Taiwanese Buddhism

Lesbian couple to take vows in Taiwan’s first public Buddhist same-sex union

The decision by a Buddhist master to host the event will help push awareness about sexual inequalities further into the public realm, the bride said.

Two devout Buddhist women are to hold the nation’s first gay Buddhist wedding next month as part of an effort to push for the legalization of same-sex marriages in Taiwan.

“We are not only doing it for ourselves, but also for other gays and lesbians,” Fish Huang said in a telephone interview.

The 30-year-old social worker at a non-governmental organization said that marriage never crossed her mind until she saw a movie last year.

The film portrayed two lesbians whose ill-fated relationship concluded after one died and the other was left heartbroken over the denial of spousal benefits.

“It’s so sad,” Huang said, who plans to wed her partner of seven years on Aug. 11 at a Buddhist altar in Taoyuan County.

Both brides are planning to wear white wedding gowns and listen to lectures given by Buddhist masters about marriage, accompanied by a series of chantings and blessings from monks and nuns.

Although homosexual marriages are not legally recognized in Taiwan, Huang insisted on tying the knot because she wants to make her relationship complete and raise awareness about the difficulties faced by sexual minorities.

Alternative sexual orientation and marriage have yet to be widely accepted by the general public, despite years of effort by activists to secure equality in Taiwan.

The first public gay marriage in Taiwan took place in 1996 between a local writer and his foreign partner. The event drew widespread media attention and inspired many gays to follow their footsteps.

Huang’s wedding, however, will be the first with a Buddhist theme.

While planning for her wedding, Huang found out, to her surprise, that some of her Buddhist friends were hesitant about attending the ceremony.

“They are not sure if it would break their vows and were very anxious,” Huang said.

She messaged a Buddhist master on Facebook, asking her if she could find grounds in Buddhism for condemning the practice of homosexuality.

To Huang’s surprise, the master quickly replied that Buddhism shows no bias toward homosexuality. In a demonstration of support, the master said she was willing to host the ceremony for the couple.

“It is meaningful to us that our wedding can give hope to other homosexuals and help heterosexuals understand how Buddhism views sexuality,” Huang said.

The Buddhist master Shih Chao-hwei, who is also a professor at Hsuan Chuang University, said Buddhist teachings do not prohibit homosexual behavior.

Compared with Western religions, Buddhism on the whole is more tolerant toward homosexuality because there is no concrete rule banning the practice in Buddhist scriptures, Shih said.

“It’s difficult enough to maintain a relationship … how could you be so stingy as to begrudge a couple for wanting to get married, regardless of their sexual orientation,” she said in a telephone interview.

However, Shih recognized there is disagreement on the issue both inside and outside Buddhist circles.

Shih noted that Huang and her partner could face criticism.

“The first step is always the hardest,” Shih said.

Via Taipei Times.

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Buddhist mobile clinic serves East San Jose

Fewer patients than expected turned out, but that just meant the waiting lines were short for the doctors, dentists, acupuncturists and chiropractors who filled teeth and adjusted backs Sunday at a free clinic in East San Jose.

The Tzu Chi Foundation, a Buddhist organization with roots in Taiwan, offered its health clinic in keeping with its goals to help the poor, educate the rich and inspire love and humanity in both.

The foundation, with 10 million followers globally, has a strong presence in the South Bay. The 58 patients who showed up at Slonaker Elementary School on Sunday were matched in number by Tzu Chi’s volunteers, including medical professionals and others. The group, which has a partnership with Slonaker and two other schools in the Alum Rock Union School District, chose the school because of its high poverty index.

The group, which also runs clinics in the Central Valley, targets the areas of greatest need.

But while the medical need in the neighborhood near Lake Cunningham is clearly high, a recent increase in immigration raids may have dampened the turnout, said Brenda Hernandez, a Slonaker teacher volunteering Sunday. After fliers about the clinic were distributed, several families said they were afraid that attending might draw attention from the authorities.

Those who did visit the clinic, which also included a fully equipped…

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dental van, made good use of the services, Tzu Chi representative Eric Chen said.

Among them was Juan Martínez, who got a tooth capped, while his wife, Alejandra Leyva, also received care.

“It’s pretty difficult to get an appointment at the hospital,” said Martínez, of San Jose. Disabled last year in an auto crash, the uninsured man said the typical wait is three to five hours in emergency rooms and up to 12 hours for nonemergency care at Valley Medical Center.

At the Tzu Chi clinic, he said, paperwork was minimal, compared with the multiple applications required at most clinics and hospitals.

From a doctor’s viewpoint, clinics present at least one challenge — ongoing treatment of patients with chronic diseases like high blood pressure and diabetes. “When you write a prescription, you feel they should get follow-up care,” said Richard Chiang, a cardiologist with Kaiser Permanente Hayward Medical Center, who has volunteered with Tzu Chi for about six years.
On Sunday Chiang mostly did consultations, emphasizing lifestyle. “I’ve been reinforcing the importance of people taking care of themselves with diet, watching their weight and getting regular physical activity,” he said.

But while the doctors themselves couldn’t follow up on their walk-through patients, they handed out information on community clinics for low-income residents and low-cost prescriptions available at drugstores. And the Health Trust of Santa Clara County distributed information about medical insurance available to children.

The accomplishment is hard to measure, but on Sunday, Tzu Chi — which means “compassion and relief” — made a bit of progress in its mission, Chen said, to help the most needy and less fortunate in society.

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Buddhists nuns and volunteers forging new frontier of monastery’s acreage

Buddhist nuns and volunteers at the Buddha Mind Monastery are creating a walking meditation trail along the religious center’s expansive east Oklahoma City site

With the pioneering spirit of their adopted state, a group of Buddhist nuns is forging a path through a new frontier.

That untamed land is right outside their doors at the Buddha Mind Monastery, 5916 S Anderson Road.

The nuns and a determined group of volunteers are creating a walking meditation trail throughout and along the perimeter of the monastery’s sprawling 40 acres in far east Oklahoma City.

Jian Jian Shih, a nun at the monastery, said the new trail is the first of many changes at the site. Dirtwork also has begun on a new monastery building.

Buddha Mind Monastery is a Zen Buddhist community. It is an affiliate of the Chung Tai Chan Monastery in Taiwan, and there are nine American branches, Shih said.

She said several people who attend the monastery’s classes and…

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other events brought up the idea of a walking trail last fall when she arrived from a sister monastery in California. Shih, a native of Taiwan, said she liked the idea and began the project with some volunteers one Saturday in September.The group, which includes Marilyn Wetmore, Mei Siu and Ken Cates, continues to meet Saturday mornings to clear brush and debris to craft the winding trail. The volunteers work on the pathway project even on some chilly, blustery days, as long as the sun is out.
“Every Saturday, people come here to do a little bit and a little bit,” she said.

Shih, 36, said walkers will eventually be able to explore the nature-filled trail and rest on several benches that will be provided and maybe even sit for meditation at a planned gazebo. Shih said volunteers have become very ambitious now that they can see the fruits of their labor becoming a recognizable trail. She laughed as she said they were working tirelessly one weekend with a borrowed tractor when one gung-ho volunteer came up with the idea of adding a pond.

“I believe where there is a will, there is way,” she said, smiling. “We still have much work to do.”

She said some students from Oklahoma City University’s religious studies program came out to help at one point.

Meanwhile, Shih said the monastery’s classes continue to draw people from all walks of life.

The monastery’s abbess, Jian Mao, is in Taiwan for a visit.

A different meditation

Siu, a Hong Kong native who lives in Norman, said she anticipates the trail’s completion.
She said just working on the project has allowed her to enjoy nature, and she is inspired by walking meditation.
“I can come here three times a week, and even though it is rough now, I feel inspired,” Siu said of the trail. “I’m excited that it will be done soon.”
Shih said meditation classes in which the participants sit are offered at the monastery. She said the leaders of these classes often encourage attendees to do walking meditation to get their blood circulating and as another form of relaxation.
She said walking meditation helps bring one’s focus within.
“You just focus on the step you are stepping,” she said.
“There is a Buddhist verse that says, ‘When in action, perfect action.’ When at rest, rest all thoughts so our minds can meditate when we are walking. We have to focus on the present.”
Wetmore, of Choctaw, said much of Buddhism is about quieting one’s mind “and letting go of the busy mind.”
“This might be a good place to quiet the mind and study,” she said of the trail.
Wetmore said the trail project has done much to bring the small community of Buddhists together. She and Shih said between 75 and 100 people from the metro area attend classes and events at the monastery, and the project has helped them unify.
“It’s as much about community and fellowship,” Wetmore said.

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