Tea House

Daily Perspectives and Stories on Buddhist Trends

Month: July 2017 (Page 1 of 2)

Is Pure Land Buddhism a “Mystic” Tradition?

The Cathedral of Ávila. From Buddhistdoor Global

A groundbreaking conference between Teresian sisters and priests and Buddhist scholars and monastics has just concluded at the University of Mysticism in Avila, Spain. During our time here among new friends and Carmelite masters, I had the chance to visit many churches in the Old City (the UNESCO-listed complex behind the grand walled fortifications) and those beyond the walls, each of which hold a piece of the life of Saint Teresa, Saint John of the Cross, or some other Christian figure associated with the Discalced Carmelite Order. Within each sublime structure we were reminded of the simultaneous grandeur and humility of the contemplative life, which demands a retreat from the lies and futility of the world and an inner turning that results in the elevation of the human being and a union with God.

So, we turn inwards single-mindedly. What of the single-minded determination to become a Buddha, which is the ultimate goal in Mahayana Buddhism? What of the path to achieving Buddhahood, the quickest and most effective of which is total reliance on Amitabha Buddha’s 18th Vow and one-minded invocation of his Name? Isn’t this Buddhist anthropology also one of the highest elevation, of an evolution through bodhi to Buddhahood that parallels the metamorfosis of the Carmelite mystic into something God-like, a true human of light and love unified with all of God?

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Sakyadhita in Hong Kong: Confluences and Reunions

From 22-28 June, The University of Hong Kong hosted the largest ever event to do with Buddhist women in the city. This could only have been done through Sakyadhita, whose tireless volunteers worked in tandem with our friends at the Centre of Buddhist Studies to bring an impressively diverse and intellectually enriching symposium about Buddhist women’s interests in this busy metropolis, which despite its prosperity and fast-paced life cries out for spiritual ideas and possibilities. It was, of course, also a delight for attendees to reunite with academics, meditators, and Venerables who have been regulars at previous biannual conferences over the decades.

Nuns at the Big Buddha, Hong Kong. Photo by Olivier Adam

Throughout its history, Sakyadhita’s conferences have been held mostly in Asia, and most of these Asian countries, save for some pockets of liberal or progressive thought, are “traditional” – very strictly patriarchal, non-egalitarian, and socially conservative. The Buddhist establishment in some of these countries might be indifferent or even antagonistic to the idea of women assuming higher positions of authority in the Buddhist religion, and this includes bhikkhuni ordination.

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The Importance of Interreligious Dialogue and Goals for the Encounter: From the Buddhist Perspective

A speech given by Ven. Hin Hung, director of the Centre of Buddhist Studies at The University of Hong Kong, on 27 July 2017 at The University of Mysticism in Avila, Spain.

Our world is rapidly changing. With the advances in science and technology, modern means of communication and transportation bring us closer together, but, at the same time, dividing and distancing people and cultures in a deeper level. Cultural conflicts and competition lead to hatred and violence, which unsettles world peace. The pervasiveness of materialism, consumerism, and individualism creates greed, suffering and despair, inciting doubt in the meaning of life in the minds of many. Issues like ecological degradation are global and cross-regional affecting all of us. They cannot be ignored and demand our immediate attention and urgent response.

Engaging in genuine interreligious dialogue is a constructive response to these challenges. Many difficulties that we face today arise from ignorance, fear, and misconceptions. Interfaith dialogue is indispensable because, without peace among religious communities, peace in the world would not be possible. Through dialogue,  understanding and acceptance of each other’s traditions and values would be nourished; intolerance and hatred would be reduced. By being broad-minded, one realizes that others are likewise pursuing their spiritual paths, and, very often, share the universal ideals of love and compassion. Last but not least, interreligious dialogue would set an example of how different communities can live in harmony in a world that is continuously being “flattened out.”

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No Matter What

By Master Huijing; English translation by Jingtu

No matter what, Amitabha’s Fundamental Vow
Is like diamond, never changing.

No matter what, Amitabha thinks of me
Like a mother remembers her child, never abandoning it.

No matter what, Amitabha is with me
Every moment, never letting me go.

No matter what, sinful sentient beings
Need Amitabha and the deliverance of his Fundamental Vow.

No matter how contaminated and impure,
False and hypocritical are sentient beings,
Amitabha’s deliverance never changes.

No matter how sentient beings desire and detest,
Are deluded and vicious,
Amitabha’s deliverance never changes.

No matter how deep beings’ offenses and heavy their afflictions,
However intense their sufferings,
Amitabha’s deliverance never changes.

No matter how beings commit the Five Gravest Offenses,
Or slander the Dharma and lack self-cultivation,
Amitabha’s deliverance never changes.

Because the Fundamental Vow exists, our minds are at ease,
Hope arises and people turn virtuous.

Because no matter what, no matter what,
Amitabha Buddha’s deliverance is certain,
Amitabha Buddha’s deliverance is certain.

1st. World Encounter Teresian Mysticism and Interreligious Dialogue: Theravada Buddhism and Teresian Mysticism — Meditation and Contemplation, Pathways to Peace

Dear friends, a troupe from HKU’s Centre of Buddhist Studies and Buddhistdoor Global are in the medieval city of Avila, the hometown of Saint Teresa of Avila and where the University of Mysticism is based. The University will hold its interfaith conference between Carmelite and Buddhist contemplatives tomorrow on the 27th. If this sounds of interest, please keep an eye out for rolling updates, photos, and blog posts, along with features and news to come from us!

The old city wall of Avila, built during the Moorish period

The streets of the Old City (the inner, earlier parameters of the city)

The Romanesque Cathedral at the heart of the Old City

Myanmar: Another Square on the Buddhist Chessboard

Yangon’s Shwedagon Pagoda

From 5-6 August, the Vivekananda Foundation and the Tokyo Foundation will be hosting the second Samvad conference* at Sitagu International Buddhist Academy (SIBA), Yangon. I reported on Samvad’s first symposium two years ago in New Delhi, and it was then that it became clear India’s government was trying to manoeuvre among different Asian countries – Japan, Mongolia, and now Myanmar – to establish for itself a solid bloc of Buddhist support that could rival China’s plans for Buddhist development. Samvad is one of the main organs through which Indian PM Narendra Modi hopes to accomplish this.

I can make this relatively bold assertion with confidence because the Vivekananda Foundation and the Tokyo Foundation are open about what they do. The former, as stated on its website, “is a New Delhi-based think tank set up with the collaborative efforts of India’s leading security experts, diplomats, industrialists and philanthropists under the aegis of the Vivekananda Kendra. . . . to kick start innovative ideas and thoughts that can lead to a stronger, secure and prosperous India playing its destined role in global affairs.” Its advisory board and executive council are filled with political grandees, analysts, and advisors and senior military figures. The Tokyo Foundation is broader in its foci, from tax to social security and constitutional reform, but one of its core interests is maritime defence, and the foundation has published numerous research papers about Japanese security concerns.

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Show me the Truth

This poem on insight and illusion was translated from Portuguese to English by Daniela Boeira.

Show me the truth
Honey is sweet by nature
Offer me the most precious treasure
The lamp that dissipates the darkness
Within my hesitant mind
Small and slow steps
Your enlightened compassion does not waver
While cutting sharply through illusions
I see my attachments
My lies
Artifices
Naked under your gaze
It hurts but relieves
I discern my delicate anatomy
While anesthetized
I find myself helpless to resist
Stunned I sleep
Soundly I awake
My gratitude
I express honour to Your teachings
Namo Guru
May the realization of emptiness
Break the hollow conception of the ego

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A Conversation with Tenzin Palmo on Nuns and Challenging Sexism

In this extended discussion recorded on the spot by Sónia Gomes, Jetsunma Tenzin Palmo discusses important but often uncomfortable gender issues in Vajrayana, including the need to challenge engrained cultural sexism in monasteries and the plight of ordained Western women, who more often than not have no institutional, psychological, or moral support after becoming nuns.

 

Embodied Women

What does it mean to be a woman in the Buddhist tradition? To me, even a question as important as bhikkhuni ordination in the Theravada and Vajrayana schools is not as basic as the question of “the woman” in Buddhism. Nor am I convinced that gender is inconsequential to conventional Buddhist life just because gender is illusory at the ultimate level. Our society is gendered and we operate on gender as much as we use conventional illusions like “I” or “you.”

I’m not so much reflecting on the activist side of things, important though that is in winning more equitable circumstances for women. What I wonder more is how do women, as the Other in a mostly androcentric world, manoeuvre as embodied beings in the Buddhist world of monasteries, temples, charitable organizations, and university institutes?

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The Buddha’s Guiding Hand in the Chinese Dream

 

The Leshan Giant Buddha.

Buddhism should not be peripheral to the Chinese Dream, that great and multi-dimensional project of national rejuvenation. The religion should be front and center in informing it.

This is not simply my wild theocratic fantasy, but an idea actively encouraged by the Chinese government. It is also being propagated by Buddhist temples, media, and events (such as the World Buddhist Forum series, the most recent of which was held in Wuxi in 2015, and Hong Kong’s own Belt and Road symposium, which I hope is only the first of many more to follow). For Buddhism to exert satisfactory influence, the entire sangha (by this I mean the overall organism of Buddhist activity in China) needs to be engaged, from monastics to academics to householders; from influential monasteries to lay publishers to Buddhist Studies departments at universities.

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