Tiger Woods

Should we cut Tiger some slack?

“Tiger Woods, you suck. God damn it!”

Those might have been the harshest public comments to date about the man who was making his much-anticipated comeback to golf from a self-imposed four-month leave of absence triggered by the eruption of a tawdry sex scandal. The source? Woods himself — the born-again Buddhist — on the sixth hole Saturday at the Masters.

Only five days earlier, when Woods faced the media for the first question-and-answer session since his shocking and swift fall from grace, he had pledged to try to “not get as hot when I play” and to “be more respectful of the game and show appreciation for the fans.”

His jarring outburst seemed to suggest Woods had failed to change and had acted contrary to what’s believed to represent Buddhist teachings. But did he?

“Buddhism teaches that a craving for things outside ourselves causes an unhappy and pointless search for security,” Woods said during his Feb. 19 statement, his first public utterances since the scandal came to light. “It teaches me to stop following every impulse and to learn restraint. Obviously I lost track of what I was taught.”

In his comments, Woods made it abundantly clear that recommitting to the religion of his childhood would be a crucial part of becoming a better person on and off the golf course. With more scrutiny on Tiger than ever before, critics were quick to dismiss the idea that Woods had changed, forgetting that breaking long-established habits doesn’t happen overnight.

So how might the journey to correct the error of his ways occur?

“Buddhism is a religion of experience that takes time to learn,” said Jonathan Bradley, the president of the New York Diamond Way Buddhist Center and a student of the Karma Kagyu tradition of Tibetan Buddhism for 13 years. “It’s the development of our fullest human potential.

“Practicing Buddhism starts from understanding that we are responsible for our reactions and the causes that create the circumstances we experience in the future,” he said. “There’s a teaching called ‘karma cause and effect,’ which says that from this moment forward, we have the ability to change through becoming more aware of our minds in the present. But it’s a process. So if Tiger Woods is applying the teachings sincerely, he’ll get the results over time.”

Just minutes into the CBS broadcast of Saturday’s action, Woods’ unsettling outburst blared into the microphones surrounding the sixth tee box and, consequently, the televisions of the millions of viewers.

While many watching at home scrambled to rewind their DVRs to ensure Woods hadn’t uttered a much stronger word, CBS’ Jim Nantz scolded Woods for that thing-he-vowed-he-wouldn’t-do. (To be clear, Woods actually hedged in his Monday statements by saying he would “try” to limit his on-course tantrums.)

Surrounded by the intoxicating dogwoods along the hallowed fairways of Augusta National, Nantz expressed his “disappointment” and presented a flurry of biting questions to analyst Nick Faldo about what he perceived to be Woods’ breaking his word. Simultaneously, the Twitter-sphere exploded with 140-character sound bytes, ranging from outrage to jokes to snarky criticism that Woods’ language was contradicting Buddhist values.

Before Woods could stomp up the seventh fairway, where another, less pronounced “Dammit!” slipped, the now-infamous “Tiger Woods, you suck!” video had been posted on YouTube and was making its way around the blogosphere — along with fiery comments both defending and chastising him.

Would a Buddhist consider Woods’ outburst to be against the religion’s teachings? Not necessarily.

“People shouldn’t be too harsh on [Woods],” said the Venerable Dhammadipa Fa Yao, the abbot — or spiritual leader — of Chuang Yen Monastery in Carmel, N.Y. “If he wants to yell, it’s his way of expressing his emotions. It doesn’t mean he’s not Buddhist. As a human, we can’t expect him to be perfect.

“From a monk’s perspective, there are two thoughts, the first being that he shouldn’t have done that because it spoils the image of Buddhism. Another would say everyone has their own karma. He should do as they like as long as it doesn’t intentionally hurt anyone else.”

Another interpretation? Live and learn.

“Everybody makes mistakes, but it’s how we react to them,” Bradley added. “Buddhism leaves you with ways to reflect on them. When the outcome of our actions isn’t ideal, we’ll try to act differently the next time. It’s not a good idea to have temper tantrums. But it’s not a moralistic thing; it’s just a piece of advice.”

Raised as a Buddhist from childhood by his Thai mother, Kultida, Woods confessed to straying from his spiritual practices in recent years. “I’d gotten away from my core values,” he told ESPN’s Tom Rinaldi on March 21 in his first interview since the scandal broke. “I’d gotten away from my Buddhism. And I quit meditating.”

A 1996 Sports Illustrated profile of the then-20-year-old Woods implied he practiced his religion seriously. The story went on to say that every year around his birthday, he visited a temple with his mother and wore a gold Buddha around his neck.

Of the millions in America who watched the Masters on Sunday, only a small percentage are Buddhists. As a first-generation Chinese-American, I grew up with my family practicing some Buddhist traditions. So I knew there was more to it than the “core values” statements Woods reiterated over and over through his public comments over the last two months. And I wasn’t going to grasp it by reading about it at home or listening to El Tigre.

My mother, who considers herself a Buddhist and meditates every once in a while, kept chiding me, saying I was being too critical of Woods and should forgive him. I tried to explain that wasn’t the point. He had disappointed and deceived so many people. How could we believe anything he said?

A lesson in meditation, she said, would help remove these negative feelings. My interest was surprisingly piqued.

Could understanding the power of meditation explain why, when Woods abandoned it, he turned into such a cad that he sent crude text messages to women not called Mrs. Woods? And what makes someone a Buddhist? Coincidentally, a meditation retreat taught by Fa Yao started the upcoming weekend. Sign me up! Gulp.

For three days, a before-dawn wakeup call came from the banging of a gong. With very little human contact and no food after noon, we listened to lectures about Buddhism and practiced (or tried) meditation for most of the waking hours. It’s not easy. My legs and back ached from sitting in the proper posture just 15 minutes into a 3-hour session. (It’s karmic suffering, and we have to train our minds to will it away, Fa Yao said.)

The first technique taught actually was applicable to my attempt to feel compassion for Woods: I first had to visualize myself being happy, then go through the same exercise with close family and friends. Eventually, I worked my way all the way to someone like Tiger Woods.

So what could Buddhism, and meditation, do for him?

“[Woods] can study morality, establish focus and avoid distractions, which will help him see everything in a clearer manner,” Fa Yao said. “With a clear mind, he can understand what he did to hurt others and learn more about himself through the Buddhist teachings. Then he will have less anxiety and concerns and be able to see reality more clearly in the present and make better decisions.”

So is there a specific type of meditation that helps recovering sex addicts cope?

“There’s a technique called ’32 Body Parts,'” Fa Yao said. “He needs to understand the body is a component of 32 different parts — the eyes are one part, the heart is one part, the nose [is] one part. Then when he visualizes them that way, he won’t be aroused and won’t think about the beautiful form.”

On Monday of the Masters, when he was asked whether he might have played even more brilliantly during his career had he not drifted from his principles, Woods replied: “I would like to say yes. I would be more centered, more balanced, and that’s what I’m headed toward. I just lost that and unfortunately lost my life in the process.”

As a Buddhist would acknowledge, Woods has made progress just by identifying his mistake, which is the first step on the journey to regaining his center. Interestingly, the word “meditation” in Tibetan is “gom,” which literally means “becoming familiar with” or “getting used to,” Bradley said.

When Woods made his way to the first tee in the opening round at Augusta National, he looked different — perhaps it was the small army shadowing him to deflect the slim possibility of unseemly disturbances, or perhaps it was the nervous smile on his face.

Throngs of spectators flocked to watch with tense anticipation, politely applauding. No one knew what to expect from the “new Tiger.” He had endured rehab (but won’t say for what), and seemed calmer and friendlier.

Moments before his 1:42 tee time Thursday, a slight disruption came from the skies. A small plane hovered above, carrying a banner that asked, “Tiger: Did you mean Bootyism?”

Woods denied ever seeing the plane and instead striped a perfect drive down the middle. He sauntered down the fairway and didn’t forget to acknowledge the crowd, smile and utter thank-yous.

In the final round, other than a “Jesus!” and a “Come on, Tiger!” comment, he stifled his notorious tantrums despite playing the first five holes in 3-over par.

Near the end of a tumultuous Sunday, Woods flew the pin on the 17th green. He scolded himself with an indignant “Tiger!” and turned away before passing off the club to his caddie.

Five months ago, that club might have gone flying into the gallery followed by a series of expletives. But this Tiger stopped himself and looked down — maybe at the Buddhist bracelet (which he said is for strength and protection) that he started wearing on his left wrist.

As the week progressed, the mental fatigue caught up with Woods. He showed less poise and composure, but he refrained from dropping f-bombs and chucking clubs. At times he let the club hit the ground with disgust, but certainly more delicately than “old Tiger.”

Sure, Woods blurted out some choice words over the weekend, but even his reactions to good shots didn’t have the same gusto. Even in the final round when he holed out for eagle on the seventh hole, he seemed subdued. There were no crazy fist pumps as in the past. He simply threw both arms in the air and smiled. Overall, he stayed relatively even-keeled.

Woods wasn’t flawless, but contrary to what some critics believe, he didn’t necessarily flout the pledge to tone down his emotions on both extremes. He promised he would “try” to hold back his negative outbursts.

When he slipped, he was reacting naturally to hitting poor tee shots. Do we want Woods to turn into someone he’s not? (Which, mind you, would probably be more offensive than the foul language.) We just don’t want him to be a jerk.

Tiger isn’t going to wake up and miraculously be rid of all his bad habits — ones that have been 34 years in the making. Perhaps we should remember that and give Woods a bit of a break.

Oh, wow. Did I just write that? The meditation retreat must be working.

[Stephanie Wei: ESPN]
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Tiger Woods finds his mantra again: Meditate (and be nice to fans)

Evidently, we’re more like Tiger Woods than we realized. No, not profligate sexual tom cats or historically accomplished athletes or control freaks micromanaging our lives (well, maybe the latter…)

But lots of people, just like Woods, have drifted from the faith of their childhood. In his case, it’s Buddhist meditation. The Ommmm apparently lost its ooomph.

In his pre-Masters tourney press conference today, he reiterated that recent therapy has forced him to see “how far astray from the core morals my mom and dad taught me” he had traveled. Now he has resumed daily meditation, “the roots of Buddhism” as him mom taught him.

But how different is that, really, from what other 34-year-olds might say: They drifted away from their Catholic or Baptist or Methodist or whatever upbringing and now, gee, maybe they’re missing something.

A 2008 study by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life found that among 16% of U.S. adults who now say they have no religious affiliation, most didn’t leave in a huff. Instead, about 70% say they “just gradually drifted away.”

I haven’t found (yet) statistics on people who quit meditation. But from perusing a few sites, it appears fairly common for people to drift in — and out — of spiritual practices.

A site for Tai Chi, a martial art that “encourages a calm mind and composed emotions” and nurtures “tranquility, harmony and balance,” points out that “many people quit. In fact most people quit.” It’s hard. It’s about losing control. And, of course, “A lot of people are just downright lazy…”

Meditation teacher Brenda Stephenson on her web site, acknowledges that a survey of past students found most quitters “simply lost their interest in meditating.”

And commentator John Pappas observed after the last time Woods said the same back-to-meditation line last month that it’s not magic.

It isn’t something that is outside of you that causes your actions and arbitrarily donning a magic bracelet or bemoaning that you didn’t sit facing a wall more will not help you look inward and is not going to solve your problem. It takes striving, faith and doubt. The realization is dawning on Tiger and I hope that he keeps working at it but approaching your practice (or any religion for that matter) as a crutch will never solve the problem.

It isn’t a magic elixir to be swallowed or special words to be chanted or super-mega prayers to be sent to big globular masses in the sky. It is work and it is humility. An extra hour of meditation a day is like a band-aid for a split jugular.

[via USA Today]
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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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How sex addiction is treated

Golfer Tiger Woods is believed to be undergoing therapy for sex addiction at a Mississippi clinic called Gentle Path. But what, exactly, does treatment involve?

In today’s Science Times, Donald G. McNeil Jr. explores the world of sex addiction therapy and explains how some clinics operate. He writes:

Bart Mandell, a New York sex-addiction therapist and chairman emeritus of the International Institute for Trauma and Addiction Professionals, who trained at Gentle Path, said Woods’s daily schedule presumably included morning meditation, exercise — including obstacle courses to build trust with other patients and eye movement exercises to “get through his defenses.”

It would also have included interviews probing for childhood trauma or abandonment, several daily rounds of group therapy, art therapy — in which he would draw stories about himself, and “a tremendous amount of writing his sexual history,” including his first memories of sexual arousal and first encounter with pornography, all the way up through the present. Mavis Humes Baird, another therapist familiar with Gentle Path, said he would have been separated from family contact for weeks and forbidden masturbation, pornography, contact with female fans or anything else that might engage his sex drive.

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Dalai Lama agrees with Tiger (whoever he is)

The Independent: The world’s most famous golfer should not feel bad that the leader of the religion he promises to re-embrace had never heard of him until now. The good news is that Tiger Woods and the Dalai Lama share similar views on Buddhism and, perhaps more surprisingly, on infidelity.

That might not have been true until recently, but last week Tiger Woods renounced his adulterous ways, in a carefully crafted apology to his family, fans, and fellow golfers. In future, he promised, he would live a life befitting of the tradition in which he was brought up.

But all this was news to the Dalai Lama, on a US tour after his controversial meeting with President Barack Obama last week. He cheerily called his unfamiliarity with sports “my disgrace” when questioned on the subject by reporters at the weekend. When told of the golfer’s indiscretions and subsequent enlightenment, he made observations about restraint close to the line Mr Woods took.

“Whether you call it Buddhism or another religion, self-discipline, that’s important … self-discipline with awareness of consequences,” he said. “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.”

Tomorrow and the day after, the Dalai Lama’s American tour calls for him to be in Florida, Woods’s home state, to meet members of its Buddhist community. It might have been the perfect opportunity for the two men to have got more properly acquainted. But sadly Mr Wood’s has a busy schedule of his own: he is due back at his sex rehabilitation clinic in Mississippi this morning.

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In the belly of the beast

Boston Herald: Buddhist golfer has long journey to re-enlightenment

Tiger Woods’ outsized ego may be to blame for his numerous sexual transgressions, say Buddhists who nonetheless applaud the golfer’s avowed return to his religious roots.

Woods made his first public appearance Friday since news broke that he had cheated on his wife, Elin Nordegren. His roughly 14 mistresses include cocktail waitresses, nightclub hostesses and a porn star.

Woods said he strayed in recent years from the Buddhist principles he has practiced since childhood. In his mea culpa, he said he was returning to the Buddhist ways he learned from his mother.

“I need to regain my balance and be centered so I can save the things that are most important to me: my marriage and my children,” he said.

Bernard Ross, a nine-year member of the Greater Boston Buddhist Cultural Center, said Buddhists believe that attachment causes suffering. He said addiction – a type of attachment – and “ego” could be at the root of Tiger’s tomcatting troubles.

“That’s where meditation comes in,” he explained. “You become more as one with the world when you leave your feelings of ego behind. An ego is not real, so we have an attachment to our ego, which he probably did being the great golfer that he is.”

During his press conference, Woods said he felt entitled to the temptations that came alongside the fame and fortune he worked so hard to achieve.

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

Toronto-based clinical counselor and spriritual coach Cheryl Hitchcock said the golf star will be forgiven by the Buddhist community, but he must work to get back to his “Buddhist self.”

“I’m sure he kind of temporarily disconnected from his spirit, and he got caught up in what we call the world of 10,000 things – sort of the human aspect of life, not the creative aspect, which is his Buddist self,” she said. “He sort of acted from a place of human ego and human consciousness.”

She said Buddhists seek to understand suffering in order to end it.

“I think he really needs to go inside himself and figure out how he got off track and why this happened,” she said, explaining that Woods can find those answers through meditation.

Ross said Woods needs to be more mindful of his family rather than focusing all his mindfulness on his work. He called the golfer’s break from the PGA a chance “to find out there was more to life than getting up every day and hitting that little white ball around.”

Ross said the issue of infidelity is not clearly addressed in Buddhism’s Five Precepts.

“You’re not supposed to engage in any inappropriate sexual relations, but they’re not really defined. That may well fall under that category,” he said. “That’s even something he has to judge for himself. That’s not something I’m judging him on.”

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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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Zen and success at work

London Evening Standard: If you have ever watched Tiger Woods play golf, you know the look. Brim pulled down over the eyes, which are locked on some point far down the fairway.

Despite all the hubbub, he is locked into the moment.

His opponent stands off to one side gnawing his knuckles, knowing another defeat is just a few holes away. Credit meditation for Woods’ extraordinary focus.

An essential part of Tiger Woods’ success is what he calls “staying in the present” and not letting his mind wander off to hoisting a trophy or depositing another million-dollar cheque.

While other golfers may live in the future, at the moment Woods plays his shots, he is apparently free of the conscious worry which plagues the weekend duffer.

And he puts much of this down to meditation and the Eastern philosophy, mostly Buddhist, he learned from his Thai mother.

In addition to his early morning workouts and hours on the driving range, he also meditates daily.

The value of meditation has long been known to those who practise it. David Lynch, the director of Blue Velvet and Wild at Heart, established a foundation for “consciousness-based education and world peace” inspired by his 30 years’ practising transcendental meditation.

Lynch’s ambition is for children to spend one class a day “diving within”, so they can better deal with stress and be more creative throughout their lives.

In the United Kingdom, William Hague has credited his meditative practice with helping him ride the roller coaster of politics.

With so much stress in the economy, meditation is also gaining popularity with business executives.

After the past couple of years, who couldn’t use half an hour a day to tame what Buddhists call “the wild horses” of the mind?

Read the rest of this article…

One of the most prominent advocates of meditation is William George, a Harvard Business School professor and board member at Goldman Sachs. George started to meditate 35 years ago while running the medical devices firm Medtronic.

He calls meditation “the single best thing that happened to me in terms of my leadership”. He says that it “enables one to focus on what is really important; and I haven’t had high blood pressure since the Seventies”.

Pointing to the recent financial crisis, George told Bloomberg News: “I think meditation in these times has an important role to play.

“If you take Wall Street versus Warren Buffett, he has made much wiser decisions than Wall Street has.

Now, I don’t know if he’s a meditator, but he’s calm, thoughtful and he stays clear. Wall Street’s trading floor is exactly the opposite.”

Firms ranging from Apple to Google and organisations such as Nasa offer free meditation classes to their employees these days.

It is regarded by these firms as far more than Eastern quackery or a luxury like free cappuccinos.

Meditation not only helps focus but it is also an effective preventative treatment of stress-related illnesses that cost businesses billions every year.

Google has held regular meditation sessions at its offices around the world for the past two years.

The firm believes that it helps employees develop their “emotional intelligence”, which in turn benefits the company.

Jon Kabat-Zinn, the head of the Stress Reduction Clinic at the University of Massachusetts and one of meditation’s greatest champions, calls meditation an act of love, towards oneself and others.

He is a particular favourite at technology firms.

During his talks, he often brings a tennis ball and drops it to signify the act of dropping into the moment.

He argues that greater knowledge of the mind, attained through meditation, helps business people sweep away the tacit assumptions which so often lead to problems.

In a modern society where so many people suffer from attention deficit disorders, he says, it is all about doing, with little recognition of being. The consequence is that people struggle to rest their minds.

Three years ago, the Dalai Lama supplied 12 Buddhist monks to a team of American neuroscientists so they could study the neurological effect of meditation.

The scientists found that by meditating for tens of thousands of hours, the monks had altered the structure and function of their brains.

It appeared that the monks’ brain waves oscillated at a different rate from those in people who never meditated. They were capable of much more focused thought.

The research was called into question by other scientists but it did prompt a wave of interest in how humans might be able to use meditation to change the function of their brains for the better.

One of the most popular forms of meditation for corporate types is Vipassana, which translates as “insight”.

There are Vipassana centres all over the world, founded by SN Goenka, a Burmese entrepreneur. An introductory retreat involves 10 days of “noble silence”.

Days begin at 4am followed by 11 hours of private and group meditation interspersed with meals and lectures. Once they leave, students are advised to meditate twice a day.

Keith Ferrazzi, an expert on networking and author of the best-selling book Never Eat Lunch Alone, says that the 10-day Vipassana meditation is the one time of year when he stops networking and clears his mind.

The key to networking, after all, he says, is “not being an asshole”.

People are more likely to want to know you if you exude the calm and confidence of the seasoned meditator.

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Top 10 celebrity Buddhists

Tina Turner

When we started putting this list together it seemed like it was going to be nothing more than a shallow, trivial — although perhaps welcome — distraction from all the news about disastrous wars and sordid political scandals, but as we dug deeper into the web we found that we felt at times inspired by reading about the practice of famous Buddhists, some of whom have had their trials. We hope that you too will be inspired — and entertained — by Wildmind’s Top Ten List of Celebrity Buddhists.

Our criteria were simple. To be a celebrity Buddhist a nominee had to be alive, a celebrity, and — wait for it — a Buddhist (more on that later). And our voting process was simplicity itself; we counted the hits returned for an exact search on each name on Google. Well, that’s not too unscientific.

But to give ourselves some credit for our hard work and research abilities, it’s not always that easy to work out if a celebrity Buddhist is actually a Buddhist. Lots of websites may say that Keanu or JLo are practicing Buddhists, but the truth is far harder to pin down. We didn’t accept that a celebrity was a Buddhist unless we could find they’d said so themselves. And we discovered that in fact some much lauded “celebrity Buddhists” have explicitly said that they are not Buddhist practitioners (e.g. Uma Thurman: “When asked if I consider myself Buddhist, the answer is, Not really,” and Keanu Reeves: “I’m not Buddhist.”)

Joining Keanu, Uma, and Jenny on the not-really-a-Buddhist list were martial arts actor Jackie Chan, and rocker/poet Patti Smith. And although they’re serious practitioners, not quite making the top ten because of lack of hits of Google were avant-garde musician Laurie Anderson (1,110,000 hits), jazzman Wayne Shorter (1,100,000 hits), and REM frontman Michael Stipe (with a mere 813,000 hits). Guys, better luck next time.

Anyway, we know you’re dying to know who’s in and who’s not, so without further ado let’s introduce the top ten in reverse order.

10. Aung San Suu Kyi (1,170,000 hits)

With impeccably non-frivolous credentials we start with nonviolent pro-democracy activist, leader of the National League for Democracy in Myanmar (Burma), and noted prisoner of conscience, Aung San Suu Kyi.

Heavily influenced by Mahatma Gandhi’s philosophy of non-violence, Suu Kyi campaigned for the democratization of Burma, which was (and is) under a military dictatorship, and in 1989 she was placed under house arrest. In 1991 Suu Kyi was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for her peaceful and non-violent struggle under a military dictatorship. She has been in and out of house arrest since then and has been sustained in her long confinement, during which she was not allowed to meet her dying husband, by her vipassana meditation practice. Commenting on her long isolation, she said “Isolation is not difficult for me. Maybe it’s because of my Buddhist upbringing.”

9. Steven Seagal (1,340,000 hits)

The Buddhist world was, to put it mildly, in a state of deep, deep bemusement when Hollywood star Steven Seagal announced in 1997 that he had been recognized as a Tibetan incarnate lama, or tulku. “Wait,” we said. “That Steven Segal? The action-movie hero who specializes in toting powerful guns and blowing stuff up?” It seemed as bizarre as it would today if the Pope were to appoint Paris Hilton as a bishop, and many of us checked the calendar to make sure it wasn’t the first of April. And yet the other shoe failed, resoundingly, to drop. In fact His Holiness Penor Rinpoche, a respected Lama, indeed publicly confirmed that he had recognized Seagal’s tulku-hood.

It turns out that Segal has a long history of practice. Hemoved to Japan at age 17 to study martial arts, acupuncture, and Zen, and he spent 15 years there before returning to the US. While in Asia he had significant contact with Tibetan lamas escaping China, whose torture-induced traumas he treated with acupuncture. Seagal himself tends to be a little coy about his practice: “I have been doing serious meditation in my own pitiful way for probably twenty-seven years.”

8. Kate Bosworth (1,390,000 hits)

At last we hit some real frivolity, with the delightful Ms. Bosworth of Blue Crush and Superman Returns fame. Or do we? Are we being harsh in thinking Bosworth only started practicing because then-boyfriend, Orlando Bloom, was into Nichiren Buddhism? Perhaps. And yet we’re happy to welcome Bosworth into the top ten, even though she and Orlando broke up (“He snores and is cheap”) and she may well have moved onto romantic and spiritual pastures new.

Still, while it lasted Bosworth’s affair with the Buddhadharma really seemed to mean something: “It’s just a really incredible state of mind. It’s just a beautiful place to try and be at. It’s basically about constantly growing and making yourself a better person and focusing on what you want for yourself and the world and really putting it out there. It’s amazing.” To which we can only say, “Awesome!”

7. Richard Gere (1,560,000 hits)

For many he’ll be the first celeb Buddhist to spring to mind, but Pretty Woman and Chicago heart-throb Richard Gere isn’t even in the top five — and that’s despite a friendship with the Dalai Lama.

Gere is a passionate advocate for human rights in Tibet; he is a co-founder of the Tibet House, creator of The Gere Foundation, and he is Chairman of the Board of Directors for the International Campaign for Tibet. Because of his support for the Tibetan cause he’s banned from the People’s Republic of China — and he’s also banned as an Academy Award presenter because of using the podium to denounce the Chinese government. Richard, you’re always welcome here.

Gere scores high marks for sincerity of practice, and meditates daily. “It helps me set my motivation for the day,” he says.

6. Herbie Hancock (1,590,000 hits)

One of the most revered contributors to modern jazz and former collaborator with Miles Davis, Hancock is a longstanding practitioner of Nichiren Buddhism, which has a heavy emphasis on chanting as a form of meditation. Hancock is a member of the Japanese Buddhist movement, Soka Gakkai International, which also counts Tina Turner and Wayne Shorter among its members.

Hancock became a Buddhist after seeing the effect it had on the performing abilities on bassist Buster Williams, and reckons that his own practice has been integral to his artistic development: “Buddhism opened me up to being out of my comfort zone — to exploring things and being courageous enough to try new things.”

5. Leonard Cohen (1,620,000 hits)

Doyen of despair, godfather of gloom, master of misery, Canadian singer-songwriter Leonard Cohen’s oeuvre could be seen as an ongoing exploration of the Buddhist teaching that life is inherently suffering. But there’s much more to Cohen’s practice than that.

Following an interest in Buddhism that started in the early 1970’s, Cohen was ordained in 1996 as a Zen monk at the Mount Baldy Zen Center, on a mountain-top overlooking San Bernadino, California, and was given the Dharma name, “Jikan.” Because his teacher doesn’t know much English Cohen is a bit vague about what the name means. Apparently it’s something to do with silence — “ordinary silence, normal silence” — something like that anyway.

Zen practice helped steer Cohen away from a long-term drug problem and, to his great surprise, helped dispel the gloom that had pervaded his life: “When you stop thinking about yourself all the time, a certain sense of repose overtakes you. It happened to me by imperceptible degrees and I could not really believe it; I could not really claim it for some time. I thought there must be something wrong.” Yes, being happy can be so unsettling.

4. The Dalai Lama (1,640,000 hits)

Uniquely on our list of Buddhist celebs, His Holiness is a Buddhist first and celebrity second. He may not croon into a mike or emote on a sound-set, but the Dalai Lama can certainly pack (and wow) an auditorium, and stars like Richard Gere and Keanu Reeves are eager to share the stage with the supreme head of Tibetan Buddhism, leader of the Tibetan Government in Exile, and incarnation of the Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara.

And top marks for length of practice: His Holiness is currently in his 14th documented incarnation as a lama, easily beating our other celebs who have at best only one lifetime of practice each — although admittedly in His Holiness’s sixth incarnation he refused to become a monk and spent much of his time chasing the ladies (ah, those youthful indiscretions!). The Dalai Lama also gets top marks for modesty: His Holiness describes himself as being “a simple Buddhist monk.”

His Holiness says, “Many of our problems stem from attitudes like putting ourselves first at all costs. I know from my own experience that it is possible to change these attitudes and improve the human mind.”

Well, we can only say that we’re sure that in his next lifetime His Holiness will at least make the top three.

3. Tina Turner (1,710,000 hits)

The “Queen of Rock and Roll” has an instantly recognizable voice, a career dating back to 1960, unbelievable legs, and a serious Buddhist practice. As shown in the biopic What’s Love Got to Do With It, it was Turner’s Buddhist practice that gave her the strength to leave her abusive marriage to Ike Turner in the 70’s, which in turn made her an icon for abused women everywhere. Turner is another practitioner of Nichiren Buddhism and famously chanted Nam Moho Rengye Kyo on Larry King Live (see video, below).

Turner said: “I had to teach myself because I didn’t have the freedom to go to actually go to meetings or for people to come to me … and it changed my life.”

2. Orlando Bloom (3,710,000 hits)

The dashing star of The Lord of the Rings and Pirates of the Caribbean turned to Buddhist practice because “The philosophies behind it are very current today and are a way of finding some sort of peace,” but also because it helped keep him from the self-destructive path he was always in danger of carving out for himself.

Bloom stresses that his Nichiren practice is very practical: “The philosophy that I’ve embraced isn’t about sitting under a tree and studying my navel, it’s about studying what is going on in my daily life and using that as fuel to go and live a bigger life.”

We wish Orlando well as he swashbuckles his way to Full and Perfect Enlightenment.

1. Tiger Woods (5,850,000 hits)

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Yes, with close to six million hits on Google he’s bigger than Richard Gere, more popular even than the Dalai Lama. Maybe even God. But then one prophet did foretell, “Tiger will do more than any other man in history to change the course of humanity … He is the Chosen One.” (That was Earl, Tiger’s dad). And another seer spake thus: “He can hold everyone together. He is the Universal Child.” (Yes, that was Koltida, his mom).

And in case you think that quasi-religious adoration of Tiger is limited to his doting parents, here’s Michael Jordan’s take: “I really do believe he was put here for a bigger reason than just to play golf. I don’t think that he is a god, but I do believe that he was sent by one.”

Despite these accolades, we’re not entirely sure whether to regard Tiger as a Buddhist. He’s said, “I believe in Buddhism … not every aspect, but most of it. So I take bits and pieces,” which could make him sounds like a dilettante, but then even the Dalai Lama has expressed similar sentiments so we’re giving Tiger the benefit of the doubt.

Woods has also said, “I don’t practice Buddhism on a day-to-day basis, just when I feel like it.” So on the bad side he’s not a consistent practitioner, while on the good side he does practice. Again, that counts him in. That practice and background (mom Koltida is a Thai Buddhist) have helped Tiger become the almost inscrutably equanimous player he’s become: “Buddhism has been a major role in my life. It has given me an inner peace and calmness that I think I wouldn’t have achieved at such an early age.”

In 1996 Tiger and his father launched the Tiger Woods Foundation, which through personal enrichment programs, scholarships, direct grants, junior golf teams and the new Tiger Woods Learning Center, is helping millions of children reach their dreams. Tiger takes his status as a youth role model seriously: “I am not trying to preach to them that this is ‘a sport for you.’ I’m saying, ‘This is an opportunity for you to grow as a person.’ I think that is what really matters.”

So there we have it. Tiger Woods — Guru of Golf, Zen master of the fairway, first prophet of putting, dare we say even “demigod of the green” — is the world’s most famous celebrity Buddhist. More power to your putting, Tiger — and to your practice.

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