About the UBA

The University Buddhist Association of UCLA is an organization of students, faculty, and community members who come together to learn about and practice Buddhism. We're a non-sectarian Buddhist group that welcomes all Buddhists and non-Buddhist of all faiths and traditions.

If you're interested in learning more about the UCLA Buddhist community, please come to our meetings.

When: Every Tuesday, 5:30 - 7:00pm
Where: University Catholic Center
633 Gayley Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90024

If you have any questions, please contact us at uba.ucla.online@gmail.com.
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Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Vegatarian Bodh Gaya Campaign

Tibetans for a Vegetarian Society, a nonprofit public charitable trust, is campaigning for the Bodh Gaya to be a vegetarian zone.

"We are trying to create awareness and mobilise support of locals as well as tourists transforming Bodh Gaya into a vegetarian zone.

Abstaining from buying, selling, or consuming any form of meat during the pilgrimage tour in the holy land is the key to the success of the campaign"

Read full article

Monday, December 29, 2008

Buddhist's New Year

Here's a Buddhist's New Year Guide from Shambhala Sun Space:

"Still not sure how you’ll celebrate the arrival of 2009? Well, for meditators, there are seemingly as many possibilities as their are methods and schools. Here are just a few. Just click on their links for more info."

Friday, December 26, 2008

DharmaNet International

I hope everyone is having a safe and happy holiday.

Here is a website recommended to me by Venerable Kusala called DharmaNet International.

"The new DharmaNet is providing an independent, non-sectarian informational and educational resource on Buddhism to the ever-widening world-wide audience of people impacted by Buddhism. While there are hundreds of Buddhist web sites, there is still no seminal, non-sectarian informational and educational web site that presents the full range of the Dharma to those seeking to engage the teachings."

DharmaNet also offers videos in copperation with BDK, of which Kusala and many others are featured:

"In 2005, the Society for the Promotion of Buddhism (Bukkyo Dendo Kyokai) [BDK] initiated a BDK TV Series shown in Southern California. The weekly 15-minute shows featured interviews and teachings from major American Buddhist followers and teachers. In cooperation with BDK, DharmaNet will gradually be adding these programs to this page. Four new and different segments will be previewed each month. We invite the world to share in the Buddha-Dharma through this new means of communication."

For videos, click here.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Q: As a Catholic, am I allowed to pray to the Buddha for guidance?

In this article from Buffalo News, Rabbi Marc Gellman answers the question of learning from faiths other than your own. The full question was:

"Q: I’m a practicing Roman Catholic and I recently purchased a book about Jesus and the Buddha. It’s interesting to see that Jesus and the Buddha did say and act in much the same ways, which leads me to ask: As a Catholic, am I allowed to pray to the Buddha for guidance, wisdom and understanding, or is that a big no-no in the eyes of Roman Catholic teaching?

I don’t view or recognize the Buddha as a god, but I do see him as a very holy and wise man, and after all, Catholics pray to saints because they were holy and wise men and women who can intercede for us. — S. "

My favorite part of Rabbi Gellman's answer was:

"Human beings naturally possess different interests, so it’s not surprising that we have many different religious traditions with different ways of thinking and behaving. But this variety is a way for everyone to be happy. If we have a great variety of food, we will be able to satisfy different tastes and needs. When we only have bread, the people who eat rice are left out. And the reason those people eat rice is that rice is what grows best where they live.

So go and study, but remember to eat what grows best where you live."

Read full article.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

What does a Buddhist say to the Christmas shopper?

I have posted a few articles on Buddhism and shopping, as we all feel a certain degree of necessity to buy presents for those we care about. But how can we balance all the sales, lines, and gift wrapping with merely enjoying the holidays for what it really represents - a time to recollect and spend time with loved ones at the end of the year.

I found this short but clever and helpful little line from the article "Where Buddha Meets Freud":

Q: What does a Buddhist blogger say to the Christmas shopper?
A: Be the present.

Yes, be the present. Not only does that provide an interesting way of looking at the holidays but it also eliminates all the stress of pushing and shoving through crowds and lining up at stores...the list could go on. May everyone enjoy their holidays.

Read full article

Friday, December 19, 2008

Developments in the Study of Buddhist Art @ UCLA

UCLA faculty and over 10 guest professors gathered at UCLA for a two-day conference on recent research in area of Buddhist art on Nov. 21, 2008. The event was hosted by Donald McCallum, a UCLA art history professor, and consisted of a full day of public lectures.

"In introductory remarks McCallum recalled a time when scholars in Buddhist religious studies and art history were very separate. 'Previously, there had been a strong tendency to isolate the study of Buddhist religious thought and practice from that of Buddhist art, and ordinarily scholars in the two groups did not interact very much.' "

Tzu Chi offers gift baskets for the needy

The Tzu Chi Foundation, a Buddhist relief group based in San Dimas, prepares gift baskets to give to 51 needy Lynwood families.

"Each family received a $75 debit card, a teddy bear, a box of candy and a 'green' blanket made of recycled plastic water bottles.

'Our faith teaches us to have compassion and love for everyone,' said Sumei Chen, a spokesperson for the Tzu Chi Foundation. 'We want to offer not only help, but hope.' "

Photo from Los Angeles Wave

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Chief Monk meets with President of Pakistan

Chief Buddhist Monk Jeon Woom Deok, who is the Chairman of the Gandhara Arts and Culture Association, Korea, met with President Asif Ali Zardari of Pakistan. They talked about future projects and cooperation between the Pakistan government and the Chief Monk in "promoting goodwill and interfaith harmony".

Gandhara is the name of an ancient kingdom once located in what is now northern Pakistan, Kashmir, and eastern Afghanistan. During the 1st to 5th century, Buddhist Kushan Kings brought the kingdom to its peak.

According to the CIA World Factbook, the Pakistani population is 95% Muslim (75% Sunni, 20% Shia), 5% other (includes Christian and Hindu).

Read full article.

Photo from Associated Press of Pakistan

Don't celebrate Christmas?

For those of you who don't celebrate Christmas...

Read full article.

Huffington Post: The Power of Group Meditation

Here's an interesting article from The Huffington Post about rituals (religious and secular) and the experience of practicing meditation or contemplative sitting in a group versus doing it alone. She describes the group experience as "a syncing of individual transformative experiences".

From the brief meditation sittings we do during the University Buddhist Association meetings, I can understand and relate to the power for practicing in a group. It's sometimes very difficult to consistently practice when you do it alone. Being part of a larger group provides motivation, support, and encouragement.

Read full article.

Buddhists gone bad in Bangladesh

Buddhist monks in cooperation with local council officials are holding 13 converted tribal Christians captive to try to convert them to Buddhism by force. They are being held captive in a pagoda in a southeastern mountainous district of Bangladesh.

According to the Compass Direct News article, the Bangladeshi population is 90% Muslim, 9% Hindus, and 0.7% Buddhist, leaving less than 0.3% of the population left to be Christian or other.

Read full article.

Britney wishes Japanese Merry Christmas

Britney Spears wished Merry Christmas during a guest appearance in a Japanese TV show. I guess even though the Japanese are mainly Buddhist, she means well at heart.

Read full article.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

McCartney vs Dalai Lama

Former Beatle, Sir Paul McCartney, tells the Dalai Lama to take on a vegetarian lifestyle.

"Contactmusic.com reports McCartney as saying: "I found out that he was not a vegetarian, so I wrote to him saying 'Forgive me for pointing this out, but if you eat animals then there is some suffering somewhere along the line'.

"He replied saying that his doctors had told him he needed it, so I wrote back saying they were wrong." "

Read full article.

Thailand's "Tiger Temple" accused of drugging animals

At Wat Pa Luang Ta Bua Temple, monks live peacefully with 34 tigers. Abbot Pra-Acharn Phusit remembers the first tiger being brought to the temple years ago as a tiger cub orphanese by poachers. Since then, the monks have bred and raised these tigers and nine years later, they become the stars of the temple, attracting up to 1,000 toursits from all over the world.

At this temple, people can directly interact with the tigers, who have been tamed by the monks since the age of the three. Skeptics believe that the tigers are so tame because they have been drugged. However, the temple denies all accusations and welcome anyone to investigate or come personally see what goes on at the temple.

Photo from ABC

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Urban Dharma Newsletter 12-16-08

From the Urban Dharma website, here's the latest newsletter posted by Venerable Kusala:

The Urban Dharma Newsletter - December 16, 2008
In This Issue: Dana in Buddhism
1. Dana - From Wikipedia
2. The Offering of Dana
3. Dana - Portland Buddhist Priory
4. Buddhist Way of Life (Dãna) Written by Dr. Chuen 5. DANA / HINDU AND BUDDHIST IDEAL OF SHARING


This newsletter deals with the idea of generosity in Buddhism, Dana.

On a personal note, I must say I have been touched over the years by the kindness and genrosity of many people, making it possible for me to share the Dharma.

Just this year I have receive small donations from kind and interested people wanting to support the Dharma and my work... Donations of $5, $10 and $20 help me keep UrbanDharma.org up and running without advertisements of any kind... Donations help me update hardware and software, post audio and Video, help me share my practice and teachings with folks around the world.

A special thanks to International Buddhist Meditation Center for supporting me, my work and the animals I take care of... I couldn’t have done it without you.

To all of you who supported me in 2008 with time, money, advice, cat food and human food... A Big Thank You.

May 2009 be your best year ever, may you find peace, joy and happiness in the present moment experience of your life.

Peace... Kusala"

Monday, December 15, 2008

War on Christmas

Here's an interesting article that discusses the "war on Christmas" that some people fight in during the holiday season. The University Buddhist Association at UCLA staff recently experienced something related to this issue in trying to find a holiday card for Venerable Kusala that did not mention "Christmas" or any family relationships (father, mother, son) on it. The result was a really hard time searching through all possible cards but also finding a great card at the end.

Read full article.

TIME's Top 10 Religion Stories

TIME magazine features the "Top 10 Religion Stories" as part of its "The Top 10 Everything of 2008" series. Among the selected stories, the Tibetan Buddhist monk protests rank #6.

Read full article.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Christianity an Asian religion?

A great article by Philip Jenkins, a Penn State professor and author, about Christian expansion to Asia and the often overlooked interaction Buddhist and Chrisitan had in the past. He argues:

"Yet the reality is that Christianity has from its earliest days been an intercontinental faith, as firmly established in Asia and Africa as in Europe itself."

" Christianity, for much of its history, was just as much an Asian religion as Buddhism. Asia's Christian churches survived for more than a millennium, and not until the 10th century, halfway through Christian history, did the number of Christians in Europe exceed that in Asia."

Above is an image of a cross with a lotus flower on it, a symbol mentioned in the article to show the Christian-Buddhist connections.

Proselytizing during Interfaith events

Here's an interesting article about proselytizing (I still have trouble pronouncing that word) during interfaith events. I've always been fascinated by interfaith events, because it's wonderful how groups of people unified under a faith can come together with other groups of people unified under a different faith and discuss similar topics through their own perspectives.

While diversity, in any issue (race, religion, cultures, etc.), is often hailed as a positive state in society, I think many people forget that diversity is only good when paired with tolerance. With religion, interfaith events allow all religious groups a moment of diversity as well as time to practice tolerance.

Here's a little bit of what Matthew Weiner and Matthew Dunbar from "Navigating the Waters of Interfaith Activity" have to say about interfaith events, specifically Buddhism:

"Proselytization is not always blatant or conscious, and rules that ban it or even shared assumptions that frown on it do not prevent its more subtle forms. Buddhists are fond of saying that meditation is not a religious practice. But it leads to Nirvana - Buddhist salvation. Is having a Buddhist lead a meditation at an interfaith retreat proselytizing? What did the Buddha mean when he called for disciples to 'spread the teachings'? Buddhism, often seen as a more historically tolerant faith, is nevertheless one of the world's most successful missionizing faiths. But it also illustrates how ambiguous the category of 'evangelizing' can be."

Read full article.

Taiwanese Foreign Minister's comment draws criticism

Taiwan's opposition party, the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), disapproves and criticizes Foreign Minister Francisco Ou for saying that the Dalai Lama has political motivations.

During a speech on Taiwan's foreign policies at Yishou University in Kaosiung County, a student asked Ou about the Dala Lama visiting Taiwan.

Although the Foreign Ministry is not involved with arranging the Dalai Lama's visit, Ou's personally believes that the Dalai Lama acts as a political leader as well as a religious leader, therefore having political motiviations in his oversea visits.

This comment has attracted great dispproval from the DPP.

"DPP lawmaker Lai Ching-teh said that Ou's remark shows that President Ma Ying-jeou's government is looking at the Dalai Lama 'with political eyeglasses.'

'It's a pity that the Ma government refuses to allow the Dalai Lama to visit Taiwan for fear of angering China,' the Liberty Times quoted him as saying.

Tsai Huang-lang, another DPP lawmaker, said that Ou is not fit to be foreign minister.
'His remark will make the international community see Taiwan as an appendix of a totalitarian state (China). This is a misfortune for Taiwan,' he said. "

Read the full article.

Related blog entries:
Taiwan does not plan to meet with the Dalai Lama

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Dalai Lama speaks about economic crisis

The Dalai Lama spoke at a joint press conference with Hans-Gert Poettering, the President of the European Parliament. The Buddhist Channel features an article on what the Dalai Lama had to say about the world economic crisis:

"Answering a question about economic crisis, the spiritual leader explained the ongoing market crisis around the world. Saying, 'Market itself is a creation of human beings,' the Buddhist leader asked, 'What is the real cause of this sort of economic crisis?' Citing answers from his business friends, the Dalai Lama told journalists: 'Too much speculation and ultimately greed,' adding, 'The potential to help is: reduce greed and (increase) self-discipline. 'Economic crisis is something urgent so it will be helpful to reduce some other conflict (that are going on) in the name of faith and nationality.' "

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Responses to "The Bible and Homosexuality"

Newsweek's recent cover story, "Our Mutual Joy", featured an article written by religion editor Lisa Miller about what the Bible really says about gay marriage. Since then, Newsweek has been receiving many comments and emails from all sides of the debate. Kurt Soller shares some of the feedback with us:

"The Atlanta Journal Constitution's political blog linked to the Politico piece and pointed out the comments made by Ralph Reed, the former executive director of the Christian Coalition. 'I see it as an attempt to caricature and reduce to a cartoon the social conservative belief in the efficacy of a traditional marriage, and try to reduce it to some formulaic, scriptural literalism,' he said. 'There's more of a practical, sociological foundation for why we seek to affirm marriage as an institution than I think is generally understood by those who want to legalize same-sex marriage.' "

Here's Newsweek's recent cover story, "Our Mutual Joy".

The Ten Worst Buddhist Movie Characters

Rev. Danny Fisher compiles a list of the ten worst Buddhist movie characters. It's interesting to see the way even stereotypes can be bent and molded in so many diffferent ways.

What would the Buddha buy?

The Buddhist Channel features an interesting article by Gary Gach, the author of The Complete Idiot's Guide to Understanding Buddhism and a member of the International Panel of Advisers for the Buddhist Channel.

So what would the Buddha buy? Here's what Gach has to say:

"What would the Buddha buy? Not too much, not too little. Picture him with his own reusable grocery bag slung over his shoulder, talking to a shopper about making mindful choices: “Do you really need it?” “Where does it come from?” “How will it affect the environment when you’re done?” He might have enjoyed celebrating International Buy Nothing Day on November 29 as a spiritual retreat from frantic holiday shopping (the “shopocalypse,” as Reverend Billy calls it)."

"Neither capitalism nor socialism has prevented children from starving in Somalia. We should be trying to base contentment on being, rather than having. Then the question of buying that fourth shirt or that new gizmo on display might be dwarfed by the prospect of creating more space in one’s life by donating your extra stuff. "

Sunday, December 7, 2008

The Bible and Homosexuality

Newsweek features the article "Our Mutual Joy", exploring what the Bible really says about homosexuality.

"If the bible doesn't give abundant examples of traditional marriage, then what are the gay-marriage opponents really exercised about? Well, homosexuality, of course—specifically sex between men. Sex between women has never, even in biblical times, raised as much ire. In its entry on "Homosexual Practices," the Anchor Bible Dictionary notes that nowhere in the Bible do its authors refer to sex between women, "possibly because it did not result in true physical 'union' (by male entry)." The Bible does condemn gay male sex in a handful of passages. Twice Leviticus refers to sex between men as "an abomination" (King James version), but these are throwaway lines in a peculiar text given over to codes for living in the ancient Jewish world, a text that devotes verse after verse to treatments for leprosy, cleanliness rituals for menstruating women and the correct way to sacrifice a goat—or a lamb or a turtle dove. Most of us no longer heed Leviticus on haircuts or blood sacrifices; our modern understanding of the world has surpassed its prescriptions. Why would we regard its condemnation of homosexuality with more seriousness than we regard its advice, which is far lengthier, on the best price to pay for a slave?

Religious objections to gay marriage are rooted not in the Bible at all, then, but in custom and tradition (and, to talk turkey for a minute, a personal discomfort with gay sex that transcends theological argument). Common prayers and rituals reflect our common practice: the Episcopal Book of Common Prayer describes the participants in a marriage as "the man and the woman." But common practice changes—and for the better, as the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. said, "The arc of history is long, but it bends toward justice." The Bible endorses slavery, a practice that Americans now universally consider shameful and barbaric. It recommends the death penalty for adulterers (and in Leviticus, for men who have sex with men, for that matter). It provides conceptual shelter for anti-Semites. A mature view of scriptural authority requires us, as we have in the past, to move beyond literalism. The Bible was written for a world so unlike our own, it's impossible to apply its rules, at face value, to ours."

Top 10 Buddhist teachers living in America

The Huffington Post features Waylon Lewis and his list of top 10 Buddhist teachers living in America. It's important to note that Lewis has not included in his list:

"...charlatans (Genpo Roshi, who is well-loved in many circles, has recently been accused of such), promising youngsters who have yet to prove themself...and those who you can't really study with because they're too famous to actually study with (Dalai Lama, Thich Nhat Hanh), in private meditation retreat all the time (Khenpo Tsultrim Gyamtso Rinpoche, Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche), or rarely in the West (The Karmapa, Khandro Rinpoche)."

Here's the breakdown (for individual descriptions, click the link at the beginning of this post for the whole article):

1. Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche
2. Pema Chodron
3. Sharon Salzberg
4. Ponlop Rinpoche
5. Joan Halifax Roshi
6. Dr. Reggie Ray
7. Robert Thurman
8. Norman Fischer
9. Dr. Judith Simmer-Brown, Dale Asrael, Frank Berliner
10. Dzigar Kongtrul Rinpoche

Within Tibet's interest to stick with China

The Dalai Lama addressed the Eurpoean parliament Thursday as part of his European tour. He believes it is in Tibet's interest to remain part of China, reports United Press International.

"Ours is not a separatist movement. It is in our own interest to remain in a big nation like China," he said. "We are not splittists."

Though criticized for its human rights record, China was recognized for its efforts in modernizing Tibet, bringing its people economic prosperity.
The Buddhist Channel posts His Holiness The Dalai Lama's Address to the plenary session of the European Parliament -- Brussels, 4 December 2008

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Taiwan does not plan to meet with the Dalai Lama

Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou has decided not to see the Dalai Lama during his visit next year to Taiwan.

" 'The Dalai Lama has visited Taiwan twice, and we generally welcome all religious leaders to visit, but at the current moment, the timing isn't appropriate for that,' he told foreign media in Taipei.

He declined to say when the visit might be welcomed, but political observers said Ma was apparently reluctant to displease China by hosting the Dalai Lama as cross-strait relations have improved.

In what would be his first visit in seven years and an apparent reversal of a policy of avoiding the island for fear of angering China, last week the Dalai Lama told Elta TV in the northern Indian hill station of Dharamsala that he hoped to visit Taiwan in 2009."

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Chanting prayer ceremony at Bodh Gaya

Starting Monday, hundreds of Buddhist monks and practioners from all over the world gathered in Bodh Gaya for an eleven-day chanting prayer ceremony.

At the Mahabodhi temple, monks and nuns chanted from the "Tipitaka", praying for world peace and prosperity for all living beings. It is said that the Buddha attained enlightenment under the Bodhi tree in Bodh Gaya, where 250 years later, emperor Ashoka built the Mahabodhi temple.

Bodh Gaya is a city in the Indian state of Bhihar.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Meditation an alternative to anti-depressant drugs

Studies show Buddhist meditation a better remedy for depression than drugs, The Telegraph reports. The study is funded by the Medical Research Council (MRC) and published in the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology.

"Fifteen months after an eight-week trial, 47 per cent of people with long-term depression who underwent the group psychology therapy had suffered a relapse, compared with 60 per cent of those taking anti-depressant drugs.

Professor Willem Kuyken, from the Mood Disorders Centre at the University of Exeter, said the technique - known as mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT) - could shorten NHS waiting lists for psychological therapies.

He said: 'Anti-depressants are widely used by people who suffer from depression and that's because they tend to work.

'But, while they're very effective in helping reduce the symptoms of depression, when people come off them they are particularly vulnerable to relapse.

'MBCT takes a different approach - it teaches people skills for life.

'What we have shown is that when people work at it, these skills for life help keep people well.

'Our results suggest MBCT may be a viable alternative for some of the 3.5 million people in the UK known to be suffering from this debilitating condition.' "

Bhutanese refugees resettle in the United States

Many Bhutanese immigrants have settled in American cities like Pittsburgh where housing is affordable and opportunities are open for them. The United States has agreed to resettle 60,000 displaced ethnic Nepalese from Bhutan. The Associated Press reports their situation and the cultural adaptations they experience.

"Unlike other, high-profile refugee groups such as Iraqis and Burmese, the ethnic Nepalese have gone largely unnoticed. Since there are no Bhutanese communities in the United States, most are being resettled near cities like Pittsburgh, where housing is affordable and officials hope diverse populations will reinvigorate urban areas hurt by deindustrialization.

Charitable organizations responsible for resettlement get the families apartments, food, Social Security cards and English classes, and help them find jobs. After three months, the families will have to provide for themselves, usually working minimum wage jobs.

Bhutan is a predominantly Buddhist constitutional monarchy bordered by China and India. In the early 1990s, the monarchy instituted sweeping legislation that effectively stripped the ethnic Nepalese, a Hindu minority also known as the Lhotsampas, of their citizenship, their right to own property and their ability to get government jobs.

Since then, an estimated 100,000 ethnic Nepalis have fled to refugee camps."

Links to other posts on Bhutan:

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Kuan Yin Shrine near Adelanto

A new meditation center has been established near rural San Bernadino County by Venerable Thich Dang Phap. A 24-foot high marble statue of Kuan Yin, the Boddhisatva of Compassion,

Phap's goal is to build a monastery "that would draw Buddhist and others from across the nation".

"A wooden sign hopefully proclaims the Chan Nguyen Buddhist Meditation Center. But it is still a work in progress.

A recently built concrete walkway is lined with 22 empty pedestals. Seven-foot-tall statues that will adorn them sit a few inches away, still in their packing crates and wrapped in plastic. Two gazebos topped by giant fiberglass lotus flowers are under construction. Boxes with roof tiles sit nearby. The rest of the 15-acre site is mostly barren desert that Phap long ago cleared of chaparral.

Yet the shrine already is attracting Buddhists from Riverside and San Bernardino counties -- there are as many as 100,000 Buddhists in the Inland area -- and other parts of Southern California."

Week 10: Last meeting of the Quarter

Hello UBA friends,

As we munch on the remains of our turkey or tofurky, we invite you to our last meditation of Fall Quarter, and of the 2008 year! As usual, we will be gathering from 5:30-7 pm this Tuesday, December 2nd at the University Catholic Center (UCC) at 633 Gayley Avenue. Our meetings are facilitated by Reverend Kusala, who leads us in a dharma discussion followed by a chance to ask questions and a meditation.

Previous dharma discussions are available in podcast form at Rev. Kusala's website: www.dharmatalks.info.

We hope to see everyone there! It will be a great chance to take a break from our hectic schedules of finals and papers and come back to the present moment.

Feel free to email us at uba.ucla.online@gmail.com with any questions, comments, or ideas for events you would like to see next quarter. Best wishes for a peaceful holiday season and we look forward to seeing you all again when we come back in January!

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Interview with Master Sheng Yen

Here's an interview with Chinese Buddhist Master Sheng Yen by the Religion News Service. He is a prominent and influential figure in Chan (or in Japanese, Zen) Buddhism, teaching in America and writing about Buddhism for the West. You can read a short bio at Wikipedia as well as his new more in-depth memoir, Footprints in the Snow. Here are some interesting questions he answered in the interview:

Q. How did you get through the difficult times in your life?
A. There is no problem that cannot be overcome. To use our heart means to understand how we should go about carrying on. To persevere means to try again and again, and do not be worried and afraid. When I was in mountain, living alone, (I) never thought I was alone. I felt that there are many sentient beings and many bodhisattvas (enlightened beings) to help me.

Q. Why is it better for Buddhists to not get involved in politics?
A. This has something to do with Buddhist tradition. The Buddha was a prince who left home and did not want to get involved in politics any more. Politics is necessary for worldly people. But as soon as one is involved in politics, there will be a lot of problems regarding who is right and who is wrong. As a monastic or a practitioner, one should know what one needs to know about politics, but one should not get involved. As soon as one gets involved, one will immediately be sucked into the worldly, secular environment and be tangled up with it. This will obstruct one's cultivation in the practice.

Q. You recently decided to refuse a kidney transplant. Why?
A. Since I am already 80 years old, if a kidney is transplanted to my body, at most it will be used for 20 more years. If it is transplanted to a younger person the function to be fulfilled by the kidney will be greater. Therefore I think it is wasteful to transplant a perfectly functioning kidney into my body.

Urban Dharma Newsletter 11-28-08

In This Issue: Buddhism and Bhikkhu Bodhi


It's been awhile since the last newsletter, life is really full...
This newsletter is focused on Bhikkhu Bodhi... I hope you find it useful and interesting.


Friday, November 28, 2008

Dalai Lama's possible successor

A likely candidate to replace the Dalai Lama's position as leader of the Tibet movement is Gyalwang Karmapa, the third-highest lama in the Tibetan religious firmament. He is also known as the Karmapa.

"At 23, the Karmapa has some unique characteristics that make him appealing to a broad cross-section of Tibetan Buddhists, and even to China, which now claims the right to approve or veto all reincarnations born to become "'living Buddhas' - or senior lamas delivered to help alleviate human suffering. Reincarnation, or rebirth, is a basic tenet of Tibetan Buddhism.

The Karmapa is the first Tibetan Buddhist reincarnation to be recognized by both the Dalai Lama and Communist Party authorities of China. He made headlines in January 2000, at age 14, with his flight from Chinese-ruled Tibet into exile, traveling by foot and horseback, then by jeep and helicopter to India. Allegations of espionage, intrigue involving a forgotten amulet and squabbling within a monastery marked his early years in India.

Exuding self-assuredness, the solidly built, 6-foot-tall Karmapa received several foreign journalists in a rare interview over the weekend at the university that's his temporary home near the mountain headquarters of the Dalai Lama. The Karmapa talked of his love of music, his future role for Tibetan Buddhists and the lack of human rights in China. He criticized the Chinese government, which he said wanted 'to create this ethnic conflict' that exploded in deadly rioting in Tibet in March. However, he spoke tenderly of the Chinese."

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving!

As we come upon Thanksgiving Day and come together for Thanksgiving dinner, let us be reminded of the Five Contemplations and be mindful and thankful of the food we eat:

1.This food is a gift of the whole universe, the Earth, the sky, numerous living beings and much hard work.

2. May we eat in mindfulness and gratitude, so as to be worthy to receive it.

3. May we transform our unskillful states of mind, especially our greed and learn to eat with moderation.

4. May we eat in such a way as to keep our compassion alive, reduce the suffering of living beings, and preserve our planet.


While serving our food:
In this food I see clearly the presence of the entirer universe supporting my existence.

Before eating:
Beings all over the Earth are struggling to live. May we practice so that all may have enough to eat.

After the meal:
My plate is empty. My appetite is fulfilled. My heart is filled with gratitude for parents, teachers, friends, and all beings.

5. We accept this food so that we may nourish our brother and sisterhood, strengthen our Sangha and realize our ideal of serving living beings.

All verses above are taken from the Deer Park Monastery.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

2009 Buddhist Calender

Hi everyone,

Thanksgiving is only a few days away and yet, stores are already featuring their Christmas products and setting up Christmas decorations - it seems like the year just passes by so fast. But as we look forward to all the wonderful things winter has to bring, such as Thanksgiving and Christmas break, it's always important to be mindful of the present moment.

"Do not dwell in the past, do not dream of the future, concentrate the mind on the present moment." -- Words of the Buddha --

In light of those words, to help everyone keep in the present moment, here is the link to a 2009 Buddhist calendar posted on the Urban Dharma website: http://www.urbandharma.org/pdf/2009_calendar.pdf.

While it may seem contradictory to offer a calender for the coming year while suggesting to stay in the present moment, I find that one of the best ways to stay in the present moment is to know where the present moment lies relative to the past and present. In other words, do not dwell upon the upcoming year or what has happened in this past year, but merely be aware of the past and present that has been and is to come, and you will be much more conscious of the present.

With hopes of thanks and giving for everyone,

News Roundup

This week, there's all sorts of juicy Buddhist news out there. Here's a brief list of what's been happening:

'Buddha's skull' found in Nanjing
"Chinese archaeologists have claimed that a 1,000-year-old miniature pagoda, unearthed in Nanjing, holds a piece of skull belonging to Siddhartha Gautama, the founder of Buddhism."

World Buddhist forum to be held next year
"Buddhist monks and scholars from around the world will gather at a forum in China in March next year to discuss how Buddhism can contribute to the building of a harmonious world, organizers said Sunday."

China's Xinhua publishes criticism of Dalai Lama
"China's state press Monday condemned the Dalai Lama and his followers for their "support of secession" in the first comments published in the country since Tibetan exiles decided to stick with a moderate China policy."

Thai protesters ready for "final battle"
"Thousands of anti-government protesters have gathered at Thailand's Government House for what's being called the 'final battle' against the government of Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat."

Miss Tibet, a Pageant Loaded With Controversy and Drama
"The Miss Tibet pageants, seen by many as a showcase of feminine beauty, have been fraught with controversy and drama. Even though the contests take place in a drowsy Himalayan town in India -- home to the Dalai Lama and other Tibetan exiles -- the Chinese government and some Tibetan elders have pressured contestants to withdraw."

Monday, November 24, 2008

UCLA Center for Buddhist Studies

We are pleased to announce an upcoming talk titled "Asian Images Inside-Out: What Can We Learn From the Contents of East Asian Statues?" given by Prof. James Robson of Harvard University.

Friday, December 05, 2008
3:00 PM - 4:30 PM
243 Royce Hall, UCLA
Los Angeles, CA 90095

Open to the public. Campus parking is available for $9.

"Museums throughout the world are filled with a variety of Asian religious images and icons, depictions of Buddhas, guardian deities, and saintly figures, which are usually rendered in stone, metal, wood, clay or lacquer. The icons and images in those collections tend to be examples of what is termed “elite” or “high” art and are often representations of gods and deities from a standard pantheon comprised of popular national deities and common Buddhist figures. It is now clear, however, that a different class of images and icons also circulated at a more diffused level of society and we are now also aware of a variety of images that were filled with different kinds of contents. The contents of those images might include Buddhist texts, relic fragments, symbolic organs, or consecration certificates. In this talk I intend ask what can we learn when we shift our gaze from external aesthetics to explore what is found inside images? How did the practice of interring things inside of images develop? How has the discourse on idolatry and iconoclasm conditioned the reception of these images? What new insights can be gained when we shift our concerns from traditional issues about the genesis and aesthetics of images, to the function of icons as they are deployed in social and ritual contexts? A satisfactory engagement with any of those questions will entail a substantial reorientation of our previous views about those objects and what inspired their production."

For more information, please go to http://www.international.ucla.edu/buddhist/.

Thank you for your interest.
UCLA Center of Buddhist Studies

Week 9: Week of Thanks and Giving

Hello UBA friends,

As we wind down our events for the quarter, we'd like to invite you to join us at our next meditation meeting this Tuesday, November 25th from 5:30-7 pm, at the University Catholic Center (633 Gayley Ave.) As usual, our meetings are facilitated by Reverend Kusala, who leads us in a dharma discussion followed by a chance to ask questions and a meditation. Previous dharma discussions are available in podcast form at Rev. Kusala's website: http://www.dharmatalks.info/.

Have a great week everyone - and a happy Thanksgiving to all!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

The Dalai Lama, South Park, and more...

I love it when Buddhism is featured in American pop culture, just as long as its not a ridiculously inaccurate portrayal. Here two recent examples:

Rev. Danny Fisher posts part of an episode of South Park with the Buddha in it (quite an interesting portrayal of the Buddha). While its obviously just a caricature, I'm still glad that it was included in American pop culture.

Also, the Tricycle posts an entry on a new biographical manga on the Dalai Lama! The site has a photo slideshow of clips from the manga and so far it looks great!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Talk with Bhutan's prime minister, Thinley

The Wall Street Journal features a talk with Jigmi Y. Thinley, Bhutan's first democratically elected prime minister. Bhutan is located in between China and India and as one of the world's newest democracies, taken much effort to balance the process of modernization with maintaining their unique culture based on Buddhist values. Interestingly, Bhutan is the only country to measure Gross National Happiness (GNH), rather than the more common Gross National Product.

Created by Bhutan's former King Jigme Singye Wangchuck in 1972, GNH is based on four pillars:

1. The promotion of equitable and sustainable socio-economic development
2. Preservation and promotion of cultural values
3. Conservation of the natural environment
4. establishment of good governance.

According to Mr. Thinley, he "will continue to implement the government policy of GNH. Happiness is not hedonistic, 'it is not the kind of fleeting pleasures that we seek.' It has to do with 'being able to balance material needs of the body and the spiritual needs of the mind.'"

During the talk with Mr. Thinley, he also elaborates on his thoughts about democracies.

"Democracy, according to Mr. Thinley, boils down to 'the empowerment of the people, the freedom of the voter. . . . giving the capacity to the individual citizen to determine his or her own destiny,' he says. 'Now if these are what democracy provides, then I would say that regardless of what culture you belong to, democracy is essential.'"

Here are two previous posts about Bhutan:
--Interesting facts about Bhutan
--Bhutan crowns fifth king

Hsi Lai Temple awarded scholarships

The Hsi Lai Temple and the Buddha's Light International Association awarded 160 scholarships to elementary, middle, and high school students from the Hacienda La Puente Unified School District. Elementary students were given $100, middle students $150, and high school students $200.

"Located in a low-income neighborhood, the families put the money to good use.

'It's all part of our community outreach program. We value education and want to help our local schools,' said the Venerable Miao Hsi, a Buddhist monk at the Hacienda Heights temple."

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Tension among Tibetan leaders

Tibetan leaders, politicians, and activists are participating in a week-long summit in Dharamsala, India, to discuss the future of Tibet without the leadership of the Dalai Lama. After the Dalai Lama announced that he has given up negotiations with China, he leaves the future of Tibet into the hands of the Tibetan people. However, the conservatives supporting further talks are in conflict with the young radicals fighting for a free Tibet.

Time magazine writes about the summit.

"The meeting, Barnett says, is 'explicitly a response by the Dalai Lama to criticism that his charisma has cramped any space for real discussion.' But no one is expecting Tibetans to suddenly shift course from the 'middle path,' which advocates for negotiating with Beijing for autonomy, not independence, and has been steered so carefully by their spiritual leader for the past 30 years. Instead, the summit will be considered a success if it reaches some consensus on how to choose the Dalai Lama's successor', and if it brings Tibetans together to discuss issues like education and how to involve young Tibetans in the political process. Barnett notes that China may find it more difficult to control a movement that is strong and unified around a common purpose. 'If they can achieve that, it will really be quite significant,' he says. And perhaps the most radical move of all. "

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Basics to meditation

For those of you new to our dharma talk/meditation meetings or new to meditation practice in general, here are some basic steps to follow:
  • Find a nice and quiet place where you can spend some time without being bothered. Turn off things like cellphonees.
  • Sit in a position that is both comfortable and stable - one that you can sit in for long periods of time without getting sore or having to change positions. A position that is comfortable for many people is sitting with their legs crossed in front of them.
  • Try to empty your mind of thoughts of the past and future, and close your eyes. Its time to relax in the present moment.
  • Pick a meditation object that is simple and relaxing. A meditation object that works for many people is the sensation of breath coming in and out.
  • If you are using the breath as your object of meditation, many beginning meditators find it useful to count the breath to stay focused. Just count once for each inhalation or exhalation, up to ten, and then count back down to one and repeat.
  • Keep meditating for as long as you like. Remember to start out small to not get frustrated, five or ten minutes until you feel comfortable sitting longer. Some like to set a timer to remind them to end their meditation, but if you're meditating with the UBA you need only listen for the bell.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Christians adopting meditation

Many Christian Americans have incorporated meditation into their spiritual practice. While meditation used to be considered New Age and a counterculture activity, it has slowly made its way into the daily routines of many Christians as a way of dealing with their busy lives.

"A report released this year showed an astonishingly high number of Protestants — nearly half — say they meditate at least once a week. Among the public, 39 percent meditate at least weekly, according to a report by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life.

It's no surprise that people are seeking paths to peace and serenity in our high-octane, 24-hour world.

'We're a mentally focused, hard-core, achievement-oriented society,' says Dr. J. David Forbes, a medical doctor and meditation teacher in Nashville. 'People are finding it hard to quiet the brain down.'"

Meditation, however, still has its share of criticism from Christianity.

"Meditation has been, at times, eyed with suspicion. The Vatican in 1989 went so far as to say that methods such as Zen, yoga and transcendental meditation, can 'degenerate into a cult of the body' and be dangerous.

And the notion that meditation is too way out there for Christians, if not rooted in the Bible, still exists today.

'The idea of emptying the mind is not biblically based,' says Don Whitney, associate professor of biblical spirituality at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky. 'There can be a danger.'

Referring to meditation's long association with Hinduism, Buddhism and other Eastern religions, Whitney says, 'Some of the yoga stuff, where you're given a mantra, that is rooted in false religions.' He sees no problem with stretching, but once you start chanting, you're treading on treacherous ground, he says.

His beef is that some people are seeking tools to help them live and de-stress. 'That's very selfish,' he says. 'Our lives should be lived to the glory of God.'"

Though not a traditional activity of Christianity, meditation still proves to be empowering for those who practice it.

"A Christian who attends an interdenominational church and considers herself nondenominational, Finch, 42, has also been attending a Buddhist center to meditate.

'Going to church is where I'm being talked to. There is not a lot of silent time,' Finch says. 'I feel the power and presence of God through my meditation.'"

Monday, November 17, 2008

Termites build Buddha-shaped nests

People in Cambodia have discovered five oddly shaped termite nests in the form of a seated Buddha figures.

"The iconic insect homes appeared on the cement floor of 56-year-old Kuong Keo Ry's house near Phnom Penh, shortly before a traditional death festival held in October when she was mourning her late husband.

'I am happy that my house has been chosen. After other people and I pay respect to the Buddha shapes, we all feel content,' the widow told AFP by telephone.

She said she first became curious about the nests in October because she would sweep them away every day -- but that the wood-munching bugs would rebuild them overnight."

Friday Lecture & Weekend Workshop @ LMU

Hi UBA friends,

Here's something about a local Buddhist event I forgot to announce yesterday; it may be of interest to some of you. The Friday evening lecture (this Friday) is free, and there may be a limited number of scholarships available for UCLA students wishing to attend the weekend retreat. Let us know if you're interested and we'll get you in touch with the full details.
Touching Enlightenment: Lecture & Weekend Intensive

"To discover the body is to discover our deepest self, and, in turn, to arrive at the genuine spiritual fulfillment we all seek."

In the Tibetan Buddhist tradition, the body is considered the gateway to enlightenment - to discover the body is to discover awareness, and eventually, the awakened state. When we look at the body from the outside we see something ordinary, but viewed through the eye of meditation we find that it is the harbinger of our inconceivable life as it is coming to birth.
In this weekend intensive, accessible to beginning through advanced practitioners, we explore body-based practices drawn from Tibetan yoga, examine inner and outer meditation posture, as well as how emotions manifest in the body and how to receive the wisdom they hold. Here is a unique opportunity to study with Reggie Ray and come face-to-face with your own deepest unfolding journey.


Friday Night Talk: November 21
8–10pm - Free Friday Night Talk

Weekend Workshop: November 22-23
Saturday 10am-6pm; Sunday 10am-5pm
$235 at the door

Location: Loyola Marymount University
St Robert’s Hall, 1 LMU Dr. Los Angeles 90045

*Online Registration Discount*
$195 for entire weekend (until November 22)

Email: Deborah@unfoldingbody.com
For more information and to register, visit www.DharmaOcean.org

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Week 8: Dharma Talk and Deer Park photos

Hi UBA friends,

This is just a quick note to let you all know that we resume our weekly meditation meetings this Tuesday, November 18th, from 5:30-7 pm at the University Catholic Center (633 Gayley Ave, across from the UCLA campus). Our meetings are facilitated by Reverend Kusala, who leads us in a dharma discussion followed by a chance to ask questions and a meditation. Previous dharma discussions are available in podcast form at Rev. Kusala's website: http://www.dharmatalks.info/.

Also, a big thanks to everyone who helped make our Deer Park retreat a big success this year! The pictures have been posted online; to see them, visit http://www.theuba.org/ and click on "Photos." For those who missed out this time around, never fear! We'll be offering many more events next quarter as well.

Have a great week, everyone!

Saturday, November 15, 2008

UCLA Buddhist Art Symposium

Recent Developments in the Study of Buddhist Art

This symposium is intended to survey some of the most important recent developments in the study of Buddhist art throughout Asia.

Friday, November 21, 2008

9:00 AM - 5:00 PM for Friday's conference:
Faculty Center Hacienda Room
Los Angeles, CA 90095

The Friday, November 21 sessions will feature several lectures open to the public. While scholarly in content, these lectures will be accessible to interested members of the university community and the general public.

For participants that will speak at the event, please click here.

This event is co-sponsored by the Paul I. and Hisako Terasaki Center for Japanese Studies, Center for Buddhist Studies, Center for Chinese Studies, Center for Korean Studies, and Center for Southeast Asian Studies.

No registration is required for the Friday conference.

RSVP will be required for the seminar on November 22, 2008.
Please RSVP at mccallum@humnet.ucla.edu.

Cost: None

Tel: 310 - 825- 8681

Special Instructions
RSVP for Saturday sessions. Location TBA.

For more information please contact
Donald McCallumTel: 310-206-6974

Thursday, November 13, 2008

The Youth in Buddhism

Here's an excerpt from a BuddhaDharma article about how Buddhism has changed demographically, esepcially in regards to the youth. For the article, Diana Winston, the Director of Mindfulness Education for the UCLA's Mindful Awareness Research Center, interviews four particpants, Sumi Loundon Kim, Rod Meade Sperry, Iris Brilliant And Zoketsu Norman Fischer, as part of a panel discussion.

"Nevertheless, there has been a small but important demographic shift. There are more young people at dharma centers than in the late eighties and nineties. Teen and young people retreats have contributed to broadening the dharma, as have a series of books, websites, and communities targeting young people. There is now a teacher-training program at Spirit Rock where many of the trainees are under forty. Young people are practicing, undeniably, but as Sumi Loundon Kim points out in the panel, they still account for a small percentage of the total population of practitioners."

"Twenty years after my first retreat, I can say that the dharma is absolutely relevant to young people, as this panel shows us. And the inclusion of youth in the future of the dharma will only create a vital, exciting new form of Buddhism(s). The dharma is far from dying out, but its future expressions may take us by surprise. I can’t wait to see what it looks like!"

New Photos!

Check out the new photos I posted on the Slideshow from UBA's weekend retreat to Deer Park Monastery.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The practical side of Mindfulness

Here's an article on The Washington Post about mindfulness and how we (whether Buddhist or not) can apply it to the daily stress in our lives.

"Sound too New Age-y to work in your household? It might be worth a try: Researchers at major universities are exploring the benefits of Buddhist mindfulness techniques to help families increase feelings of closeness and decrease relationship stress -- and the results are promising. Just as the latest Hollywood incarnation of the Incredible Hulk keeps his green-hot anger under control with daily meditations, so are some people learning to manage emotions in their relationships.

In mental health terms, mindfulness is the awareness that emerges from focusing on the present and the ability to perceive -- but not judge -- your own emotions with detachment; it enables you to choose helpful responses to difficult situations rather than reacting out of habit. While Western thought separates religion and science, Buddhists see mindfulness as both a spiritual and psychological force."

Sunday, November 9, 2008

First international Buddhist temple opens in Arizona

The Arizona International Buddhist Meditation Center, the only international Buddhist temple in Arizona, has held its grand-opening ceremony on Saturday at Mesa. Not only did the ceremony mark the center's grand opening but it also acted as the Kathina Ceremony, signifying the end of the rainy season in Sri Lanka. The temple serves as a mediation center as well as a place for the Sri Lanka Buddhist community to meet.

Interesting Facts about Bhutan

Bhutan recently crowned Oxford-educted King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck as its fifth king. Here are some interesting facts about the country of Bhutan:

- Wedged between China and India, the tiny, isolated and land-locked nation of 47,000 sq km with a population of 600,000, controls several key Himalayan mountain passes. It takes its name - Druk Yul, the Land of the Thunder Dragon - from violent storms in the Himalayas.
- The conservative Buddhist kingdom has been ruled by a hereditary monarchy since Ugyen Wangchuck became its first king in 1907.
- Democratic reforms in July 1998 gave the National Assembly powers to remove the monarch with a two-thirds vote.

- More than 100,000 Bhutanese Lhotshampas (Hindus) have been confined in UN refugee camps in neighbouring Nepal since 1990, when they fled or were expelled after violent clashes fuelled by tensions with the Buddhist majority.

- Bhutan is one of the world's smallest and least developed economies. 63% of its labour force works in agriculture. Its per capita GDP (PPP) is US$5,200 (2007 estimate). Average life expectancy is 65.53 years and the literacy rate is 47%.

- In 1971, as Bhutan was admitted to the United Nations, the then King articulated the idea of Gross National Happiness, stressing happiness, self-reliance and prosperity as a more important development measure than Gross National Product.

- In December 2006, King Jigme Singye Wangchuck abdicated the throne to his son, Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck, to give him experience as head of state before the democratic transition.

Week 7: No Meditation - Veteran's Day

Hello everyone,

We here at the University Buddhist Association just want to inform you about the upcoming CSC Community Service Day!

WHAT: Community Service Commission's Community Service Day! Numerous UCLA student groups get together to perform community service (hopefully we will be working with Heal the Bay on a beach cleanup!).

WHEN: Saturday, Nov 15th

WHERE: meet us in Bruin Plaza (by Ackerman and the bruin bear).

START TIME: 8:30 if you want to enjoy your free breakfast leisurely. If you want to skip breakfast, be there by 8:45.

END TIME: our community service ends at 1pm. Following is a free lunch (1-2pm) and an activities fair with performances by UCLA student dance and acappella groups, a closing ceremony and free raffles (2-4pm).

OTHER IMPORTANT INFORMATION:-This event requires a Bruincard and is only for UCLA students. Sign up at www.csday.usaccsc.org by November 12th (WEDNESDAY) at 5pm. The form is a quick one--just give your name, email, group affiliation (University Buddhist Association), and your T-shirt size (free T-shirt!). Afterwards, email us to let us know you plan to come at ucla.uba.online@gmail.com-Rides to the site are provided (unless it's a short distance--then we'll walk). We really hope to see you there! Free food, free T-shirts, free raffles and the company of your fellow UBA members--what's not to look forward to?

Have a great Veterans Day! (And remember, no UBA dharmatalk/meditation this Tuesday.)

--Your UBA staff

Friday, November 7, 2008

Deer Park Monastery Retreat

Iwill be attending a weekend retreat at Deer Park Monastery with the UBA so I will not be able to post any entries until Sunday. I will be posting pictures and my experiences there after I come back. Have a great weekend!

Bhutan crowns fifth king

On Thursday, the country of Bhutan has crowned its fifth king after waiting two years for court astrologers to determine the perfect time for the next royalty. At precisely 8:31 A.M., the Raven Crown was placed on 28-year old Jigme Khesar Namgyal Wangchuck and he was given the title of Druk Gyalpo, or Dragon King.

"The ceremony, symbolizing the strength of the monarchy, was seen as a deeply reassuring moment for the last independent Himalayan Buddhist kingdom — once one of the most cutoff, tightly controlled places on earth, but now slowly opening up to the uncertainties of modernity and vagaries of democracy."

"Most Bhutanese believe it is the kings who have allowed the small nation of some 700,000 people to survive with their culture and sovereignty intact while sandwiched between 1.1 billion Indians to the south and 1.3 billion Chinese to the north.

These two Asian giants have already swallowed the other Buddhist kingdoms, like Sikkim or Tibet, that once thrived across the Himalayan range.

'We have enjoyed progress, sustained peace, security and growth. These are all attributed to the great kings, benevolent kings, selfless kings that Bhutan has had,' Bhutan's Prime Minister Jigme Thinley, who was elected in the country's first democratic elections in March, told reporters Wednesday.

With so much faith being placed on guidance from the monarchy, the last two years have been somewhat bewildering for Bhutan as King Jigme Singye Wangchuck announced he was giving up much of his power to transform the nation into a democracy.

Under his reforms the king remains the head of state and will continue to have extensive powers, but Parliament can impeach him by a two-thirds majority.

At the same time he abdicated in favor of his Oxford-educated eldest son Jigme Khesar Namgyal Wangchuck — a handsome bachelor with an Elvis Presley-like hairstyle and sideburns."

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Bombings in southern Thailand

Three bombings in southern Thailand has killed one person and wounded at least 71, report police. This was the largest attack in months suspected to be done by a Muslim insurgency since 2004. Generally, the insurgents carry out drive-by shootings and small-scale bombings aimed to frighten Buddhist residents into moving out of the area.
"More than 3,300 people have been killed since January 2004 in the three provinces, which are the only Muslim-dominated areas in the Buddhist-majority country.

Thailand's population is about 90 percent Buddhist, and many of the country's Muslims feel they are treated as second-class citizens."

Buddhists learn English

On Tuesday, China began an English training program for Buddhist followers in order to prepare them for future global exchanges. This program opened at the Shanghai International Studies University, organized by the China Religious Culture Communication Association (CRCCA) and the Buddhist Association of China (BAC).

"Qi Xiaofei, deputy head of the CRCCA, said at the opening ceremony that the half-year course would train translators and interpreters for the Second World Buddhist Forum, scheduled to be held in China next year."

"China hosted the first World Buddhist Forum in April 2006."

Monday, November 3, 2008

Google Ad Clarification

By the way, I've noticed that the Google Adsense function on the top of my blog is allowing ads promoting "YES on Prop 8".

Just to clarify, that DOES NOT represent the political opinions of the UBA at UCLA. We are an academic/religious student group and do not have any political leanings. Thank you.

Buddhist Involvement in Politics


Election Day is just a day away and everyone is hyped to see the outcome of this year's presidential elections. While the Buddhist vote isn't a major deciding factor in this election, it is still interesting to think about what political party Buddhist may lean closer to. Daniel Burke from the Religious News Service writes an article on just that:

"A significant number of Buddhist immigrants who fled communist regimes in Southeast Asia tend to be politically conservative, which could help Republican candidate Sen. John McCain. But a solid majority of American Buddhists are converts, who tend to be liberal, and many back Democrat Barack Obama."

"The 500 members of "Buddhists for Obama" have raised more than $230,000, sponsored 1,700 events and made 26,000 calls for their candidate, according to Obama's Web site. There's no Buddhist group listed for Republican nominee Sen. John McCain; a request to his campaign for information went unanswered."

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Week 6: Dharma Talk & Beach Clean-Up

Hi UBA friends,

Here we are in 6th week - my, how the quarter flies by! Just a quick note reminding you that we hold our weekly meditation meeting this Tuesday, November 4th (election day!) from 5:30-7 pm at the University Catholic Center (633 Gayley Ave). Our meetings are facilitated byReverend Kusala, who leads us in a dharma discussion followed by a chance to ask questions and a meditation. Previous dharma discussions are available in podcast form at Rev. Kusala's website: www.dharmatalks.info.

As for another upcoming event, we are planning a beach clean-up community service day for Saturday, November 15th, from approximately 10 am to 2 pm. More details will be available closer to that weekend, but if you're at all interested in coming along to help us, send us an email at ucla.uba.online@gmail.com.

Also, we will NOT be holding our regular meditation meeting next Tuesday (November 11th) due to the Veteran's Day holiday.

Thanks everyone! Have a great week.

The Mayonnaise Jar and 2 Beers

Rather than news, today I'm posting an interesting story posted by one of the editors for AsiaMedia, Vincent. It's an interesting insight on life and setting priorities and though it isn't directly Buddhist, we can certainly squeeze Buddhism somewhere in there (you'll understand what I mean after you read it)

The Mayonnaise Jar and Two Beers

When things in your life seem almost too much to handle, when 24 hours in a day are not enough, remember the mayonnaise jar and the 2 Beers. A professor stood before his philosophy class and had some items in front of him.

When the class began, he wordlessly picked up a very large and empty mayonnaise jar and proceeded to fill it with golf balls. He then asked the students if the jar was full. They agreed that it was.

The professor then picked up a box of pebbles and poured them into the jar; he shook the jar lightly. The pebbles rolled into the open areas between the golf balls. He then asked the students again if the jar was full. They agreed it was.

The professor next picked up a box of sand and poured it into the jar. Of course, the sand filled up everything else. He asked once more if the jar was full. The students responded with an unanimous 'yes.' The professor then produced the two beers from under the table and poured the entire contents into the jar effectively filling the empty space between the sand. The students laughed.

'Now,' said the professor as the laughter subsided, 'I want you to recognize that this jar represents your life. The golf balls are the important things---your family, your children, your health, your friends and your favorite passions---and if everything else was lost and only they remained, your life would still be full.

The pebbles are the other things that matter like your job, your houseand your car.

The sand is everything else---the small stuff. 'If you put the sandinto the jar first,' he continued, 'there is no room for the pebblesor the golf balls. The same goes for life. If you spend all your timeand energy on the small stuff you will never have room for the things that are important to you. '

Pay attention to the things that are critical to your happiness. Spend time with your children. Spend time with your parents. Visit with grandparents.

Take time to get medical checkups. Take your spouse out to dinner. Play another 18. There will always be time to clean the house and fix the disposal. Take care of the golf balls first---the things that really matter.

Set your priorities.

'The rest is just sand.'

One of the students raised her hand and inquired what the beers represented. The professor smiled and said, 'I'm glad you asked.' The beer just shows you that no matter how full your life may seem, there's always room for a couple of beers with a friend.'

Friday, October 31, 2008

Dalai Lama continues China talks

Two of Dalai Lama's envoys left Thursday for Beijing for the eighth round of negotiations with the Chinese government since 2002.

Also, the Dalai Lama has started on Friday his week-long visit to Japan to speak about spirituality. This is his first trip since recovering from health problems.

"The Dalai Lama, who has lived in India since fleeing Tibet in 1959, is a frequent visitor to Japan where he enjoys an active following.

However, unlike many Western nations, Japan - which has an uncomfortable relationship with China - has almost always refused high-level official contacts with the Dalai Lama and no officials are scheduled to meet him on the current trip."

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Clarifications on the Dalai Lama's recent remark

The Dalai Lama clears up the recent comment about giving up on talks with China on Tibet. Thanks to Rev. Danny Fisher and the Philip Ryan from the Tricycle for posting this update on their respective blogs.

"Since the Chinese Government has accused His Holiness of orchestrating these protests in Tibet, he called for a thorough investigation to examine these allegations, even offering access to Central Tibetan Administration files and records here in India. So far, this offer has not been taken up, but the situation in Tibet becomes graver by the day. Therefore, His Holiness said that it is difficult for him to continue to shoulder such a heavy responsibility when the present Chinese leadership does not seem to appreciate simple truth, reason and common sense. In the absence of any positive reciprocal response from the Chinese leadership, His Holiness feels that if he cannot help find a solution, he would rather not hinder it in any way. His Holiness feels he cannot afford to pretend that his persistent efforts to find a mutually satisfactory solution to the Tibetan problem are bearing fruit.

Therefore, on 11 September His Holiness called a special meeting of Tibetans from all parts of our community in exile to engage in wide-ranging discussions with the aim of identifying realistic and non-violent options for the future course of our struggle. His Holiness concluded that when all is said and done it is for the Tibetan people themselves to decide about their collective future. "

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Dalai Lama gives up on China talks

The Dalai Lama has given up on trying to negotiate with China over Tibet. According to AP, the Dalai Lama said in his speech:

"I have been sincerely pursuing the middle way approach in dealing with China for a long time now but there hasn't been any positive response from the Chinese side," he said in Tibetan at a public function Saturday in Dharmsala, the north Indian town that is home to Tibet's government-in-exile.

"As far as I'm concerned I have given up," he said in an unusually blunt statement.

"The issue of Tibet is not the issue of the Dalai Lama alone. It is the issue of 6 million Tibetans. I have asked the Tibetan government-in-exile, as a true democracy in exile, to decide in consultation with the Tibetan people the future course of action," the Dalai Lama said.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Week 5: Dharma Talk and Upcoming Retreat

Hello UBA friends,

A few things to announce this week...

As usual, we continue our regular meetings this Tuesday, October 28th from 5:30-7 pm at the UCC (633 Gayley Avenue, across from the UCLA campus). Our meetings are facilitated by Reverend Kusala, who leads us in a dharma discussion followed by a chance to ask questions and a meditation. Previous dharma discussions are available in podcast format Rev. Kusala's website: www.dharmatalks.info.

Also, the weekend after next we will be traveling to Escondido, CA (San Diego area) for the annual Deer Park Monastery weekend retreat for college students, Nov. 7-9th. We plan to leave by 1 pm Friday and return by 4 or 5 pm Sunday, depending on traffic. The retreat is a great chance to experience a taste of life in a Buddhist monastery and we generally participate in activities such as meditation, dharma discussions, hiking, and enjoying delicious vegetarian meals. More info can be found at http://www.deerparkmonastery.org/events/retreats/college-retreat.ics.

The retreat will cost $40 for students for the weekend, which includes room and board in dormitory-style housing and all meals.

If you are interested and have not already done so, please RSVP as soon as you can so that we can get a head count - we will try to provide rides but we are extremely limited on car space, so let us know if you would like to go and if you are able to drive, how many people will fit in your car besides yourself. It will be very much appreciated!! After we get an idea of who is interested in coming, we will send more information on how to register.

Please email us at ucla.uba.online@gmail.com if you have any questions. Thanks and happy 5th week - best of luck on those midterms! Don't forget to take a relaxing and centering breath beforehand to remain focused...

Friday, October 24, 2008

Colbert says Buddha isn't a god!

Stephen Colbert corrects a pastor who claims Buddha as a god. Click here for the video clip.

Film: What Remains of Us

Here is a new movie coming soon called What Remains of Us. It's about the struggling Buddhist culture of Tibet and the journey a person takes to deliver a message from the Dalai Lama to all his followers.

Movie Night Reminder

Hi there UBA friends!

Just a quick reminder about our Buddhist-themed movie night tomorrow, Friday 24th at 7:30pm featuring the film "Groundhog Day". Snacks will be provided and the movie starts right at 8:00. Let us know if you want to come and we will send you the directions.

Hope to see lots of you there!

Monday, October 20, 2008

Animated Dharma

Here's a youtube clip called "Buddha Speaks of Amitayus Sutra:The Larger Sukhavati Vyuha" from an animated series from Life of Shakyamuni Buddha, by Jodoshinshu West Hongwanji Japan. It was originally in Japanese, but this clip is narrated in Mandarin with Chinese and English subtitles. This was posted on Youtube by "mofreedom".

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Week 4: Movie Night and Deer Park Retreat

Hello UBA friends,

Lots to announce this week!

I'll try to keep the email brief. First off, we continue our regular meetings this Tuesday, October 21st from 5:30-7 pm at the UCC (633 Gayley Avenue, across from the UCLA campus). Our meetings are facilitated by Reverend Kusala, who leads usin a dharma discussion followed by a chance to ask questions and ameditation. Previous dharma discussions are available in podcast format Rev. Kusala's website: www.dharmatalks.info.

Next, we invite you all to come to our first social event of the year with a movie night featuring the (loosely) Buddhist-themed movie Groundhog Day. The movie starts at 8 pm this Friday, October 24th,but we're starting at 7:30 with snacks! RSVP to ucla.uba.online@gmail.com so we can get a head count and for directions.

Finally, in a couple of weeks we will be traveling to Escondido, CA (San Diego area) for the annual Deer Park Monastery weekend retreat for college students, Nov. 7-9th. We plan to leave by 1 pm Friday and return by 4 or 5 pm Sunday, depending on traffic. The retreat is agreat chance to experience a taste of life in a Buddhist monastery and we generally participate in activities such as meditation, dharma discussions, hiking, and enjoying delicious vegetarian meals. More info can be found at http://www.deerparkmonastery.org/events/retreats/college-retreat.ics. If interested, please RSVP as soon as you can so that we can get ahead count - we will try to provide rides but we are extremely limited on car space, so let us know if you would like to go and are able to drive. It will be very much appreciated!!

That seems to be it - hope to see you on Tuesday and please email us at ucla.uba.online@gmail.com if you have any questions. Thanks and happy 4th week!

Friday, October 17, 2008

Global Faith-Based Organization Forum in Turkey

The Global Faith-Based Organization Forum will begin on Oct.20 and host 75 organizations, including Hindu, Buddhist, Sikh, Jewish, Christian, and Muslim groups. The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) will gather religous leaders from these organizations and meet in Istanbul, Turkey to discuss global issues such as "HIV-AIDs, reproductive health, gender equality, and measures to prevent violence against women and maternity death and strength women's status." This interfaith global forum is organized for the first time.

Handling stress

As UCLA students, I think we can safely say that we are quite familiar with stress throughout the academic quarter. Here's a Daily Bruin article about therapy for stress.

"To address this issue, researchers at UCLA are diving in to get a full understanding of the many different types of anxiety to develop more effective treatments and to get the word out to the public: that anxiety exists but can be minimized to improve one’s quality of life.

The newest project coming out of the UCLA Anxiety Disorders Research Clinic is a study assessing the differences between two forms of treatment: cognitive behavioral therapy as well as the new application of mindfulness meditation as therapy to treat anxiety.

The study uses a functional MRI brain imaging tool to assess the changes in brain activation after patients received one of the two treatments during a 12-week period, Niles said.

The study will be done of people suffering from social anxiety, the fear of being severely judged in social situations, and general anxiety disorder, which is the excessive worrying about areas of life that can be trivial and out of one’s actual control."

Catholics attracting youth

Here's an interesting article about how Catholicism is working to attract the youth. Despite a continuously declining Catholic monastic life, new religious communities have formed as part of a reform in rethinking the Vatican II document dealing with monasticism.

"One such community with a young population, nestled in the Ozarks, is a place that could symbolize Catholicism's true hope for renewal in our time. Founded in 1999, the Clear Creek Monastery has grown from 13 to 30 monks who are intent on building a community that will "last for a thousand years." Clear Creek is also part of the "reform of the reform," a rethinking of Vatican II that has led a number of religious orders—such as the Dominican Sisters in Nashville, the Sisters for Life in New York, and Benedict Groeschel's Franciscan Friars of the Renewal—to rediscover their original mission and flourish."

"The growth in these orders provides a striking contrast to the continuing decline in Catholic monastic and religious life generally. In 1965, there were twice as many religious priests and brothers as today. There are just one-third as many nuns. According to Sister Mary Bendyna, executive director of the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown University, the average monk is in his early 70s, the average nun in her mid-70s. The mission of many orders has become simply caring for their aging populations as they sell properties and consolidate with others. "

"The emergence of Clear Creek and other growing monastic communities suggests there will always be young people who ask whether their devotion to God should take precedence over their own personal ambitions and even the natural desire for a family. (The A&E special
God or the Girl was an insightful documentary about this.) Today's young people, who have grown up in a highly commercialized and manipulated landscape, are particularly eager to connect with a more authentic way of living. Far from being pressured into pursuing religious vocations, they find their families often protest, feeling they are losing their children to a life that's too isolated."