...Buddhism for Urban America
Urban Dharma Newsletter... July 22, 2003
Bible Losing Monopoly ...BY
BILL MAXWELL ST
2. Buddhist Temple's Obon Festival Updates Ancient Festival
...By Marcia Manna
3. A Buddha-shaped hole ...Colin Thubron
4. Temple/Center/Website- of the Week:
The UC Irvine Buddhist Association
5. Book/Movie Review: Ten Thousand
Miles Without a Cloud ...Sun Shuyun ...Amazon.com.UK
Bible Losing Monopoly ...BY BILL MAXWELL ST . PETERSBURG
TIMES, July 19, 2003
putting my shirts on hangers, I turned on the television and
lay on the king-sized bed.
I could hear Manhattan’s traffic outside as a newscaster
lamented the unseasonable 90-plus-degree weather. For no particular
reason, I glanced at the nightstand. And for no particular reason,
I opened the drawer and looked inside. It was empty, and I shut
it without thinking. As I turned my attention back to the TV,
something bothered me. I opened the drawer again and realized
what concerned me: I did not see that ubiquitous Gideon Bible.
I looked in my desk drawer and found fancy hotel stationery
but not a Gideon Bible. I checked the three dresser drawers.
No Gideon. I had no interest in reading the Bible, but I missed
four days in Lower Manhattan, I returned to St. Petersburg and
did not give the missing Bible another thought—that is,
until a few days ago, when I saw the following headline in USA
Today: "Some hotel nightstands looking beyond the Bible."
article stated that as the financially troubled hotel industry
fights to lure back old customers and attract new ones after
the 9/11 tragedies, some establishments are beginning to offer
a wider range of in-room, religious reading material—if
they offer any at all.
to the newspaper, the new 2,002-room, $1.1 billion Borgata Hotel
Casino & Spa in Atlantic City, for example, does not offer
a Gideon Bible in the nightstand, a hotel tradition begun in
1908. Like the hotel I stayed in, the Borgata stocks Gideon
Bibles in its lobby library for customers who request them.
It also stocks 12 other such texts, including the Bhagavad-Gita
and Jehovah the First Godfather.
the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon,
along with the religious sensitivity and turmoil that have ensued,
a growing number of hoteliers are loosening the Gideon monopoly
on the "good word" and are giving guests a smorgasbord
of religious texts and tools for enjoying their faith and expressing
far as I am concerned, this new trend is a sign of long-overdue
tolerance, respect and common sense.
by members of the Mormon Church, according to USA Today, Marriott
hotels are replacing the Gideon with, what else, The Book Of
the same light, nearly 2,500 hotels nationwide will receive
free copies of "The Teachings of Buddha" from the
Society for the Promotion of Buddhism. Founded by a Japanese
industrialist 22 years ago, the society will place copies of
the text in the hotels of 53 other countries.
9/11 teaches Americans anything, it should be that the United
States is just one more place in the world community, that various
parts of the globe worship in their own way, that we cannot
force our way of life on others without expecting resistance
other peoples around the world think of us is important to our
future. Something as simple as a ubiquitous Bible in hotel rooms
reflects our level of respect for the faiths and beliefs of
others. Many wrongheaded conservatives will rage against providing
hotel guests with the Bible upon request only. I think that
Americans should pay attention to what hoteliers do. They are
at the front of the hospitality industry, and they sense trends
long before others do. Gerald Zelizer, a rabbi from Metuchen,
N. J., told USA Today that as the hotel chains move forward
on this front, officials should meet with church leaders to
learn which religious texts, products and symbols are appropriate
to offer to their guests. The Gideon Bible is valuable to many
guests. But it means little—if anything—to many,
many others. In the future, I will always take note of the reading
material in my nightstand drawer.
Bill Maxwell is an editorial writer and columnist for the St.
2. Buddhist Temple's Obon Festival Updates
Ancient Festival ...By Marcia
Manna ...COMMUNITY NEWS WRITER ...July 20, 2003
– So how did a nice, Jewish boy become a Buddhist priest?
get asked that all the time," said Lee Rosenthal, resident
minister at the Vista Buddhist Temple. "The way I explain
it is simple. My life is a seed that sprouted as a flower."
Noon to 8 p.m. July 26-27
Vista Buddhist Temple, 150 Cedar Road
a series of life-altering events and losses, Rosenthal became
interested in Buddhism. The Vietnam veteran went on to earn
a master's degree in Buddhist studies, then trained in Kyoto
to become a priest.
compared his journey to the Vista Buddhist Temple with a rose
that blossomed in a garden of chrysanthemums. "It took
many causes and conditions, soil and watering, manure as well,"
explained Rosenthal, who is inviting the public to participate
in the temple's Obon Festival this weekend. The annual event
stems from the custom of ancestor worship in Japan, similar
to All Souls Day in Christianity.
at the Vista Buddhist Temple, the festival is more about celebrating
the individuals responsible for our ability to fully appreciate
all have ancestors, but they aren't all the same people,"
said Rosenthal, 56. "As a forward-looking priest in the
United States and as an American Buddhist, I like to use the
word 'forebearers.' If it wasn't for my Jewish ancestry, I wouldn't
be here. That was a step on a ladder that led me to the roof.
If you say Obon is a time for Japanese to look back and honor
their ancestors, you invite a tourist mentality – like,
let's go watch the Navaho Indians weave baskets."
than attend as observers, temple members and the community are
invited to participate. A taiko (Japanese for "fat drum")
presentation will occur at 5 p.m. on the temple grounds, and
a silent auction and craft boutique will be featured. Japanese
food, flowers and plants will be sold, and Bon Odori, Japanese
folk dancing, begins at 6:30 p.m.
the atmosphere," Rosenthal said of the festival's broad
appeal. "There is a large outdoor courtyard, and we hang
paper lanterns at night. Taiko drums accompany the Japanese
music. Someone said this is like Texas line dancing, but we
aren't there to learn the tango. We are there to just move,
and when our hearts are pounding in sync with the drums, you
observe other people in a big community in tune with life."
the festival, temple member Elaine Marume teaches Japanese dance
steps in a downstairs room at the temple.
open to the public, and we get people from the community who
aren't associated with the temple, they just like to dance,"
try to keep the dances pretty much the same, so people can go
to different temples and still participate. Circle and folk
dancing from different areas of Japan can reference different
kinds of work, like harvesting a rice crop."
Rosenthal suggests, dancers are not there to learn the tango.
But one folk dance, similar to the samba, is especially popular.
have a large population of Japanese immigrants in Brazil, and
they have created their own Obon dance, which is a samba,"
Marume explained. "It's called Shiawase samba."
is a Japanese-American who has taught dance at the temple for
a decade. Her husband, who was born in Japan, will prepare and
sell sushi at the festival. Marume said that Obon inspires her
to remember her grandparents, who immigrated from Japan, and
"all the other relatives who made her life possible."
The Rev. Rosenthal, known for his humor, will offer his "Buddhist
schtick" at around 3 p.m., and though he wants the event
to be entertaining, he takes the teachings of Buddhism seriously.
you look into yourself, look at all the teachers you have had,"
we are in the same room, we share the same oxygen, the breath
of life. That is the beauty of Obon. That is the beauty of the
Vista Buddhist Temple."
A Buddha-shaped hole ...Colin Thubron reviews Ten
Thousand Miles without a Cloud by Sun Shuyun
is said that the Chinese have no religion. Confucianism and
Taoism do not propose a God or reach beyond the grave, any more
than Communism does. So there is a peculiar fascination about
the quest of Sun Shuyun, born in Mao's China, for a validating
faith in her travel memoir Ten Thousand Miles without a Cloud.
search is charged, ironically, by a kind of homesickness. Born
- an unwanted daughter - in a small town in the north, her childhood
was darkened by the Cultural Revolution. Yet as an adult, after
scholarships had taken her to Beijing University and to Oxford,
she looked back with a sense of loss. In her memory, the figure
who had filled this vacuum was her illiterate grandmother. Until
Sun went to university, they slept in the same bed, head to
toe, and her earliest memory was of bound feet rubbing against
her face. The whole family, including Sun, ridiculed the old
woman's Buddhism, but it was from her that the child picked
up its lore - and years later came to wonder at her grandmother's
unshaken faith, and her compassion.
1997 Sun Shuyun's father died, broken, in an unrecognisable
new China. His death severed his daughter's last links with
Communism. Living in England now, she found her panacea in a
man who offered an alternative certainty. She became obsessed
by him. He had lived over 1,300 years earlier.
the seventh century the monk Xuanzang set out from China for
India in search of Buddhist scriptures. Eighteen years later
he returned, carrying 600 books of Sanskrit sutras and seven
statues. For the rest of his life he presided over the resurgence
of Buddhism in China's golden age, and the retranslation of
the sacred canon. The story of his travels itself became another
Shuyun set out to follow in his footsteps, and their twin journeys
form the bulk of her book. A vicarious pilgrim, she attempts
through Xuanzang to draw closer to faith. The journey takes
her from the Tang capital, today's Xian, to the Taklamakhan
desert and into the Heavenly Mountains of modern Kyrgyzstan.
Denied entry into Uzbekistan, and with Afghanistan in turmoil,
she flies to Peshawar and there picks up Xuanzang's long trail,
wending back and forth along the Ganges through the heartland
claims no bravery as a traveller. She is much hosted and guided.
The Pashtuns at the arrival gate in Peshawar airport look so
alarming that she bolts behind a telephone booth. But she is
buoyed up by her (very Chinese) optimism. She has minor epiphanies
of her own. In Kushinagar, where the Buddha died, she encounters
converts to a self-reliant brand of Buddhism that she feels
might become hers. In a monastery the selflessness of a devotee
fills her with astonished questioning.
is hard to write of Buddhist faith without lapsing into banality.
Karma, transmigration, nirvana: they have become Western platitudes.
But Sun Shuyun records her feelings, and those of others, with
spontaneous simplicity, almost with innocence, as if she were
still the child seeking her grandmother's solution.
her book's felicities are sudden insights into a Chinese world
still hard to grasp. She describes her childish excitement,
then fear, at the Cultural Revolution; her family was endangered
even by her mother's curly hair (it suggested foreign ancestry),
which she tried hopelessly to straighten with industrial acid,
then cropped off.
the end Sun Shuyun is moved, even troubled, by Buddhism, but
she is not converted. She admits to being defeated by the arcane
school advocated by Xuanzang. Disarmingly she writes: "Perhaps
I am one of those pragmatic Chinese who find such philosophies
too abstruse, too complicated. We have always been that way."
so have most of the rest of us. The "Ten Thousand Miles
without a Cloud" of her book's title is a Buddhist metaphor
for the clarity of perfect knowledge. She may not have touched
this, but her journey through the faith so demonised in her
youth is a gently moving one. Both her longing and her scepticism
are deeply sympathetic.
journey ends at her grandmother's grave. There Sun feels a bitter
sadness that she had not treated her with more understanding.
The inscription, typical of poor Chinese, does not record the
name, but simply: "The tomb of the woman of the Liu and
Wang families". The old woman had planned her own funeral:
her clothes, her offerings. But by the time she died, land-hunger
demanded that people be cremated. So her granddaughter left
fruit on the mound above her ashes - grapes and bananas, which
she had not tasted in life - and said a Buddhist prayer for
The UC Irvine Buddhist Association
UC Irvine Buddhist Association's mission is to reach out to
student and faculty of UCI to promote awareness about Buddhism.
Many Buddhist students on-campus may or may not know of UCI
Buddhist Association. Thus, it is our first and foremost goal
to allow students and staff of UCI to have the opportunity to
expand their spiritual and religious horizons. We encourage
learning and understanding of Buddhism in all forms. We welcome
all people of all diversities, in the hopes that they can realize
the teaching values of the Buddha. We believe that the messages
of Buddhism are not only helpful for our religious and spiritual
growth, but also our personal growth because Buddhism is more
than a religious--it's a way of life, a philosophy. Our goal
is to dispense the precious knowledge and information we call
three major missions of the UC Irvine Buddhist Association are:
To promote Buddhism on the UC Irvine campus.
To secure unity, solidarity among Buddhists by providing services
for the benefit of those who participate.
To attain happiness in life by understanding the teachings of
Irvine Buddhist Association
club was originally established in 1994 by a group of students
who were interested in Buddhism. The main goal was and still
is to promote Buddhism on the UCI campus among overseas Chinese;
to have social gatherings among people interested in Chinese
culture and Mahayana/Vajrayana Buddhism. We also seek
to provide a friendly environment for those who wish to explore
Buddhism further. In the club, you have the opportunity to socialize
and make friends as well as learn valuable lessons in life.
Ten Thousand Miles Without a Cloud ...Sun
is from Amazon.com in the UK
Thousand Miles Without a Cloud is a beautifully written account
of Sun Shuyun’s journey to retrace the steps of one of
the most popular figures in Chinese history – the monk
Xuanzang, who travelled to India searching for true Buddhism.
exceptional book is a journey on three levels: historical, cultural
should be known as one of the world's great heroes. His travels
are legendary. He brought true Buddhism to China. His own book
provides a unique record of the history and culture of his time.
Yet he is unknown to most of us and even to most Chinese. Sun
Shuyun, herself brought up in China, was determined to follow
in his footsteps, discover more about Xuanzang and restore his
fame. So she retraced his journey from China to India and back.
In the 8th century, crossing 110 kingdoms, he took 18 years.
He opened up the east and west of Asia to each other - and to
us. A man of great faith and determination, Xuanzang won the
hearts of kings and robbers with his teaching, his charm and
his indomitable will. Against all odds he persuaded the Confucian
emperors to allow Buddhism to flourish in China. At the heart
of this book lies Sun Shuyun's own personal journey towards
understanding the Buddhist faith of her grandmother, recognizing
also the passionate idealism of the communist beliefs of her
own family and discovering her own beliefs.
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