Rev. Kusala is in this story from the Voice of America (but not in this picture:)
Photo: Hsi Lai Temple
A class of 31 boys receives instruction at the Hsi Lai Temple in Los Angeles, California, with their heads temporarily shaved as monks, in a retreat to introduce them more deeply to Buddhist life before they return to their regular lives, July 2011
My friend Kusala, a Buddhist monk in Koreatown here in Los Angeles who I discovered through his Urban Dharma podcasts, wrote about a road trip he took a while back on his motorcycle, and the lessons he learned. We’re working on turning his story into a book; it’s a pleasure to “have to” immerse myself in his approach toward life and the choices he’s made, which I think we can learn from whether or not you’re taking a long trip or whether or not you’re a Buddhist.
And that’s why I’m sharing this with you here, so you don’t have to wait for the opus:
“I was expanding my comfort zone to include all things new. I had unlocked my jail cell in a way… Escaped from the prison of… “How It Should Be”… And found the place of… “How It Is”… I found myself thinking… Can I deal with all the stuff this journey is about to throw at me???… Do I have the personal resources to meet each new challenge and win or lose, learn something about myself??? Will I have the courage to travel until I’m tired… Letting the day tell me when to stop, and when to go… And not my watch?
The discomfort I felt on the road… Was my first real sign of freedom.
Once I was on the road, it took a couple of hundred miles for the feelings of loss and fear to subside… To come to that place of… ‘The Traveler’… Where home… Is the place you hang your helmet… And any bed, becomes your bed… It’s back to basics… Food, clothing, shelter, and medicine.
Each day was so different… But the start and Finish of each day turned out to be pretty much the same.”
That’s what he told a television interviewer in Australia. After all, he said, girls are more capable of compassion. He also told the Chinese-Australian interviewer that it’s likely she/he will be born…outside Tibet. I’m in no rush to see His Holiness go, but when the day does come, I’m gunning for the reincarnate, regardless the gender, to be discovered in either Brooklyn, Bhutan, or Tuvalu. (In no particular order.) (Thanks for the link, Gada!)
A beautiful piece by the monk Mathieu Ricard. Please read it if you can.
An excellent article that explains some of the mysteries behind those beautiful prayer flags, including those that hang on poles:
According to Lopon Pema Gyeltshen, one should know the colour of prayer flags when planning to hoist one as they carry great significance.
White – to clear your path from barchey (obstacles)
Yellow –to earn merit
Red – to curb the power of enemies. For example, in wars or even when facing an opponent at an archery match
Green – to ward off envy and jealousy
Blue – if something you planned, like business, is not going according to plan
The five colours also symbolize the five elements – blue-wind, white-water, red-fire, green-space and yellow-earth.
A wise essay from The Guardian (can you imagine this running in the US press?)
The Dalai Lama reminds us of Buddhism’s radical social and economic messages.
Photograph: Jonathan Ernst/Reuters
I hope you’ll read the whole thing, but here’s a snip for you:
“…..the Dalai Lama is not the comforting Oriental pet that consumer society might like.
Neither does his tradition match the capitalist fantasies attached to it. Perhaps because Buddhism came to the west on a wave of post-war hippy soul-searching, and was then co-opted as friendly religion of choice by new ageism and the self-help movement, its radical economic and social messages have been lost under an avalanche of laughing fat-man statues, healing crystals and copies of The Secret.
The very idea of self-help in Buddhism is an oxymoron – relief of suffering can only come from the realisation that pleasing ourselves doesn’t bring happiness – instead we must try to work skilfully and compassionately with others, as part of interwoven systems of connectivity that bind us together. A “western Buddhism” that prioritises solipsistic focus on the individual is so great a misconception as to be unworthy of the name – or at the least the Buddhism part – as anyone who pays it more than passing attention knows. It’s also largely a media invention – many western Buddhists are serious, deeply committed practitioners. That commitment means choosing to follow a path that leads against the stream of materialism and selfishness. Of course, we don’t always manage it, but that’s why it’s called a path of practice.
Buddhism goes way beyond the confines of the personal – realising the truth of interdependence implies taking up the challenge of engaging with others in the wider world. This isn’t missionary zeal – proselytising is hardly the Buddhist way – but it does mean social action that embodies dharmic principles, and western sanghas are increasingly prioritising community involvement. As they do so, Buddhism may start to look less like some nice bit of calm and relaxation and more like a radical, uncompromising critique of the status quo.”
Great interview in the WSJ online with the birth mother of the King of Bhutan (aka Queen Ashi Dorji Wangmo Wangchuck.) She happens also to be an author.
“One of my fondest memories of my time in boarding school in India is watching Elvis Presley movies. We used to have screenings in school, I remember watching “It Happened at the World’s Fair” and “Viva Las Vegas.” And I just fell in love with this gentleman—ever since I was in second grade. I am still a fan.
Elvis has always been one of my all-time favorites. I saw him in concert in Madison Square Garden in the 1970s. When he died I was here in Bhutan and I remember wearing black for one week. And in the mornings I would offer butter lamps for his soul, which is something we do here in Bhutan.
I also had the great opportunity of going to Memphis, where I stayed at the Heartbreak Hotel. I went there with my daughter, right after her graduation from Harvard Law School in 2007. Graceland appeared much, much smaller than I had expected it to be as a child. Nevertheless, Elvis loomed large. I also saw the jumpsuits he looked so wonderful in when he went on stage. On his bookshelf I also noticed a copy of Hermann Hesse’s “Siddhartha,” which is about the Buddha. I liked that.
I have walked the length and breadth of this entire nation, from its plains to some of its most inaccessible mountain areas. If I had to choose my single favorite place in Bhutan, it would have to be the Jigme Dorji National Park, named after the third king. This park is home to the national animal, the takin, the national flower, the blue poppy, and is home to our most pristine lakes and virgin peaks. In the park I also went on the Snowman trek, one of the toughest treks in the world. “
A fascinating look at the subject by Kuensel. Teachers are divided. But the fact that one says she allows religious objects from all faiths in order to encourage tolerance…is an interesting development for Bhutan. The subject’s come up because of the practice of teaching meditation in class, as part of the government’s “education for Gross National Happiness” policies. Meditation was introduced to classrooms about a year ago; it’s seen as a way of setting children off on the right foot. The person who runs that program says in this story that introducing Buddhist altars into the class wasn’t intended to be part of the program.