Meditation in New York City

Two events in NYC


I’m appearing in two events at the New York Insight center on Oct 9 and Oct 10.

Dharma in Dialogue: Mythbusting the Dharma

The first of these is a conversation and Q&A with James Shaheen, editor and publisher of Tricycle magazine. James and I both have an interest in clearing up misconceptions about the Dharma. James has been running a series of articles by teachers such as Bhikkhu Bodhi, Thanissaro Bhikkhu, and myself, “mythbusting” some common misunderstandings of Buddhist teachings. I run a site called Fake Buddha Quotes (“I can’t believe it’s not Buddha!”) that examines the many supposed Buddha quotes that circulate on Facebook, Twitter, etc., and that often have nothing to do with the Buddha at all.

“Mythbusting the Dharma” runs from 7PM to 9PM on Oct 9. No registration is required. There’s no fixed charge for the event”—make a donation at the door.

From Me to We—And Beyond

The second event is an all-day workshop exploring our interconnectedness with each other and with the elements, with planet earth and with the universe. We’ll be delving into the Buddha’s Six Element Practice in order to expand our sense of who we are, breaking down the boundaries that make us feel separate from one another and from our world.

This event runs from 10AM until 5PM, and the registration fee is $70. (Scholarships are available). Click here to reserve a place.

New York Insight is at the heart of New York City, between Broadway & 6th Avenue, at 28 West 27th Street (10th Floor), New York, NY 10001.

If you’re in the area, I’d love to see you.

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Falun Gong brings tranquility to Times Square

Joshua Philipp & Zachary Stieber, Epoch Times: Something unique happened on Times Square on Saturday. From the morning until late afternoon, it became calm. Beneath the flashing billboards and amidst the bustling of tourists, hundreds of people sat in meditation while soft Chinese music played above low voices.

The event was one of several throughout the city marking the 20th year since Falun Gong was introduced to the public in China. Meditation lasted through the easy afternoon, and turned to music and Chinese dance as the day drew on.

And although this was a celebration, people standing on corners with fliers for …

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Monks teach meditation to incarcerated teens

Melissa Russo: Some of New York City’s angriest teens are learning the way to a more peaceful path with a little help from the Buddha.

Inside the Crossroads Juvenile Detention Center in Brownsville, the contrast between the street kids in their orange detention suits and the monks in their brown robes could not be more pronounced.

The group of monastics files into the facility, and they’re unlike anything these kids have seen in their neighborhood: soft-spoken, barefoot and bald.

“It was pretty interesting,” said one 15-year-old. “I didn’t think they were real.”

“When I saw them walk through the door, I was …

Read the original article (includes video) »

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A Forest Monk’s Lesson in the New York Jungle (New York Times)

The stolen bag did not contain much in the way of material value. But its sudden absence greatly distressed the Buddhist monk who had been victimized, and so the police were summoned to the scene of the crime: a Starbucks at the opulent Trump Tower on Fifth Avenue.

A police officer in a softball jacket sat down to take the statement of the tall man in a brown robe, whose decaffeinated coffee, no milk, was turning cold. Routine questions elicited complicated answers. For example, the victim’s name was Venerable Kassapa, but Venerable is a term of respect, not a first name.

”I’m a Buddhist monk,” the robed man confided. ”In case you’re wondering.”

”I knew,” the police officer said gently. ”I’ve been around.”

This is a simple tale that is not so simple, about a monk, a theft and New-York style redemption….

Venerable Kassapa, 41, is a forest monk in Sri Lanka. He usually lives alone or with a few other monks in rock-shelter huts, where he depends on the charity of villagers. He eats one proper meal a day, does not carry money, and devotes much of his celibate life to meditation, contemplation and the study of Buddhist texts. People often bow before him.

He sometimes travels to other countries and often speaks to very small groups about Buddhism. For the last few weeks he has been in the New York area, his trip sponsored by the New York Society of United Sri Lankans.

On Monday afternoon he sat on a stone bench in front of the Plaza Hotel and recalled how, as a young boy in London, he became disillusioned with the world. ”I wanted to find a way out of discomfort and uneasiness,” he said. ”A way out of suffering.”

His mother’s struggle with an illness may have prompted his brooding; he is not sure. But he is certain that the factors leading him to a Buddhist temple at the age of 13 included these: his mother’s interest in transcendental meditation, and his own interest in a popular television program of the time, ”Kung Fu.”

When he asked one of the temple’s monks whether they taught martial arts as well as Buddhism, he recalled, the monk laughed. ”Here we don’t tend to the body,” the monk told the boy. ”We tend to the mind.”

At 14, he became a novice monk and moved to Sri Lanka; at 20, he was ordained. ”And I’ve never, ever, regretted making this move,” he said.

With the sun slipping behind the Plaza, Venerable Kassapa agreed to take a stroll for a cup of coffee at the Starbucks in Trump Tower. Walking down Fifth Avenue in his simple cloth robe, a simple cloth bag clutched in his hand, he was a character out of context: a six-foot-four study in self-denial, ambling along the boulevard of acquisition.

”I am a beast out of its habitat,” he said.

He passed under the ”You’re Fired” advertisement that adorns Trump Tower and moved through the marble lobby, seemingly unaware of the effect his presence had on others. As an escalator raised him up to a floor redolent of coffee, he was asked whether he knew the name of Trump. ”I’ve heard of him,” he said. ”He’s a very wealthy man.”

Venerable Kassapa sat at a small table and accepted a cup of decaffeinated coffee. Soon he was sharing what he described as his ”vision” for the United States: that this great country, filled with energy and potential, would one day lead the world into a brave new era of truth and harmony.

Shortly after suggesting that American power ”can be harnessed for harm or for good,” he noticed that his cloth bag was missing from the chair beside him. He felt no anger when he realized that the bag had been stolen, he said later. Only shock, because such things do not happen to contemplative monks.

”This is very bizarre,” he kept saying. ”Nothing like this has ever happened to me before.”

Security officers were summoned, and then two police officers from the Midtown North precinct. They glided up the escalator and walked directly toward the monk. He was easy to pick out.

One officer went off to check garbage cans, while the other interviewed the monk. Finally, the time came to detail what was in the bag. No money, of course (”I don’t use money,” the monk said), but an eclectic list of items duly recorded by the officer.

Among the articles inside the cloth bag: a white plastic bag, a cellphone that someone had lent to him for his New York visit, a bottle of water, some white thread that he gives to people as a blessing and many pieces of paper. On these were written the names and telephone numbers of his supporters around the world.

”I would really appreciate it if you could do as much as you can,” the monk said to the officer. But the officer leveled with the monk. ”A lot of times, with nothing of value, they just throw it in the trash,” he said. ”It could be in Brooklyn, it could be in the Bronx.”

The officers left Venerable Kassapa to contemplate his loss, especially the bits of paper bearing the names and phone numbers of all those friends. ”This is a raw lesson in life,” he said, the kind of thing that ”I first became a monk to overcome.”

He descended the escalator, peered briefly into a garbage can — just in case — and then paused to study Donald Trump, who was standing at the elevator bank, talking on a cell phone. ”I’ve never seen a billionaire before,” he said.

Outside, on Fifth Avenue, the forest monk expressed a keen desire to go to that Manhattan forest called Central Park. ”I need a little bit of a breath of fresh air,” he said, and then he was gone.

That could have been the conclusion to the monk’s New York tale. But destiny would not allow it.

Late Monday afternoon, Riccardo Maggiore found a white plastic bag at the entrance to his hair salon on West 56th Street, just off Fifth Avenue. Yesterday morning, his wife, Eileen, did some sleuthing. And before noon, plans were under way to return the plastic bag — though not the cloth bag — to its owner, a forest monk.

There wasn’t much inside the bag. A cellphone. Some white thread. And what Ms. Maggiore described as ”a million pieces of paper.”

Read the rest of the article…

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Wind and a Prayer (Village Voice, NY)

Erik Baard, Village Voice: Freedom Tower Engineer Wants Turbines To Double as Prayer Wheels

The shining tower planned for the gawked-upon gap of the World Trade Center may be the first skyscraper to pray for its city. The designer of the wind turbines that will occupy the top of the “Freedom Tower” wants the rotors to serve as prayer wheels, cycling through mantras of peace.

Tibetan Buddhists write the mantra “Om Mani Padme Hum” many times over on thin papers and enclose them within cylinders called mani, which are also inscribed with the mantra. These spin on an axle, continuously repeating the prayer. The words aren’t directly translatable, but they invoke blessings from Chenrezig, the embodiment of compassion.

That tradition could be a starting point for a spiritual gesture in the same airy reaches once filled with death, according to engineer Guy Battle, who’s overseeing the wind farm for the planned Freedom Tower. Architect David M. Childs of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP, master planner Daniel Libeskind, and developer Larry Silverstein haven’t yet ruled on the proposal, and no artists have been commissioned to explore it.

The turbines are to produce a fifth of the electricity needed by the building. “They are simple generators, but they can be somehow linked with the memorial. People could even put prayers on the propellers,” Battle says. A reflection of mourning, forgiveness, and hope open to all faiths and ethical traditions would give real meaning to the skyscraper’s somewhat stilted name.

Imagine if, from miles away in any direction, you could look to that skyscraper and know that within its ethereal, translucent summit was a testament to our better selves, our shared prayers. That is the architecture of who we are as a people. And coincidentally, the northwesterly winds turning those prayer wheels would follow the same glinting line of the Hudson River that the planes of 9-11 used as a flight path to murder. It’s the kind of gentle defiance that would drive Al Qaeda mad.

Leaders of the rebuilding process have emerged from storied grapples over the shape of the tapering structure. The reported debates between Childs and Libeskind about the building’s proportions comically reprise the tale of how Sen no Rikyu, the 16th-century tea master, was tested by a carpenter over exactly where a flower basket should be placed. So it seems somehow fitting that such a humble, quiet idea inspired by Buddhism and entering so late would bring an apt element of remembrance, and restore to the urban spire a spiritual and aspirational force.

Of course, the prayer wheels would be an unorthodox interpretation of an ancient practice. Such wheels, or mani, are usually vertical, while the turbines would be horizontal. Nor are they usually as hard to see as what Battle proposes. “But the intention is a large part of the process, so if your intention is genuine, then the slight variations in the execution of the device are less important,” says Ganden Thurman, director of special projects at Tibet House.

The metropolitan cynic is tempted to dismiss such sentiments as hokey, but at some level, any sincere gesture of love is. Many residents of Lower Manhattan have remarked that the twin towers were a familiar presence, felt over the shoulder even when not seen. The thrill of the new won’t fill that void for long. Downtown planners must create a symbol that earns enduring affection by not just building high, but by giving a sense of renewal to those who look up.

Such an invisible aspect wouldn’t force any change in the appearance of the Freedom Tower or the contested 16-acre site. “I think the final form will be very close to what you saw at the unveiling. The broad strokes will be the same,” says Kenneth Lewis, SOM’s project manager. The building will rise from the street grid and torque to minimize wind resistance. Despite its glassy skin, an exoskeleton of diagonal supports and a concrete core will lend the building rigidity. A lacy truss of cables, which Childs says was inspired by the Brooklyn Bridge, will characterize the upper portion where the turbines are to be housed. Workers in the tower’s 2.6 million square feet of office space will be protected by fireproof safe havens and filtering systems to guard against chemical and biological attacks.

Mocked as everything from a martini toothpick to a toy soldier’s feather, the spire and antenna have been thorny issues. Skyscraper architect Cesar Pelli has consistently argued that such towers should have a spire, that the tapering profile is intrinsic to the medium. Yet after viewing the Freedom Tower, he told the Voice, “I think they should get rid of the spire. It detracts from the design, makes it lose strength.”

The antenna will likely bring the entire structure to 2,000 feet, the limit imposed by the Federal Aviation Administration, Lewis said. It needs to be that high to widen the television broadcast area. Even PBS has joined this cause, because the poor can’t afford cable educational programs. But at the 1,776-foot mark the materials used to build the spire will change, and it will be illuminated. “The 1,776-foot mark will definitely be acknowledged. The bottom part of the antenna will be like the Statue of Liberty’s torch and the upper part like the flame,” he said.

It’s doubtful that the Statue of Liberty echo will resonate much, over time. In truth, Liberty Enlightening the World already has its counterpoint across the harbor in Battery Park City. The comparatively small, tiered hexagon of the Museum of Jewish Heritage urges contemplation of the genocide unleashed by intolerance and the achievements that are possible for even a minority community when freedoms are secure. But the spire’s offset placement atop the Freedom Tower will be distinctive—centering it would push the design toward mimicry, and lopping it off would leave a silhouette that’s unjustifiably banal. As Skyscraper Museum director Carol Willis says, “I think that its slender proportions and pointing to sky really satisfy the definition of a skyscraper as a romantic notion.”

And height, in this case, does matter. “As architects, we don’t talk about designing the world’s tallest building,” Lewis says, but there’s an undeniable groundswell of desire to see the Freedom Tower become the world’s pinnacle.

If only for the moment. In a stark reminder of the ways of this world, the ecologically friendly Freedom Tower, even if recognized as the world’s tallest by the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat, will be closely bracketed by two monuments to oil power. For now, the title belongs to the Petronas Towers, designed by Pelli for the Petroliam Nasional Berhad, the national oil company of Malaysia. Upcoming is the Burj Dubai in the United Arab Emirates, which breaks ground this month and is slated for completion by 2009. The latter tower is also being built by SOM, and will be “comfortably taller” than anything else in the world, according to the firm.

The Burj Dubai derives its graceful symmetry from a six-petaled desert flower. Other examples of the newest generation of record-setting skyscrapers, like the bamboo-stalk-inspired Taipei Financial Center, have eschewed the boxy international style to reflect local cultures and organic forms. But perhaps the unseen prayer wheels will allow the Freedom Tower, as no building ever has, to speak profoundly for, and of, the people of its city.

Original article no longer available…

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