan immigrant families. More prevalent in Austin are the more informal groups that practice loosely connected Buddhist principles of mindfulness and contemplation without a specific religious affiliation, like the Interdependence Project.

According to the Pew Forum for Religion in Public Life, a think tank based in Washington, D.C., only one in three American Buddhists lists their ethnicity as Asian; the number of Buddhists in America made up less than 1 percent of 35,000 adults surveyed in the Pew Forum’s 2008 U.S. Religious Landscape Survey.

Chris Lance, director of the Austin Zen Center, said the center’s community of about 70 members — who meditate and attend events at the three-home campus near the University of Texas — are largely Western converts to Buddhism. The center’s main building is a two-story green home with several incense-scented rooms where cushions and chairs line the walls around altars where bronze Buddha statues sit.

The Austin Zen Center was founded in 1995 by psychotherapist and Buddhist priest Flint Sparks. Sparks, who comes from Southern Baptist roots, began the Zen center by starting a meditation group. Around the same time, Peg Syverson had arrived in Austin around 1994 and had started a meditation group as well. Sparks left the Zen Center in a full-time capacity, and he and Syverson now run Appamada, a Buddhist group that meets in Central Austin.

Webber, 63, has been meditating at the center since 2002. She lived down the street in a duplex, but at the beginning of the year moved into the Zen Center. The retired landscape designer started looking for a place to meditate after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. “I became aware of what could come out of the blue on a sunny day,” she said. “I thought I needed to be more prepared.”

Now there are other, smaller Buddhist communities that round out the experience of Buddhism in Austin. They include the Chittamani Buddhist Center, the Shambhala Meditation Center and several other smaller local Buddhist or Buddhist-inspired groups that meet to meditate, discuss the philosophies of nonviolence, the benefits of compassion and mindfulness, and conduct volunteer work.

But not everyone in these communities necessarily defines themselves as a Buddhist. As Most said after a recent informal meditation sit at the Interdependence Project, “Philosophically, Buddhism doesn’t demand that you choose, like other traditions. You don’t have to do anything with Buddhism except let it resonate in your life. It manifests in non-Buddhist ways in the culture, like being vegan or anti-war.”

joshundasanders@statesman.com; 445-3630

Buddhist groups in Austin

The Austin Buddhist Center

5816 Ross Road, Del Valle www.austinbuddhistcenter.org

Appamada (formerly Ordinary Mind Zen)

913 E. 38th St. www.appamada.org

Austin Zen Center

3014 Washington Square www.austinzencenter.org

The Austin Shambhala Meditation Center

1702 S. Fifth St. www.austin.shambhala.org

The Interdependence Project

2401 E. Sixth St., #2017 www.theidproject.org/regions/austin-tx

A project with groups based in New York and Portland, Ore., that allows a space for art, activism and meditation to mix. Founded by writer Ethan Nictern, the son of a well-known Buddhist teacher, the project was founded locally this year.

[via The Statesman]
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Tiger Woods and Buddhism

CBS: Golfer Acknowledges He Had Strayed From Teachings, and Promised to Return to Tenets as Part of Path to Recovery

In his statement today about his recovery from the failings that have impacted his family and career, golfer Tiger Woods vowed a return to the teachings of Buddhism which had guided him since childhood.

Part of his therapeutic quest, Woods said, would be Buddhism, “which my mother taught me at a young age. People probably don’t realize it, but I was raised a Buddhist, and I actively practiced my faith from childhood until I drifted away from it in recent years.

“Buddhism teaches that a craving for things outside ourselves causes an unhappy and pointless search for security. It teaches me to stop following every impulse and to learn restraint. Obviously, I lost track of what I was taught.”

Woods said that while he will continue to pursue therapy, one thing he has learned is “the importance of looking at my spiritual life and keeping [it] in balance with my professional life. I need to regain my balance and be centered, so I can see the things that are most important to me: My marriage and my children.”

According to Reuters and Times of London interviews in March 2008, when asked if he were a practicing Buddhist, Woods said he practices meditation, and has attended temple with his mother, but stressed the tenets of Buddhism about internal growth: “In the Buddhist religion you have to work for it yourself, internally, in order to achieve anything in life and set up the next life.”

He said his mother has preached to him that “you have to work for everything in life, and you get out of it what you put into it. So you’re going to have to work your butt off in every aspect of your life. That’s one of the things people see in what I do on the golf course, but that’s just one small facet of my life.”

“I believe in Buddhism. Not every aspect, but most of it,” Woods told Sports Illustrated in 1996. “So I take bits and pieces. I don’t believe that human beings can achieve ultimate enlightenment, because humans have flaws.”

The foundation of Buddhist philosophy is ethics, James Shaheen, editor and publisher of the Buddhist magazine Tricycle, told the Associated Press: “An ethical life leads to a life of less suffering.”

Buddhists are taught that redemption for unethical actions is sought not through an omnipotent figure but through oneself.

Fox News commentator Brit Hume raised a stir last month when he suggested that the only way for avowed Buddhist Woods to achieve forgiveness and redemption was to “turn to the Christian faith and you can make a total recovery and be a great example to the world.”

That stirred the ire of many Buddhists, including Robert Thurman, a professor of Tibetan studies at Columbia University, who called Hume’s assertion that the Buddhist faith does not provide for forgiveness or redemption “ridiculous.”

“It is insulting to Buddhism to indicate that Buddhism doesn’t take care of its own believers and followers. But I think he will discover that Buddhists are very forgiving about his stupid statements,” Thurman told the Associated Press.

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Self-centred Buddhism

Mark Vernon: Guardian

Western Buddhism can be a serious business. If you travel to Newton Abbot in Devon, and then make your way a few miles further west – through the village of East Ogwell, and then the hamlet of West Ogwell – you arrive at Gaia House, one of the places in the UK where western Buddhism is being forged with impressive commitment. It’s a meditation centre. Run by volunteers, who offer a year at a time to manage the place, it hosts retreats – periods of time, running from a single day to many weeks, during which retreatants meditate.

Silence is the watchword of the house. It’s a mark of the seriousness of the place, and the element visitors are quite sternly asked to respect. Even the library was out of bounds on the three day retreat that I booked in for, along with about 30 others (accommodation is comfortable though lacks privacy). Reading would disturb the inner stillness that the outer observance is designed to engender. It would spoil the quality of the silence that together we were pursuing.

Meditation is the central activity of this style of Buddhism, and insight meditation in particular, the kind in which you are encouraged to develop an ability to hold your attention on one thing, usually your breathing. Apart from mealtimes and an hour doing household chores, the day is devoted to it: three quarters of an hour sitting in the meditation hall, followed by three quarters of an hour doing walking meditation – the same activity of concentration conducted whilst walking very slowly, and focusing on the sensations in your feet. Then back to sitting meditation. Then more walking. It adds up to about 7 hours a day.

The mind repeatedly and routinely wanders, of course. But you’re not asked to attempt to control it. Rather, you are to become aware of the fact, and then draw your attention back to the breathing or the walking. Most of the meditation periods pass easily enough. A handful were a struggle. One was a real joy. But what’s it for? What is meditation supposed to deliver?

The retreat was led by two teachers. They topped and tailed the sitting sessions with a few helpful words, and were also on hand lest any participants develop problems, an important safeguard as prolonged silence can be unsettling. One of them also gave a talk on the second evening, and she explained the central Buddhist doctrine that meditation is designed to address: the reality of suffering.

Suffering here is meant in a broad sense, everything from the faintest feeling that something is wrong, to the profound injuries that human beings inflict on themselves and each other. It’s a worldview that is humanistic and tragic. The first of the Buddha’s noble truths is that life is suffering. It’s called a “noble” truth since that realisation is also the first step towards an ennobled life, namely one in which the suffering can cease.

That’s where meditation comes in. It’s a technique designed to develop mindfulness, the awareness and acceptance of suffering existence. Meditation itself needn’t always be painful. It might be pleasant, even elating. But the aim is neither to cling to experience, nor to reject it, but rather to know it as it is. Hence, the “insight” in insight meditation. “To understand all is to forgive all,” the proverb says, and the Buddhist version would be, “To understand all is to let go of all”. It just takes practice.

It’s religion as a kind of therapy, and points to one of the reasons that Buddhism is finding such a ready audience in the west. Modernity has damaged many egos, perhaps as a result of the Enlightenment teaching that we are autonomous selves, capable of self-creation, control and consolation. Only, it turns out that we are not so self-sufficient. Hence, if that’s right, the spread of loneliness and alienation, stress and depression. Western Buddhism is developing a radical remedy for this condition. Look closely, it says, and you’ll see that the self is an illusion. Let go of that, and liberation follows.

It is a plausible gospel to many, and committed Buddhists, like those at Gaia House, are devoting themselves to deepening the insight. My time in the place was good: how can a city-dweller not gain much from the silence? However, I did come away with questions. And they sprang from the nature of the project.

The raison d’être of Gaia House is the wellbeing of the those who come to stay in it. That seems like a pretty good raison d’être, and it is. However, it comes with risk. Meditation-as-therapy flirts with narcissism when it is devoted to observing yourself, for that can lead to self-absorption and self-obsession. It’s a danger inherent in any community devoted to a particular task, though perhaps more so in one that lacks a reference point beyond the individuals taking part.

Religious houses in a Christian tradition would be different, in theory at least. Ultimately, they don’t exist for the wellbeing of the occupants, but for the glory of God. That nurtures a way of life that has less to do with the self, and more to do with the service of something greater. You have to believe in God, of course. That many don’t, and might say they are “spiritual but not religious”, must be another reason why Buddhism appeals. But I did wonder whether a God-centred spiritual practice might offer a better way to get over yourself, and in turn offer a more satisfying “therapy”.

I suspect this is a key paradox with which western Buddhism is currently grappling: the practice that tells you the self is a delusion could, in the modern context, deepen the very attitude it seeks to dislodge. It’s a risk compounded when self-concern is arguably the secret of western Buddhism’s current success.

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Which voice in your head do you trust?

It’s all very well tuning into your inner wisdom, but how do you know it’s reliable? How do you know you are following true guidance and making the right decisions? In this short video, Srimati (Maggie Kay) talks about how to know which of the competing voices in our head to trust. She suggests listening to the inner guidance that leads towards expansiveness and freedom.

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Military Buddhist chapel represents tolerance

NPR: The Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo., is home to the only Buddhist chapel on a U.S. military base. After a controversy over religious intolerance during the summer of 2005, the chapel was built in the basement of the academy’s iconic Cadet Chapel.

In 2005, conservative evangelical Christians were accused of trying to force their religion on others. According to current and recently graduated cadets, the religious climate has improved substantially since then.

Chapel Construction

The controversy prompted the Air Force to issue guidelines for religious expression. The military also has made efforts to accommodate all faiths. These include the construction of the 300-square-foot Buddhist chapel at the Air Force Academy paid for by the Frederick P. Lenz Foundation for American Buddhism.

Read the rest of this story…

The floor is bamboo, and the walls are Port Orford cedar. The focal point is a cherry and ash altar with a Burmese Buddha statue on top.

Curiosity Trumps Judgment

During services, which are held Wednesday evenings, about half of the 18 pillows on the floor are usually occupied.

Tanner Faulkner, an 18-year-old student attending the prep school at the academy, says he feels encouraged to explore his religious curiosity.

“They let us know, ‘We have this available for you, and it is possible for you to go to different services, whether you’re Jewish faith or Buddhist or Christian or whatever,’ ” Faulkner says.

Sophomore cadet Dan Dwyer says his fellow cadets seem to have respect for his religion.

“People wonder where I go every Wednesday,” Dwyer says. “I tell them I go to the Buddhist service, and it’s just more of a curiosity rather than judgment.”

Buddhism And Military Service — A Discordant Pair?

Out of 1.4 million people in the military, 5,287 identified themselves as Buddhists as of June 2009. For these folks, questions inevitably arise about whether Buddhism — a pacifist religion — is even compatible with military service.

Sarah Bender is the Buddhist program leader at the Air Force Academy. She says she has plenty of questions herself about whether it’s ever right to kill in order to stop further harm. But, Bender says, she leaves the academy every Wednesday evening feeling like this is where she’s supposed to be.

“People in the military come up — for real — against questions that most of us just consider abstractly,” Bender says. “The questions of Buddhism are the questions of life and death. So, where else would you want Buddhism than right there where those questions are most vivid?”

Bender says the academy is now a place where cadets and staff are free to practice any religion they choose.

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Buddhism is fastest-growing religion in English jails over past decade

Telegraph: Buddhism is the fastest-growing religion in England’s jails, with the number of followers rising eightfold over the past decade.

Although adherents to the Eastern faith believe in peace and the sanctity of life, almost all of the Buddhists behind bars in this country are serving lengthy sentences for serious crimes such as violence and sex offences.

Some jails and secure hospitals including Broadmoor have opened shrines known as Buddha Groves in their grounds, and there is a nationwide network of chaplains to cater for the growing population.

It is claimed that most of the Buddhists in jail converted after their conviction, and chose it over other religions because its emphasis on meditation helps them cope with being locked up.

Supporters of Buddhist criminals say they also believe the spiritual development they gain in prison will help them once they are released, and prevent them from re-offending.

Lord Avebury, a Liberal Democrat peer who is the patron of Angulimala, the Buddhist Prison Chaplaincy Organisation, told The Daily Telegraph: “The numbers are quite remarkable. I think one of the reasons is that they convert to Buddhism in prison – it’s a reasonable hypothesis that they become interested when inside.

“I think it does enable people to come to terms with their situation. Buddhism gets people away from the idea of material ambitions, and if people are in prison they can’t go for those goals anyway.

“You do have more time to reflect and meditate in jail, and get away from the idea of self.”

He went on: “My inclination would be to say it must help people after they leave jail. The whole idea of Buddhism is not to cause harm to anybody, and the person who persists in their faith is likely to be totally recast in their life and must be less likely to re-offend.”

Lord Avebury said the care offered by the network of Buddhist prison chaplains, who are supported by the Prison Service, would also have encouraged many prisoners to convert, in addition to the existence of shrines in the jail grounds.

“We have an annual celebration at Spring Hill [an open prison in Buckinghamshire where the first Buddha Grove was built]. That’s a remarkable place, it’s extremely peaceful. Staff go there to meditate as well as prisoners.”

Official figures show Britain’s 149,157 Buddhists – who believe in gaining spiritual knowledge about the true nature of life and do not worship gods – make up just 0.26 of the general population .

In 1997 there were only 226 Buddhists in prisons in England and Wales, but by the end of June 2008 that figure had risen by 669 per cent to reach 1,737 – 2 per cent of the 79,734 prison population.

The vast majority, 1,194, were white and most were over 30. Only 78 were female.

Detailed statistics published by the Ministry of Justice show that almost all were serving long sentences. In total, 621 were serving terms of four years or more, while a further 521 had been given indeterminate sentences.

The rate of growth in the Buddhist jail population outstrips that of Muslims, whose numbers have more than doubled from 3,681 to 9,795 over the past 11 years.

Christians remain the best represented group behind bars, with 41,839 worshippers, while those declaring themselves to have no religion, or atheist or agnostic views, now stand at 27,710.

Atheists make up 1 per cent of the prison population for the first time this year, with 570 declared adherents to the view that there is definitely no God.

Just 220 prisoners said they were Jewish – fewer than the 366 recorded Pagans, 340 Rastafarians and 230 Jehovah’s Witnesses. There are also 37 members of the Salvation Army in jail.

A Prison Service spokesman said: “The Prison Service recognises the positive role faith can play in the lives and rehabilitation of prisoners, and is committed to enabling prisoners of all faiths to practise their religion.

“Each prison has a multi-faith chaplaincy team to meet the religious and pastoral needs of prisoners and staff. Teams include chaplains and volunteers from a wide range of religions and denominations.”

Population in English and Welsh prisons by religion in June 2008

No religion 26,626

Church of England 23,039

Roman Catholic 14,296

Muslim 9,795

Buddhist 1,737

Sikh 648

Atheist 570

Agnostic 514

Hindu 434

Pagan 366

Rastafarian 340

Jehovah’s Witness 230

Jewish 220

Scientology 3

Source: Ministry of Justice

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Wanna check out Buddhism? Top 10 Buddhist teachers living in America.

Huffington Post: Wanna get you some meditation, some peace, some wisdom? Wanna do a weekend program where you learn how to calm and open your mind to…reality? Buddhism–tested over 2,500 years in dozens of diverse cultures–is worth a go. This “non-theistic” (read: it’s up to you) religion comes in dozens of styles–Zen, Theravada, Tibetan–but it’s always, at its root, about learning to be a good, sane, peaceful, compassionate person. Still, finding the right teacher for you is an age-old task–made somewhat easier by online teaching schedules, hundreds of wonderful Buddhist books (why, only a generation ago there were only a few tomes to choose from). Read more here.

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“The Lost Art of Compassion: Discovering the Practice of Happiness in the Meeting of Buddhism and Psychology,” by Lorne Ladner

The Lost Art of Compassion, by Lorne Ladner

Available from Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk.

There has been a steady trickle of books by Buddhist therapists recently, exploring the overlaps between western therapeutic models and practices and traditional Buddhist approaches to dealing with human suffering (see Tara Brach’s “Radical Acceptance” and Tara Bennett-Goleman’s “Emotional Alchemy”). Both systems have as their aim the reduction of suffering, and while at times the approaches may differ, there is also considerable overlap. There exists considerable possibility for cross-fertilization, and Ladner’s book is to my mind the finest fruit of that process to date.

Ladner’s book is more Buddhist than the other two examples I have picked, and for me that’s a bonus. While Brach and Bennett-Goleman look mainly towards a rather secularized form of mindfulness meditation for the Buddhist component of their mix of Buddhism and therapy, Ladner draws more widely from Buddhist mythology, meditation, and ethical teachings. “The Lost Art” contains so much Buddhism that this book would almost (but not quite) serve as an introduction to the subject even for a complete novice to the topic.

Choose any two pages at random from Lorne Ladner’s book, “The Lost Art of Compassion”, and there’s likely to be enough wisdom there to keep you thinking and boost your practice for months or even years to come. Ladner’s writing, perhaps because he doesn’t strive to write in a way which is ornate or poetic, has a rare clarity and is devoid of the sentimentality that I thought detracted from both “Radical Acceptance” and “Emotional Alchemy”.

I particularly appreciated the way in which at the end of the book Ladner outlines a summary of compassion practices for easy reference, showing how traditional Buddhist practices can be used as therapeutic tools, and how we can each become our own therapist.

I’d highly recommend this book to anyone interested in learning to deal better with their own suffering, or who is interested in the overlap between Buddhism and therapy. This book will certainly make a lasting difference to my own practice and my own approach to teaching.

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