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Thứ Sáu, tháng 5 06, 2005

No. 0311 ( Tấn Liêu dịch)

Hãy tu dưỡng thân tâm

Tiffany Sakato

04 May 2005 09:49
Image hosted by Photobucket.com A monk meditating at the Nan Hua Buddhist Temple. The temple's outreach programme teaches people with HIV/Aids to meditate to cope with physical and spiritual pain. (Photograph: Tebogo Letsie)

Cô Tholakele Buthelezi là một người luôn luôn không có hy vọng. Không có công ăn việc làm với hai đứa con không cha, cô lại không có cha mẹ để ủng hộ, vì vậy cô có ý nghĩ tự kết liễu khi được chẩn đóan là bị nhiễm bệnh HIV và bệnh lao phổi vào tháng mừơi hai vừa qua. Nhưng sau khi học hỏi về năng lực thiền định từ một người bạn Phật tử, cô đã lấy lại ý chí sinh tồn. Người Phật tử này 34 tuổi từ miền nam nước Eshoew, tỉnh KwaZulu-Natal.

Cô Buthelezi nói là " Tôi tin rằng Phật giáo đã giúp tôi rất nhiều bởi tôn giáo này tập trung vào tinh thần và tâm thức." Cô ta đã từng áp dụng phương pháp sử dụng cây cỏ và xoa bóp để làm giảm các triệu chứng cho bệnh nan y của cô. Cô ta nói tiếp rằng "Thỉnh thoảng, khi các bạn bị nhiễm HIV, các bạn sẽ thấy có rất nhiều vấn đề khó chịu trong lúc đau yếu, và luôn cả trong khi bạn đang cố gắng tìm sự an lạc .Khi tôi hành thiền, tôi thật sự cảm thấy tâm hồn của tôi được giải thoát."

Cô Buthelezi đã từng đựơc điều trị hai lần mỗi ngày để đương đầu với những cơn đau đớn về thể xác và cảm xúc mà cô ta chịu đựng . Còn bây giờ cô ta chỉ cần điều trị hai lần mỗi tuần .Cô ta được sắp đặt ngồi trong một phòng tối, và những bản nhạc dịu êm được bật lên để làm bớt sự căng thẳng trong người cô ta trên một cái ghế trong vòng 10 phút .Từ từ, sự lo lắng của cô ta giảm dần, và cô có thể tập trung vào tiếng nhạc và đặt tính của từng hơi thở . Cô ta tâm sự rằng khi các bạn thở ra và thở vô, nó giống như là bạn đang thả các con chim bay ra khỏi lồng, điều quan trọng nhất là có được sự yên tĩnh trong tâm trí của các bạn.

Hướng dẫn mọi người cách điều trị tâm linh chỉ là một cách mà Phật tử miền nam nước Châu Phi đang giúp đỡ những người sống với căn bệnh nan y HIV.

Tín đồ Phật giáo, được biết là ít hơn 1 phần trăm dân số trong nước, hiện đang trình bày một phương pháp phát triển y học không chỉ đối phó với những triệu chứng bệnh tật trong cơ thể, mà còn đối phó luôn với tâm thức và những gánh nặng tâm lý mà nó tạo ra.

Ông Abby Nyakunga vượt xa ngàn dặm để đến chùa Nam Hoa (Nan Hua) ở tỉnh Bronkhorstspruit, 40 dặm về phía Đông của thành phố Pretoria, chùa Nam Hoa được coi là chùa có phương tiện lớn nhất tại Châu Phi. Ông Nyakunga nhìn nhận căn bệnh nan y HIV/Aids là một căn bệnh rất nguy hiểm ảnh hưởng tới cư dân đang sống quanh chùa. Bắt đầu năm 2002, ông tham gia với những dân cư sống trong vùng đầy lo âu tại trung tâm thành phố Zithobeni, Rethabiseng, Ekangala, Cullinan và Kwamhlanga để tổ chức chuẩn bị thức ăn và quần áo, và kêu gọi mọi người cung cấp đồ hộp, và thu thập dụng cụ y tế như là xe lăn, và những cái nạn chống dành cho người không đi được .

Những Phật tử trong chùa thường họp mặt để dạy cho mọi người đặt hết lòng tin vào sự dinh dưỡng như là một sự cần thiết bổ sung cho những hình thức điều trị của bệnh nan y HIV. Ông Nyakunga mang nhiều nhà chuyên gia từ trung tâm chăm sóc dân cư để nói về sự cần thiết ăn uống kiêng cữ cho người ăn chay.

Vào tháng Năm, nhà chùa lập ra kế hoạch tổ chức khóa tu học hai ngày cho những người bị nhiễm HIV. Khóa tu học chỉ chú tâm vào làm sao để mọi người bớt căng thẳng xuyên qua cách ngồi thiền, và luyện tập thân thể . Ngồi thiền không chỉ đơn giản là một phương thuốc, mà còn là một cách để chúng ta đối phó với căn bệnh thế kỷ HIV.

Ông Nyakunga nhấn mạnh rằng mắc bệnh nan y HIV không phải do nghiệp của kiếp trước. Thay vào đó, nó là một sự báo ứng trong kiếp này của chúng ta. Ông Nyakunga tin rằng cho dù một người nào đó có một đời sống kỷ luật, giữ năm căn bản giới luật của Phật giáo, người đó vẫn có thể bị nhiễm HIV. Ðiều chính yếu là họ tiếp nhận căn bệnh như thế nào và ảnh hưởng của nó đối với họ.

Trong khi có nhiều dấu hiệu xung quanh căn bệnh của thế kỷ HIV/Aids rất cao tại Nam Africa, Ông Downey nói rằng Phật giáo không phân biệt trong sự chăm sóc cho người nhiễm HIV dương tính và không dương tính .
Ông thuật rằng " Chúng tôi thân thiện với họ, an ủi họ. Căn bệnh HIV/Aids đối với chúng tôi chỉ là một bệnh bình thường như những căn bệnh khác. Nó không có gì đặc biệt. Chúng tôi đối xử với những người bị nhiễm bệnh HIV dương tính cũng giống như là đối xử với những người bệnh viêm phổi hay là những người bị tai nạn xe mô tô.

Tấn Liêu lược dịch


Nourishing body and soul

Tiffany Sakato

04 May 2005 09:49


Tholakele Buthelezi wasn’t always so hopeful. Unemployed with two fatherless children and no parents to support her, she considered killing herself when she was diagnosed with HIV and tuberculosis last December. But after learning about the power of meditation from a Buddhist friend, the 34-year-old from Eshowe in KwaZulu-Natal has regained her will to live.

“I can say that Buddhism has helped me a lot because of its spiritual focus on the mind and soul,” says Buthelezi, who also uses herbal remedies and aromatherapy to ease her symptoms. “Sometimes, when you’ve got [HIV], you take on the problems of the sickness when you are trying to just feel well. When I meditate, I really feel my soul becoming free.”

Buthelezi used to need to meditate twice a day to cope with the physical and emotional pain she felt. Now she meditates just twice a week. She sits in a darkened room, switches on some calming music, and relaxes her body in a chair for 10 minutes. Little by little, Buthelezi’s worries diminish as she concentrates on the sound and quality of each exhalation. “As you breathe in and breathe out, it’s like you’re letting the birds fly,” she says. “The most important thing is to get peace in your mind.”

Teaching people how to meditate is just one of the ways that Buddhists in South Africa are assisting people living with HIV.

Buddhists, who comprise less than 1% of the country’s population, have developed a unique outreach method that deals not just with the physical symptoms of the disease, but also with the spiritual and psychological burdens it creates.

“If people understand meditation, then they understand themselves and they won’t feel bad ... or despair for having Aids,” says Abby Nyakunga, outreach coordinator for the Nan Hua Buddhist Temple. Located in Bronkhorstspruit, 40km east of Pretoria, the temple is the largest Buddhist facility in Africa.Nyakunga recognises HIV/Aids as one of the most serious problems affecting the temple’s neighbouring communities. Since 2002, he has joined forces with several home-based care centres in Zithobeni, Rethabiseng, Ekangala, Cullinan and Kwamhlanga to organise food and clothing drives, run monthly soup kitchens and collect medical supplies such as wheelchairs and crutches.

The temple hosts regular workshops to teach people of all faiths about nutrition as a necessary complement to any form of HIV medication. Nyakunga brings in specialists from home-based care centres to talk about following a healthy vegetarian diet.

In May, the temple is planning a free two-day “upliftment retreat” for people with HIV. The retreat will focus on how to ease people’s minds through meditation and physical exercises. Meditation is not taught as an alternative to medication, but as an additional tool for coping with HIV.

According to Buddhist beliefs, meditation and physical exercise are only the first steps toward alleviating the psychological burden of living with HIV. “You have to accept that the body is impermanent,” says Nyakunga. “Whether through HIV/Aids or old age or a fatal accident, your body will perish. The only thing that will continue is your spirit.”

Buddhist teaching advises abstinence or the use of condoms in order to prevent the spread of HIV. Some temples deliver free condoms to taverns, shebeens and home-based care centres.

Nyakunga says it is vital to care for one’s body and avoid disease by any means necessary.

Buddhists believe in cultivating their spirit through multiple lifetimes to eventually achieve enlightenment. The quality of each life is determined by the behaviour of the previous life, according to the concept of karma.

But Nyakunga stresses that contracting HIV is not punishment for the acts of a previous life. Instead, it is a direct result of a person’s current circumstances. Even if a person lives a disciplined life following the five basic precepts of Buddhism, one of which is monogamy, Nyakunga understands that a person can still get HIV. What matters then is how the person accepts the disease and its effect on the body.

Acknowledging that HIV affects more than just those infected, some Buddhist priests, such as Heila Downey in the Western Cape, find themselves advising other religious leaders in rural areas on how to formulate an appropriate strategy. Downey, who represents the Dharma Centre in Robertson, meets with nurses from a nearby hospice who witness people dying from Aids every day.

“It’s very interesting to me. Some days there’s actually very little to be said,” explains Downey. “It appears to me that they have this incredible capability to say, ‘This is the way it is. This is my job. I just do the best I can.’”

While the stigma surrounding HIV/Aids is still high in South Africa, Downey says Buddhists make no distinction between caring for someone who is HIV-positive and someone who is not.

“We embrace people, we hold people,” says Downey. “HIV/Aids, for us, is just another illness. It’s not something special. We would deal with someone who is HIV-positive exactly the same way as someone who has pneumonia or who has been in a motorcycle accident.”

http://www.mg.co.za/articlepage.aspx?area=/insight/monitor&articleid=236966
No 0317

Crooning monk defrocked in Cambodia
Friday May 6, 12:09 PM

A Buddhist abbot accused of singing karaoke and wearing normal street clothes in southeastern Cambodia has been defrocked, a newspaper reported Friday.

Police and villagers nabbed Um Samnang, 21, as he returned last week to Choutika Ram pagoda _ where he was the abbot _ wearing civilian clothes instead of the saffron- or burgundy-colored robes monks traditionally wear, the Cambodia Daily reported.

Villagers tipped off police, telling them they believed that Um Samnang had borrowed clothes from students at the pagoda and went out to sing karaoke about 10 times, Ngin Sophal, a local police chief, told the newspaper.

Monks are not allowed to wear normal clothes or seek pleasure.

About 90 percent of Cambodia's 13 million people are Buddhist, with about 60,000 monks living in more than 4,000 temples across the country.

Authorities have tried to discourage unbecoming behavior by Buddhist monks in recent months, banning televised images of monks watching artistic performances and a pop song about a monk falling in love titled "Wrongly Quitting Monkhood for Love."

Several monks also grabbed newspaper headlines last year for fighting with slingshots and petrol bombs at a temple, molesting a boy, and for beating a man and stealing motorcycles.

http://feeds.bignewsnetwork.com/redir.php?jid=0d8dac692565bb59&cat=f97ff7b11934dbb6
No. 0316 ( Minh Hạnh dịch)

Young artist tries to put a finger on the subjective nature of reality

by Dan Tranberg, Special to The Plain Dealer,

Cleveland, Ohio (USA) -- Who am I? Where did I come from? Where am I going?
These questions are central to the very origins of modern art. But the interwoven subjects of personal, ethnic and spiritual identity also have be come increasingly more visible in works of even younger artists.
For New York-based artist Katarina Wong, the seventh participant in Spaces Gallery's World Artist Program, such questions are inevitably linked to a larger philosophical question: What is the nature of reality?
"I was thinking about the Buddhist idea that there is no such thing as objective reality," says Wong, who spent three months working in Cleveland this summer. "And then I was thinking, How is this true?' "
That question led Wong to investigate the nature of identity and to one idea in particular. "Identity is not housed in my physical body, it is housed in other people's memories, and those people live all over the world."
During her residency in Cleveland, Wong used this notion of identity as the basis for a project in which she made molds of people's fingerprints and then used the molds to make hundreds of wax castings. She mounted the wax forms (which, from a distance, look like minnows or slugs) to the walls of the gallery in a configuration that resembles a map of commercial airline flight patterns.
Titled "Still Center," the piece is immediately striking for its beauty. The wax castings are tinted with graphite and range in tone from pure black to translucent, yellowish white. Combined with their gray shadows, they form a radiant image that seems to flicker with light.
It is only upon close investigation that the castings look like fingerprints, an idea Wong said came from her desire to "capture something about peoples' essence."
Once this is realized, the piece immediately raises the issue of personal identity and the ironic reality that in many ways, we are very similar to one another.
Such paradoxes are intrinsic to Buddhism, Wong's primary field of study. She holds a master of theology in Buddhist studies from Harvard Divinity School as well as a master of fine arts in sculpture from the University of Maryland.
Combining her interests in art and Buddhism, Wong will use the work she did in Cleveland as part of an international event called "The Missing Peace: The Dalai Lama Portrait Project," in which 50 artists will exhibit works in a series of exhibitions around the world.
The exhibition tour will open in Los Angeles in 2006 and will travel to Japan and throughout Europe before closing in New York City in 2008.
Wong said that the project's organizers asked for one of her fingerprint pieces, which she has been developing for the past four or five years.
Her experience at Spaces is perhaps the most clearly productive example to date of the World Artist Program at work. In addition to having a show at Spaces and meeting with members of the local art and Buddhist communities, she produced work that will travel the world.
On Friday, Oct. 15, she also will participate in a panel discussion at Spaces (along with local artists Royden Watson and Kristin Baumlier and visiting Hungarian artist Katarina Sevic) on the topic of artists making the transition from art school to the world at large.
While Wong's Cleveland project is successful in obvious ways, it also contains subtle reminders of a major issue brewing among younger artists the question of identity and what it means.
As technology continues to make the world seem smaller and smaller, artists such as Wong are considering the reality that identity is not only what distinguishes us as individuals; it's also what makes us connected.
Tranberg is an artist and writer living in Cleveland.
No. 0315 ( Tấn Liêu dịch)

Souls greeting souls

Meditation groups are emerging as a way of connecting and sharing wisdom

FLORIDA WEST -BY STEVE HEISLER CORRESPONDENT

Image hosted by Photobucket.comJacquie Riker gathers with friends in a circle in her home for spiritual explorations.

Every other Monday night, settled on sofas, chairs and the floor, they practice namaste -- soul greeting soul -- during an evening of music and meditation.

"The circle symbolizes eternity that has no beginning and no end," said Riker, an ordained New Thought minister. "When we're in a circle, we're close enough that all of our energy fields of our bodies are connected and we can all see each other, so it creates the space of connection with each other. That's one of the things that's so lacking in our culture ... the sense of being seen and connected and heard."

That sense of connection is being sought more and more in groups such as Riker's, outside of the confines of a Sunday worship service.

"I begin a guided meditation to enhance our sense of grounding and to open our hearts so that when we begin to voice tone, the sound that comes up and out of our throat is the sound of pure love of our heart," Riker said. "We tone as one unified voice and send that out to the world."

While Riker regularly leads her Monday circle, she is involved with another gathering in which anyone may direct the actions.

The New Moon group is one solely for women that meets monthly on the eve of the lunar event for which it's named. In a collaborative, egalitarian fashion, members such as Bradenton's Kim Fabre take turns leading sacred rituals.

"We take turns hosting and leading," said Fabre, a dentist. "There's a Native American tradition where the women would gather during the new moon -- they called it a moon lodge -- and they'd gather their wisdom together."

Wisdom, in that context under Fabre's direction, has included a mer-ka-ba meditation, a type of energy work that is said to clear one's body and surrounding area.

The eight-women gatherings have meditated on artworks from an art therapist. They've also made use of Fabre's neighbor's labyrinth, or maze.

Modeled after France's Chartres Cathedral labyrinth, it fits in well with the group's focus.

Traditionally, the labyrinth represents a spiritual walk through life, Fabre said of their journeys through the 30-foot maze.

Fabre's spiritual path is a marked departure from her upbringing.

Raised in a family that believed in some strict Methodist and Lutheran traditions, she now says "the world is my church."

Her new belief system evolved after a revelation in the early 1990s. She said she began to question the dogma of organized religion in her mid-30s.

"I had a spiritual crisis where what I was told was completely incongruous with my experiences in life," she said. "It was a point in my life where you can't ignore the things that don't make sense anymore."

In the case of Julie Burch's circle, love has an ever-evolving meaning. Her group was born four years ago out of a book discussion. Initially Burch, who attends the Center for Spiritual Awakening, and 15 friends gathered to discuss Bell Hooks' book, "All About Love" (HarperCollins). That discussion among like-minded spiritual women has evolved as they examined facets of the concept.

"It was meant as a point of departure for sharing our own wisdom," Burch said. "It was a departure for some deep thinking and conversation. We were looking at love from every angle, family and spiritually and how it showed up in our lives and how we were practicing it."

As they segued into other books -- they're now on "The Art of Being" -- Burch and her friends from New Thought and Science of the Mind backgrounds realized they were enveloped in a different issue.

"To me and the people in the group, there wasn't a separation between looking at love and looking at the spirit," said Burch, who hosts the group at her home the second Saturday of every month. "When you think about how love operates in your life, it's very similar to how God or spirit operates in your life."

Burch, a Southside Elementary art teacher, and Riker, who for 13 years ministered at the Center for Positive Living in Sarasota and still leads a monthly meditation there, and who also attends Burch's group, feel that the growing prevalence of circles can only be seen as a positive.

"There's something about having an intimate discussion that's extremely powerful," Burch said. "I'd say there's a center of gravity in the community and the more groups like this raises the center of gravity. There's something about people being in alignment with their source where they can move into their lives with a sense of integrity and wisdom."

"We've gone to ad nauseam classes and seminars and read books," Riker said. "People are starving for this type of spirituality, to be able to go inside and rekindle that flame of the divine that we all carry within us."

http://www.heraldtribune.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20050505/FEATURES/505050420/1270/NEWS0101
No. 0314

Anna and the retarded education


By METTANANDO BHIKKHU, Bangkok Post, May 6, 2005

Thai monastic education is trapped in the past and by rules which are as quixotic as they are anachronistic

Bangkok, Thailand -- The good news about a Buddhist monastic education is that it has served Thailand and most Buddhist countries in Asia as the main thrust of literacy for hundreds of years. This is attested to in the records of foreigners and Christian missionaries in Asia who were surprised by the high literacy rate among native Buddhists in countries such as Sri Lanka, Burma, Siam and Mongolia.


The monastic system provided many boys from poor rural areas a way up the social ladder. Many leaders in Asia were educated or supported by monks or nuns before attaining success in life. However, this does not mean that the traditional monastic education and training is the foundation of an advanced learning system as required by modern society.

The bad news about education in Buddhist monasteries in Thailand is that it is based almost exclusively on memorisation; critical thinking plays little part. It is conditioned by the traditional system of feudal obedience. No student has the right to question his teachers.

This is in contrast with the liberal and critical attitude of early Buddhist monastic training expounded by the Buddha in the canonical literature. This does not condone any concept of obedience to the guru. The message of the Buddha encourages his listeners not to believe in him nor accept his teachings without putting them to the test of thorough and critical analysis.

Monks here are taught to accept the teachings of their master without question. Criticism or analysis of any passage or myth about the life of Buddha is neither welcome nor tolerated.

Worse than the rigid system of religious orthodoxy in the monastic philosophy of education is that students in this education system are not encouraged to study the Tipitaka, the very canonical literature of Buddhism. Instead, their studies are limited to commentaries from the Mahavihara monastery in Sri Lanka of the 5th century CE. The traditional system of exegesis is based on fables and tales written by commentators and preserved in the Pali language, which is believed to be the language of the state of Magadha, the legendary root language of the cosmos, spoken by the Buddha.

Despite the fact the legend of the root language of Pali as the language of the Buddha has no support in the Tipitaka, this belief is one of the distinctive characteristics of Theravada Buddhism, which is the only form of the religion that takes the language as the one and only sacred language of Buddhism. Based on this assumption, Buddhist scriptures in Tibetan, Chinese or Mongolian are seen as heterodox.

Even worse than this is that the text on Pali grammar, mandated for national Pali examination in Thailand, differs greatly from books of Pali grammar taught in other Theravada countries. Not only is this book without references, thus preventing readers from learning about the history and origin of Pali, its format is not based on the traditional book of grammar in Pali that was known in Sri Lanka or Burma.

The Pali Grammar Book, written by Somdet Phra Mahasamanchao Krom Phra Vajirayanvarosos, classifies Pali grammar into four parts: morphology, parts of speech, syntax and the prosody system of division not shared in books of Pali grammar taught in other Theravada countries. Nowhere in this authoritative book does the princely monk acknowledge his sources. The alien format of the grammar was taken from Victorian English. The source of the format, of course, was taken from his English instructor when he was a young prince. This could have been Anna Leonowens, who was employed by King Rama IV to educate the royal children.

Because of the authority of the princely monk, who later became the leader of Buddhism in Thailand, the syllabus cannot be changed. Monks and novices are forced to memorise the paradigms, and the hybrid Pali grammar posed in a modern European language; the learning style is like parrots without any clear understanding of its true meaning. The translation they learn is based entirely on what their teacher tells them; no independent thinking is allowed. It is not surprising therefore that the Thai translation of Pali literature is quite different in several details from that of other scholars in the Pali language and from other Theravada Buddhist countries.

Worse than this already bad news is that there is no way for the Thai feudal monastic system to reform monastic education, as it is closely intertwined with the monarchy and pride of ecclesiastical feudalism.

The adverse effect of the current traditional monastic education is obvious in Thai society, where monks are taken as leaders. When scholars and civic leaders are pushing for education reform, their efforts are retarded by monks who see the child-centred model of modern education as sacrilegious to the Buddhist ideal in which the Dharma should be the centre.

Attached to this traditional value, so-called the Dharma as they interpret the religion, is Buddhist chauvinism and religious complacency. Anna might not have expected the influence of her teaching in the court of Siam to have lasted this long.

-------------------
Mettanando Bhikkhu is a staunch critic of the Ecclesiastical Council, and a former physician with an MA from Oxford University and a doctorate from Hamburg University, Germany
http://www.buddhistchannel.tv/index.php?id=8,1125,0,0,1,0
No. 0313

The healing powers of Buddhist meditation

By Nick Pinto, Town Online Staff Writer, May 5, 2005

ACTON, Massachusetts (USA) -- Members of the Clocktower Sangha speak very little as they trickle into the South Acton Congregational Church for their weekly meeting the evening of April 25. Those who have brought cushions or small wooden kneeling-benches on which to sit arrange them in a circle on the bare wood floor. Others add folding chairs to the circle. At the front of the circle, one member lights candles and arranges a picture of the Buddha on a small table to create a makeshift shrine.



When everything is ready, the lights are dimmed, and the nine people in attendance bow and sit. One woman strikes a small hand-held bell, and the group settles into 25 minutes of silent meditation.

The Clocktower Sangha has only been meeting at the church since last fall, but it has existed in one form or another for nine years.

"The group started when my wife and I moved to Maynard in May of 1996," said Andrew Weiss, a founding member and teacher of the group. "I had been one of the founders of a meditation community in the Boston-Cambridge area which for a while went by the name of the Community of Interbeing. That had begun as a group of people who had gone on retreat with the Vietnamese monk Thich Nhat Hanh in 1989. I helped to start that group and run it, but then I moved to Maynard, and it became unrealistic to continue my involvement."

Upon arriving in Maynard, Weiss decided to start a new group for himself and people in the area. He told the few people he knew who lived in the area that he wanted to start a Buddhist practice group in his home and waited to see what sort of interest he could raise.

"At our first meeting, eight people showed up, most of whom I didn't know," Weiss said. "That showed me that there was a real need for this sort of thing."

The group met at Weiss's house every other Thursday for the first two years, but soon members were asking to meet more often. For a time the group met weekly, alternating between Weiss's home and that of another member. In 2002 the other member moved away, and Weiss and his wife decided it was time for a break from opening their home to the group every other week. The group met at another member's home in Maynard until the opportunity to meet in the church presented itself.

"It was a nice coincidence," Weiss said. "Katrina Wuensch, the woman who became the new pastor at the Congregational Church, moved into a house near our house, so through that and other connections we were able to use the space in the church."

The shift from meeting in homes to meeting in a more public space has changed the dynamics of the group somewhat, Weiss said.

"It's different - a home is more intimate and can be more casual. That has advantages and disadvantages," Weiss said. "The intimacy of a home leads to an openness in which it can be easier for members of the group to reach a deeper level of sharing. That's not to say that you can't reach a deep level of sharing in a more public space, but it can take longer and be more difficult. On the other hand, the drawback of that intimacy and casualness that comes with meeting in a home is that 'casual' can become 'sloppy.' We tried hard to make sure that we didn't become sloppy in our practice, but I think it may have happened some."

Back in the dimly lit room of the church, the silence deepens. At first it seems that the only sounds are those of a passing train and the occasional car whispering past on School Street, but eventually more subtle sounds present themselves - the ticking of the heating system; the quiet rush of air vents; the soft in-and-out of the sitters' breathing. Finally, the bell sounds again, and the group bows, rises, and turns to face left. At another signal from the bell, they began to walk slowly around the circle in a form of walking meditation. The room settles into a new kind of silence, punctuated by the popping and creaking of the floorboards under the group's stocking feet.

The sitting and walking meditations practiced by the Clocktower Sangha have their roots in Asian Buddhist traditions, but this Buddhism has traveled a long way from Asia. In fact, none of the members of the sangha are Asian themselves, and all of them have come to their Buddhist practice on their own - none of them were born Buddhist.

For Weiss, this distinctly American quality, the fact that the Sangha's members are practicing ancient traditions born in Asia but are approaching them from the perspective of their own distinctly American experiences, is both interesting and irrelevant.

"To give a very Zen answer to the question of why I practice, I practice because I practice. There doesn't have to be a reason. But I think more generally, if you ask people who engage in Buddhist practice you'll get a whole bunch of reasons. People come to Buddhist practice because they are facing something in their lives. There is often a difficulty or a dilemma that causes them some suffering - it doesn't have to be intense suffering. Some people are attracted to Buddhist practice because Buddhism doesn't have a creed attached to it. In it's purest form, Buddhism is about waking up to what is, with as few preconceptions about what that is as possible. Put another way, questions are more important than answers."

Weiss said that the purity of this approach transcends regional and cultural differences.

"That's not so say that there aren't a whole lot of religious overlays on top of that as Buddhism is expressed in different parts of the world," Weiss said. "Buddhism started in Northern India about 2600 years ago and then traveled elsewhere, to China, Japan, southeast Asia, and Tibet. As it traveled, it met with and absorbed the existing religious traditions that were in those places already. The Bon worship in Tibet, Shinto in Japan, and Taoism in China - all of them were incorporated into Buddhism as it was expressed in those cultures."

This adaptation and evolution of Buddhism as it spreads is a process that continues to this day, Weiss said.

"Something we're seeing now is that it is developing its own unique flavor here in the U.S. as well," he said. "It's a process that we're part of or practice now."

For Weiss, the American values of independence, self-determination, and democracy are some of the most powerful cultural factors shaping American Buddhism today.

"A lot of people come to Buddhism in the U.S. with experience in Congregational or Quaker communities, and they're looking for an egalitarian community - something, if not exactly leaderless, at least with substantial involvement of the general practitioners in the leadership. That's not the Asian model at all. In Asia, the Buddhist community is generally run by monastics, and there is a strict hierarchy within the monastic leadership."

The evolution of Buddhism in America often prompts a skeptical response among observers. Some people wonder whether American Buddhism loses authenticity as it strays from its Asian roots. Historically, this anxiety about legitimacy in a new Buddhist tradition has some precedent. When Buddhism first spread to China hundreds of years after the Buddha's death, Chinese monks made long and perilous pilgrimages over the Himalayas to ancient Buddhist monasteries in India, where they hoped to reconnect with an original and authoritative Buddhism. Over time, Chinese Buddhists became more self-confident in the authority of their own Buddhist traditions and experiences.

Weiss sees the same process taking place today in America.

"We're at a very early stage in the transmission of Buddhism to the U.S.," he said. "Buddhism first came to America in the 1800s. In fact, some of the first translations of Buddhist texts in America were actually done by Henry David Thoreau. But Buddhism didn't really begin to flourish in America until the 1950s, so if you were to map this onto the Asian evolution of Buddhism, we're still living in the first 50 or 100 years of the Buddha's death. It's very early, so we don't know what it will look like 300 years. We just know that whatever it does look like is going to depend in part on who we are and what we do."

Weiss believes that American Buddhists are beginning to trust themselves, however.

"We're starting to emerge from that period when American Buddhists are lacking in self confidence of our own American Buddhist experience," he said. "There are still people who feel like a teacher has to come from Asia to have validity, but I'm seeing less and less of that. And you see how many Asian teachers have made a real effort to nurture American leaders. We're getting into the second generation of American teachers now. if you look at the Vipassana, or insight meditation tradition, the leaders there are Jack Kornfield, Joseph Goldstein, and Marian MacDonald. They're all U.S.ers, and they're training U.S.ers as well."

Weiss is an ordained priest in two different Buddhist traditions - a Japanese Zen tradition known as the White Plum lineage, brought to America by Maizumi Roshi, and the Kwan-Um school of Zen, brought to America from Korea by Seung Sahn.

"When you look at those two groups today, you see that most of the teachers in those traditions are American today," he said. "Maizumi Roshi ordained Bernie Glassman, a nice Jewish boy from New York as his successor. If you look at the top level of leadership in that group, there is not an Asian person among them."

Weiss said he does not believe this passing of the torch to be accidental.

"What these Asian teachers did, with a lot of foresight and a lot of magnanimity, was say, 'Buddhism is going to flourish here,' and they cultivated it by cultivating a generation of American teachers," he said.

After the walking meditation, the group sits again in silent sitting mediation before reading together from a book by the American Buddhist teacher Pema Chodron. Afterwards, they sit together sipping tea and speak about their own efforts to apply Buddhist practice in their lives. The conversation is slow and contemplative, with each member bowing before they speak and the group waiting for three breaths before responding. Sometimes these conversations are very intimate, sometimes they are not.

The story of how Weiss himself came to Buddhist practice is decidedly intimate, but he shares it readily nonetheless.

"I had survived the death of my first wife and the dissolution of an engagement a few years after that," he said. "At that time I found myself in Thailand, going around on a bicycle to different temples there and sitting in the shrine halls, which are generally outdoors, and just crying and crying. One of the monks I met there began to help me, and I continued that practice when I returned to the U.S."

Weiss said that his practice has helped him to become less reactive and less defensive.

"It has helped me to live a steadier life," he said. "It has helped me to have a more direct experience of the parts of my life that can teach me."

After the conversation has dwindled, the group members stand up to wash their tea cups and replace the chairs and cushions. The candles are extinguished and the altar disassembled. People step out into the darkness and make for their cars.

"We don't teach people in the Clocktower Sangha. That's not what we do." Weiss said. "We are a group of people trying to liberate our minds from our preconceptions of what the world is, and what our roles in it are. We're trying to come at the world with a softer, more open, more questioning perspective, rather than a harder perspective that presumes to know the answers before the questions have even been asked."
http://www.buddhistchannel.tv/index.php?id=2,1128,0,0,1,0
No. 0309 ( Khánh Văn dịch)

Thủ tướng Thái Lan sẽ chủ tọa đón mừng đại lễ Tam Hợp

BANGKOK, May 4 (TNA)— Thủ tướng Thái Lan, ông Thaksin Shinawatra, sẽ hướng dẫn quốc gia chào mừng lễ Tam Hợp vào ngày 22 tháng 5, ngày Đức Phật ra đời, giác ngộ, và nhập niết bàn. Ðại lễ sẽ kéo dài một tuần từ 16 đến 22 tháng 5, với khẩu hiệu “ Ngày Tam Hợp- Ngày cho hòa bình thế giới.”

Hôm qua, một số vận động viên cho ngày lễ Tam Hợp toàn quốc ghé thăm ông thủ tướng cùng bộ nội các trong buổi họp mặt thường lệ hàng tuần. Trong số vận động viên này gồm có mộtcô đã từng đoạt giải hoa hậu Thái lan, một số ca sĩ, và một sư cô, là một trong những nữ tu sĩ được kính trọng nhất hiện nay. Tất cả những vị này sẽ là chủ tọa cho chương trình trong tuần lễ Tam Hợp này.
Nhân trong dịp lễ này, sinh nhật lần thứ 80 của đức vua Thái Lan sẽ đến vào mùa thu năm 2007, cũng được đề cập đến.
Phật tử trên toàn quốc sẽ được khuyến khích để cầu nguyện, và cũng được khuyến khích gửi bưu thiếp đến để chúc tụng đến ngày sinh nhật của đức vua Thái Lan.
Khánh Văn dịch

PM to act as presenter for Visakabucha celebrations

Last Update : 2005-05-04 / 12:12:28 (GMT+7:00)

BANGKOK, May 4 (TNA) – Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra is to demonstrate his Buddhist credentials when he leads the nation in religious worship to mark this year’s Visakabucha Day on 22 May.

With Thailand hosting this year’s celebrations on 22 May – the day commemorating the Buddha’s birth, enlightenment and death – a whole week of events has been scheduled to take place in Bangkok’s Sanam Luang from 16-22 May, under the slogan “Visakabucha – Day of World Peace’.

Yesterday the prime minister, who was visited before the cabinet's weekly meeting by an unlikely delegation of religious campaigners which included a former Miss Thailand, pop stars and one of the nation’s most famous nuns, confirmed that he would act as presenter for the main events on 22 May.

In part the celebrations will be in honour of His Majesty the King’s 80th birthday, due to fall in 2007.

Joining the prime minister will be two mascots – a white one to symbolize goodness and a black one to symbolize wrongdoing.

Buddhists across the nation will be encouraged to pray for their own personal goodness, as well as to send prayers on pre-prepared postcards to the Prime Minister’s Office to mark His Majesty the King’s birthday.

Also being promoted this year as symbols of Visakabucha Day are lotus flowers, the profits from the sale of which will go towards the organization of the day’s events. (TNA)--E006


http://feeds.bignewsnetwork.com/redir.php?jid=361c3dd16a23b25b&cat=f97ff7b11934dbb6
No. 0312 ( Hạt Cát dịch)

Ðất lở trên Nga Mi Sơn.

By Wu Yixue, China Daily, May 4, 2005

Lời người dịch: Cách đây không lâu chúng ta đã được nghe tường thuật về khu du lịch thánh địa Phật Giáo ở Nga Mi Sơn, Trung Quốc với pho tượng Ðại Phật bằng đá tạc Ðức Di Lặc lớn nhất thế giới và gần đây pho tượng này bị mưa acit làm hư hỏng trầm trọng nên chính phủ Trung quốc đã dành ra ngân khoảng 30 triệu Mỹ Kim để trùng tu và bảo toàn pho tượng Phật này, mới đây trên tờ China Daily số ra ngày 4 tháng 5 đã loan báo một bản tin có liên quan đến khu thắng tích này, kính mời đại chúng nghe bản tin “Ðất lở trên Nga Mi Sơn”

Mt. Emei, Sichuan- Hai trận núi lở xảy ra ở một khu du lịch thắng tích nồi tiếng tại Tứ Xuyên trong lễ hội mùa Xuân May Day đã không làm thiệt mạng và gây thương tổn cho ai. Tất cả đều xảy ra ở Nga My Sơn, một trong bốn ngọn núi Thánh Ðịa Phật Giáo Trung Quốc, cũng là một trong những ngọn núi phong cảnh hùng vĩ nhất Trung Quốc.


Hằng trăm mét khối cát, đá đổ xuống một con đường vào ngày 2 tháng 05, ngày thứ nhì của tuần lễ hội Xuân. Trận lở núi xảy ra sau một cơn mưa lớn và là trận nghiêm trọng nhất kể từ 6 năm nay.

Trận đầu tiên xảy ra lúc 7:40 sáng tại vị trí cách chùa Bảo Quốc 7 km trên tuyến đường đi lên Kim Ðính.
Căn cứ theo viên chức hữu trách khu vực, hằng trăm mét khối đá, cát bất thình lình đổ xuống con đường duy nhất đưa lên Vạn Niên Tự và Kim Ðính.

Nhà hữu trách lập tức xúc tiến khẩn cấp công tác thu dọn, hai xe đào đất ở gần đấy đã được đưa tới giúp đỡ.

Ðể bảo đảm an toàn cho số lớn du khách, phòng quản lý nhân sự cho dựng một tấm bảng báo hiệu ngăn chặn xe cộ lui tới khu vực.
Ðộ nửa giờ khi số cát đá đổ xuống được dọn dẹp di chuyển đi nơi khác, xe cộ bắt đầu qua lại thì một trận khác xảy ra cùng vị trí.
Người ta ước đoán có khoảng 10 ngàn mét khối đất đá cây cối, sình bùn đã đổ xuống từ triền núi làm con đường bị tắt nghẽn.
Nhà hữu trách Nga Mi Sơn một lần nữa lại huy động nhân lực và cơ khí đến để giải tỏa số đất đá chướng ngại vật này.

Người ta nghĩ rằng trận núi lở xảy ra là do ảnh hưởng trực tiếp của cơn mưa lớn trong đêm trước. Toán nhân viên hữu trách cũng đã đề cao cảnh giác để đối phó với trường hợp tương tự sẽ xảy ra, và họ cũng nói rằng bằng mọi cách sẽ sớm giải tỏa con đường cho du khách dễ dàng lui tới khu vực.
Hạt Cát dịch


Emei landslides pose no harm to tourists

By Wu Yixue, China Daily, May 4, 2005

Mt. Emei, Sichuan (China) -- Two landslides in a popular tourist destination in Sichuan Province over the May Day holiday did not kill or injure anyone. It all took place at Mount Emei, one of China's four Buddhist Mountains and one of the country's most prestigious scenic spots.

That was despite hundreds of cubic metres of sand and stone pouring down onto a major road on May 2, the second day of the ongoing week-long May Day vacation.

The landslides, following heavy rainfall, were the most serious in six years.

About 7:40 am the first landslide occurred, seven kilometres from the Baoguo Temple on route to the Jinding (Gold Summit Peak).

According to the mountain's management authorities, hundreds of cubic metres of sand and stone suddenly swept down to the road which serves as the only passage to the Wannian Temple, Leidong Lawn and Jinding.

The authorities immediately began their emergency procedures.

Two nearby excavators were quickly taken to the site to clear away the sand and stone blocking the road.

To ensure the safety of the large number of tourists, management personnel also erected a cordon to prevent cars coming and going.

After about half an hour, most of the debris had been removed and cars and buses had just started to move again.

However, just then there was another powerful landslide in the same spot.

An estimated 10,000 cubic metres of stones, trees and mud came crashing down the side of the mountain, blocking the cleared passage.

The Mount Emei management authorities then mobilized more manpower and resources.

They opened a 2.5 kilometre-long passage nearby, linking Shichuanzi to Wuxiangang, so tourists could still go up and down the mountain.

The landslides were thought to be directly related to overnight rainfall.

The management team is on high alert against further landslides.

They said they are doing all they can to get the blocked passage open for tourists

http://www.buddhistchannel.tv/index.php?id=1,1123,0,0,1,0