It's Guitar Week at the Swannanoa Gathering in Western North Carolina. Look at who was jamming at midnight on the front porch: Pat Donahue (from Prairie Home Companion), Mike Dowling, Paul Asbell, Mary Flower, Peter Mulvey and on mandolin, Robin Bullock. Playing acoustic blues until dawn, purely for the love of the music.
Did you know that religions officially competed against each other? Apparently so, and Buddhism WON! (Did you know that Buddhism is a religion?) SCORE! Is anybody listening? Don't let me disturb your meditation.The only problem, the contest holders can't find a Buddhist who is willing to accept the award! Read it here and silently applaud.
This seems like a clever hoax. The supposed organization who sponsors the award, The International Coalition for the Advancement of Religious and Spirituality (ICARUS) is nowhere to be found on the web. Any verifications out there?
Let's send little Emily Chen, eleven months old, to accept the award!
(Click on the photo to see it bigger.)
I want to speak out about people who love to predict disasters, and I mean Buddhists. A chain letter email going round alerts the unwary that because of the total solar eclipse occurring on July 22nd, there will definitely be an earthquake and tsunami in the oceans of Southeast Asia. The warning states that the solar eclipse will destabilize the four tectonic plates that converge in and around the Indian subcontinent. It even predicts the time that cities across China and Japan will be hit and the seismic severity of the quake. Even if such frightening rumors were true, even if one had the power to predict the future, as those who forward this email around imply, any truly compassionate person should pause before they terrify people and check out the facts. The facts are: eclipses don't cause earthquakes.
I’m disturbed when people who call themselves Buddhists are ready and willing to spread fear. There may be a tsunami on the 22nd, for that matter there may be an earthquake this very evening or any evening. But what will the Buddhists say, especially Master Hsuan Hua's disciples, if there is no tragedy on the 22nd? Do we shuffle and grin and claim a victory, that our mantra works and we are responsible for keeping the calamity away? It’s just like the old joke where somebody wants to sell you a product, his aerosol spray, that he claims is tiger repellent. When challenged that there aren’t any tigers anywhere near, his reply is, “Effective isn’t it? Won’t you buy some?“ The July 22nd Tsunami prediction is a hoax, an urban legend.
Are we that hungry for a reputation of having special powers that we take any chance to advertise our cultivation, or more precisely, our teacher’s cultivation? Cultivation done for others to see is not the real thing. In fact a reputation gained by intimidating others may in fact increase our wrong views and unwholesome affinities.
There may be an event as predicted. If it happens, we will certainly respond appropriately then. The idea seems to have originated with one German scientist Hans Lehner, who has a reputation for prognostication and is considered a rebel among quantum physicists. The media loves controversy and sensation, and has picked up this questionable prediction; irresponsible individuals keep it churning, such is he way with other urban legends.
I have already received three such warning emails from certain individuals, who sent it out in bulk, hoping to spread it as widely as possible, telling people to “stay off the beaches” on July 22nd. I hope those folks will consider sending this link that quotes scientists from Cal Tech who claim with authority that “eclipses do not cause earthquakes.“ to the same people to whom you sent the frightening warning. Perhaps you can give an alternative, scientific view, and let people choose for themselves whom they believe.
Don't we want people to look at Buddhism as a teaching on virtue, wisdom and compassion? I for one want to heed Master Hua's exhortation not to mention psychic powers when teaching the Dharma in the West. Virtue and compassion are the key items in this culture; not being accurate seers of disasters.
The rumor mongers hold the attitude of the gambler; they stake their reputation, indeed the reputation of the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas on being powerful fortune-tellers. Do psychics also transform their faults and bad habits? Will being right in predicting calamities change anyone's afflictions? Will it help them make the Resolve for Bodhi? Let's encourage living beings towards wisdom and compassion, and exhort people by our personal example to cultivate all the time, not just to keep off bad luck. Maybe we could cultivate with a heart of great kindness all the time, regardless of adverse or favorable situations.
Canadian songwriter and guitar builder Fabrizio Alberico in 2005 wrote a song called "Three Steps and One Bow." Ha Guo Hong posted the lyrics and included an audio file on his site. Click here to listen to "Three Steps and One Bow."
Three Steps One Bow
Fabrizio Alberico, 2005
I’ve been running away from a future
That looks nothing like my past
And the only peace I ever found
Is the kind that never lasts
Brand new car, tailored suit, shiny diamond ring
Fleeting joy cannot disguise the same old suffering
One day I’ll walk without touching the ground
I’ll speak without making a sound
I won’t seek, just walk in a different time
Three steps and one bow
Three steps and one bow
Desire’s a single flavour
What I crave is something more
Something I can bite into that’s not rotten at the core
One meal a day is all I need to keep me on the road
And the wisdom carried on my back
Will lighten up the load
So I’ll walk for the people I meet on the streets
And the ones I’ve never seen
And I’ll bow down to a universe
Where few have ever been
Going to change my mind to change my ways
My actions will be clear
Got to turn the world away from
All this arrogance and fear
3 million steps, a million bows, forehead to the ground
800 miles to touch the world with the peace that I have found
I’ve looked down the barrel of a gun
And thought, time for a new deal
I took my vow, promised to myself
To be constantly real
Two friends of DRBA from the Central Government in Beijing visited the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas and the Berkeley Buddhist Monastery last week during the 30th Anniversary celebrations at CTTB. Mr. Shi Yuanpeng is the Deputy Director of the Cultural and Religious Publishing Company in Beijing. He is directly responsible for publishing nine volumes (so far) of Master Hsuan Hua's sutra commentaries in Simplified Chinese characters. These books are now the biggest sellers in their catalog. Mr. Han Song is the editor in chief of Chinese Religions Journal, published by SARA, the State Administration for Religious Affairs in Beijing. We have been hosted in China by SARA and it was our turn to welcome the two friends as our guests. They toured the Bay Area and visited the Berkeley Monastery before returning to Beijing on Tuesday.
(l to r) Prof. Raymond Yeh, Mr. Han Song, Mr. Shi Yuanpeng.
Lunch at the JunKang Restaurant: (Standing l to r) Mr. Han Song, Prof. Ron Epstein, Heng Sure, Mr. Shi Yuanpeng, Priscilla Yeh, Cuc Chung, Ocean Epstein, Cynthia Chang, Courtney Bruntz, (kneeling:) Madalena Tan, Lucie Hall.
160 people from as far away as Finland, Singapore, Vietnam and Canada received the Bodhisattva Precepts for Laity on Friday, July 3rd. The candidates studied the precepts for a week at the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas, in preparation for the two-hour ceremony, which is found in the Upasika Precepts Sutra, Spoken by the Buddha.
This group of preceptees seemed especially sincere, and the event felt auspicious.
Even though they are small. please look at the faces in the photograph for inspiration! The photograph is courtesy of Robert Chang.
In 1978, while on a pilgrimage up the coast of California, I wrote a song dedicated to the place we hope to reach: the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas. The song got me through many a hard time, and kept my heart focused on the goal when it would have been much easier to quit.
I will be singing this song at the CTTB this Sunday, as part of our 30 Anniversary celebrations. A Dharma-friend has put up a webpage with the lyrics of the song and an mp3 of me performing the song. Click here to listen.
I was a brand-new Novice Monk when Helen Woo first arrived at Gold Mountain Monastery; I followed Master Hsuan Hua down to Los Angeles in 1975. Helen had convened the largest Refuge and Precepts ceremony in American Buddhist history in Pasadena; over 100 people became Master Hua's disciples,
Since then Helen has been one of DRBA's most able Dharma Protectors. She and her husband, Dr. Wesley Woo, were instrumental in supporting my Three Steps, One Bow pilgrimage back in 1977-79.
She remains a dedicated cultivator; Helen bows the 10, 000 Buddha's Repentance ceremony in her own Buddha Hall at home in LA. She came up recently to the Bay Area to tell stories for our Oral History Project of her life-changing encounters with our teacher. She is an inspiring story-teller and role model!
I own and admire Canadian Luthier (Guitar Builder) Fabrizio Alberico's guitar #3. Since 1998, when my beloved instrument was built, Fab has gone on to become one of Canada's, indeed one of the world's most respected makers of fine acoustic instruments. Fab is a performing musician as well, and recently developed a deep interest in yoga, in meditation, and in the Mahayana Buddha Dharma.
He recently built a small-body, 00-size mahagony and spruce guitar; he has named it "Mary Rose" and sent me pictures and audio clips. Fab plays "Amazing Grace" and at the end of the clip the sustain of the guitar goes on and on. Listen for yourself: Please click here to look at listen at Fab's latest guitar.
Here is a photo of my guitar (on the right) and it's brother, guitar #5.