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Daily Perspectives and Stories on Buddhist Trends

Tag: Hong Kong

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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Of Statecraft and Sangha: Po Lin Monastery and the Silk Road

Raymond Lam

Celebrating the 20th anniversary of the Hong Kong handover at Po Lin Monastery, Lantau Island. From Hugo San

29 June will be remembered as a key date in post-handover Hong Kong: aside from president Xi Jinping’s landmark visit to the fragrant harbor, Po Lin Monastery is celebrating the 20th anniversary of the handover as well as the 25th anniversary of its Big Buddha. It is also hosting a carefully timed, simultaneous symposium: Theravada and Mahayana Buddhism along the Belt and Road (29 – 30 June). This is a statement, at least from Po Lin Monastery and its friends: that the time is ripe for Buddhists, both of the southern and northern traditions, to integrate themselves into the new Silk Road that is China’s outreach to the world.

The conference is packed with guests and VIPs from Southeast Asia and South Asia. There are guests from Cambodia, Sri Lanka, and many others. There are many good, old friends here: Ven. Sovanratana, one of Cambodia’s most influential monastic professors. Karma Lekshe Tsomo of Sakyadhita, the world’s largest Buddhist women’s association. Ven. Fa Ren, one of Hong Kong’s most active Chinese Buddhist nuns.

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Ways of Seeing Life

Grace Ko

Chinese artist Cheng Ran’s video art “ Circadian rhythm.”

The esteemed British art critic and author John Berger once said: “Art is one of the noblest achievements of man”. He advocated that the art critic must not only look at art from his personal point of view, but also from that of other artists, the conscious and unconscious mind of the spectator, the general public, and even future generations, if possible. Berger’s underlying meaning was that art and human life are inseparable, and when we view a 
work of art, we may find ourselves through its aesthetic. That is why some of the best works of art 
resonate throughout our lives and leave lasting impressions that unfold with new meaning repeatedly.

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Musings on Mindfulness and Metta

Graham Lock

Last December, I took part in an 8-day metta meditation retreat at the Hong Kong Insight Meditation Society’s meditation centre at Fa Hong Monastery on Lantau Island.

The retreat was led by Visu Teoh, an experienced and well-respected teacher of vipassana and metta meditation based in Penang, and well known in Hong Kong as one of the Hong Kong Insight Meditation Society’s main teachers. The retreat was organised by Peta McCauley and others of the Hong Kong Mindfulness Teachers Network and intended primarily for teachers of Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) and Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT). Many of the participants in fact turned out to be students on MBSR and MBCT courses at the Hong Kong Centre for Mindfulness.

I am not myself a teacher of mindfulness but I am of course aware of the enormous growth in popularity of MBSR and MBCT courses, not to mention the many far less rigorous mindfulness “products” on the market. I am also aware of the reservations some Buddhist teachers have expressed about them. As is well known, at least among Buddhists, the kinds of mindfulness practices taught on such courses developed from sati practices as introduced to the West by people like Jack Kornfield, Joseph Goldstein and Sharon Salzberg, and further popularized by Jon Kabat-Zinn and others.

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Passing Through the Hands of Time

Grace Ko

A copper alloy figure of Four-armed Avalokiteshvara from 15th century Tibet that was showcased at Fine Art Asia Hong Kong.

A copper alloy figure of Four-armed Avalokiteshvara from 15th century Tibet that was showcased at Fine Art Asia Hong Kong.

In October 2016, ancient Buddhist statues were a major presence at the season’s art fairs and auctions in Hong Kong, Beijing, and New York. There was an impressive range. Audiences could view Buddhist art from the Eastern Wei Dynasty to the Qing Dynasty, originally from Tibet, Mongolia to Nepal and Central Asia, were showcased in Fine Art Asia and Poly Autumn Auction in Hong Kong, Guardian Fine Art Asia in Beijing, and TEFAF in New York.

Buddhist art has survived for centuries and fallen into the hands of different collectors, proving how its ideas have etched themselves into time across Asia while remaining significant in people’s lives. However, it seems audiences still can’t view this kind of Buddhist art widely at museums or public exhibitions organized by the government or even non-profit making organizations. Still, they are finding their value at art fairs and auction houses, and these are the places for art trading and selling. Viewers can appreciate delicate and exquisite Buddhist art there, while being astonished by its high-selling prices as well.

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The Flower Ornament Vistas of Guan Yin Temple

Raymond Lam

Guan Yin (1 of 40) copy

“Pay respects to the Buddha first, then to me,” advised my preceptor once, when we visited him at his monastery, Guan Yin Temple. “Because we take Refuge in the Buddha first, then in the Dharma, then in the Sangha.” He was implying that compared to the Buddha images of our temple, he was actually a secondary priority. In a world where people scramble over each other to obsequiously bootlick a popular teacher or flatter and fawn on a celebrity teacher, a master who knows he is a flawed mortal creature is the real kind of teacher that should be revered.

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My Dear Master

Raymond Lam

Big-dark-pink-Lotus-Flower-photo1Recently I got a call from my Dharma sister: my preceptor is bedridden in hospital after suffering a stroke. His health had been deteriorating rapidly for the past half a year thanks to having suffered several physical accidents. The Venerable is also 93 years old, about a decade older than Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh, who also had a stroke in November 2014. While he was able to speak and even crack a gentle joke with the nurse, the overall picture looks pretty grim.

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