Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Uposatha Dhamma

By bhikkhucintita

Uposatha, a Pali word, is often translated as “Sabbath.” In Buddhist lands this traditionally follows the phases of the moon such that every time the moon is either full, empty (new), or half way in between (first or last quarter) we get an uposatha day. That is pretty cool in itself, but wait til you hear what Uposatha days are for! Anyway, they are generally seven days apart but sometimes six or eight.

Uposatha days are normally in Asia times for special Buddhist observances. Lay people will often spend the day at a monastery communing with monks or nuns, meditating, chanting,generally listening to a Dharma talk, offering to the Buddha or to the Sangha, and will also take eight or so monastic-style precepts for the day. Monks and nuns recite the Patimokkha every other Uposatha day, on full and new moon days, the hundreds of rules that they follow every day. This is pretty cool, but wait til you hear what you get to do on Uposatha days! Anyway, in Burma Uposatha days are like weekends; people do not have to go to work so that they are free for Buddhist observances. (more)

Monday, April 19, 2010

Moving Bhante Dogen to New Web Site

There are 27 subscribers to the Bhante Dogen blog that I set up prior to my travel to Myanmar. I would like to move this blog to my new Web site called Through the Looking Glass. I invite you to subscribe to the blog located there; just look for "blog" in the directory at the right side of any page. I have imported my previous Bhante Dogen blog entries to the new location. I hope that the new blog becomes more interactive, now that I can actually see posted comments (the government in Myanmar blocks access to, so I was posting blind by email when I was there).

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Announcing New Web Site

I would like to officially announce my New Web Site as a home for various essays, some of which are reworked from postings from Burma to the present blog. It will also provide space for discussion and its own blog. Some of you have probably visited an earlier version of the site.

Please note that this site is still under construction. I hope to add a substantial number of essays now in progress by the end of 2010. Please subscribe to the blog to receive announcements about new additions as they happen.

The central theme of this site is the birth of Buddhism in America. I am an American monk and a self-appointed midwife in the birthing process. Karl Marx was once asked what the role revolutionary was, given his view of the inevitability of future social history. He explained that it is that of a midwife: the birth is inevitable, but it is good to have a midwife to make sure things go smoothly. I don’t know how positively Marx would value the birth of Buddhism in a Western land, but the analogy is apt in the present context. We are still engaged in the birthing process, I am as thrilled as any to be a part of this historical event, but I often fear the birth is not going smoothly. We certainly want to see a happy, healthy bouncing baby, and not to end up with one that is deformed, crippled or traumatized. I hope the essays you will find here will contribute in some small way to ensuring that the birth proceeds smoothly.

Let me explain what I have in mind. I have organized the essays into the following sections, each with a specific function that I will state here:

Monastic Life. I place this before the next, introductory, section in order to stress its critical importance, rarely appreciated on this side of the Pacific. The future of the monastic Sangha will be the key determinant of the future of Buddhism in America. It is similar in importance to getting the head properly positioned in the birthing process; once the head goes through, everything else generally proceeds generally without much problem.

Buddhism in America. These essays assess and advise the process of giving birth to Buddhism in America. The challenge is to retain the integrity of the Buddha’s project while adapting it and making it relevant to the American cultural context. An important part of this is to save Buddhism from the American propensity for tinkering.

Topics in the Dharma. These essays take up various aspect of Buddhist philosophy and practice. I see my role here as that of an interpreter, as that of making understandable and relevant to the Westerner teachings that evolved in quite foreign environments in the context of unfamiliar word views. Often this involves a new spin on traditional teachings.

Life in the Dusty World. This serves as a counterpart to the first section, that on Monastic Life. It is for the vast numbers of Buddha’s disciples who will bring their practice and the values they represent to bear on the mundane everyday world. My hope is that profundity of Buddhist teachings and practice have a strong and lasting transformative impact for the benefit of the broader American society.

Venerable Cintita. I have deliberately tried to assume a very personal perspective in these pages, a perspective already natural to the blog which I established for friends and relatives before my year of living adventurously in Burma and which is the precursor for these pages. Even as a monastic seeks solitude, his or her life becomes public and even as a monastic trains in no-self he or she serves as an example, hopefully an inspiration, to others. That is why we are required to distinguish ourselves with our fluffy robes and bald heads. This section is largely biographical, and also provides a point of contact for the projects and activities I invite others to participate in.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Still in Minnesota

I may be in Minnesota until June! Recall that in the last episode I left Austin 13 days after returning from Burma in order to fill in for the resident monk, Ashin Nayaka, at the Burmese temple in Maplewood, MN. I would stay here about one month until Ashin Mahasadda Pandita Sayadaw of Baltimore, a senior monk, could replace me after his trip to Europe. Unfortunately the latter has suffered a stroke before leaving to Europe. So I have agreed to remain here as long as I am needed.

Ashin Ariyadamma, the abbot of the Sitagu Buddhist Vihara in Austin, is here for a week. He came up in order to ordain a young Burmese man as a monk. The picture I've attached is from the ordination. An ordination requires five monks; the three monks in the foreground are from the local Karen monastery. Punnananda, as the new monk is called, has ordained for a one week. Temporary ordination is very common in Burma and Thailand.

For those of you in Austin, on Saturday, April 17, and interview with me is supposed to appear in the Austin American Statesman. Eileen Flynn conducted the interview during my short 13 days in Austin.