Category: Media

Aung San Suu Kyi, please speak out and help to relieve the suffering in Burma

ImageThe fires of suffering and strife rage around the world,” and continue to rage in the Rakhine state of Burma. Recent sectarian strife between Arakanese Buddhists and the Rohingya Muslim community have claimed the lives of at least 78 people, and displaced over 80,000 fleeing from the violence. With the situation degenerating into a vicious cycle of hate begetting hate, it has come to light that some Buddhist monastics are actively engaged in fanning the flames by calling on lay people to disassociate with the Rohingya and actively blocking humanitarian aid to the refugee camps.

Shame on any monastics who would use their moral authority to suade others in enhancing suffering. While their Arakanese identity may compel them to act in ways that hurt others, they also wear the ochre robe and carry with it the freedoms and responsibilities of their monastic precepts. Their renunciation embodied by the first precept has now been made useless. By their own actions, these monastics demonstrate that they do not deserve to wear the ochre robe.

I realize that the situation is not so black and white. However, the Arakanese and Rohingya alike are sharing in pain. The face of suffering is the same among all people and the cycle of violence rings throughout history. In the late 1960’s, my parents, their families, and many of their Toisan community were driven away by the Burmese and fled into Maoist China. Though the conditions were not great, at least they had a state which would accept them as Han Chinese and would provide a home.

The Rohingya have no state advocates and have shuttled back and forth between Bangladesh and Burma for many decades. Burma’s Presidential Office has stated that “It is impossible for Burma to accept people who are not ethnic to the country and who have entered illegally.” Their situation grows more desperate as the violence continues, as more people are displaced, and as more languish in camps without the infrastructure or supplies to support them. Organizations that have stood up for the Rohingya include the UN and the Organization for Islamic Cooperation. Unfortunately, as the violence continues, the Rohingya’s list of advocates now include the Pakistani Taliban, who have said, “We will avenge your blood.”

Aung San Suu Kyi, in your Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech, you acknowledged the ongoing strife in your native Burma. We all celebrate your release and your continued work for democracy in your country. This means that you are again a politician for your constituents: speaking on their behalf, and sharing their concerns. Your freedom to speak as you choose is also delicately tied to the whims of a state still emerging and fragile in its transition towards democracy. Nevertheless, the moral authority you possess reaches across national boundaries as we lend you our ears. Please speak out. Your voice as a mediator are needed in this conflict. Lend your compassion with the humanitarian aid organizations  and help to relieve the suffering in Burma.

Let’s Go Clubbing with the Buddha

This picture frustrates me over and over again. It’ disrespectful, insensitive, and offensive.

My friend tells me that I’m overreacting and taking it too seriously.

But would they say the same if a Christian person complained about their religion taken out of it’s context and being used for commercial purposes?

Why, for some reason, do some religions in America seem to carry more legitimacy, treated with more respect and sensitivity, over other religions in America?

Can you imagine a scenario in which Las Vegas opened a new nightclub called “Trinity” that themed all it’s decorations and advertising material around Jesus and other Christian icons? Would Christians (and Americans in general) find that disrespectful and offensive? Would their feelings be treated as melodramatic and inappropriate?

Religious nightlife indeed.

I find that this doesn’t only happen with Christians or Americans. I went on a tour bus trip from Los Angeles to Yellowstone National Park. On our way back to Los Angeles, we stopped in Utah to visit their famous Mormon church. We had several tour guides who gave us a brief tour of the church and basics about the Mormon faith.

One of the tour guides was a girl from Korea who is spending about a year and a half studying and volunteering at the Mormon Church. She was younger than the other “Sisters” who helped lead the tour. Halfway though the tour, it became obvious that many of the men on our tour were intentionally trying to talk to the Korean tour guide or get a photograph with her. I heard men around me talkinabout how pretty she was, encouraging their friends to also take a photo with her. In comparison, the other two tour guides who were just standing to the side, apparently not interesting or attractive enough for the tourists to interact with.

I found this to be greatly disturbing – the idea that people were flirting with one of the religious representatives of the Mormon faith. Those men didn’t seem to care or see anything wrong with what they were doing. But would those men treat representatives from their own religion (monks, pastors, nuns, etc) in the same way?

How come we cannot follow one of the simplest pieces of advice taught to us as toddlers – to treat others the way we’d like to be treated?

Meditation Program for Prisoners

So I realize that many of my past posts have been about the negative portrayals of Buddhism or Buddhist images in mainstream culture, particularly in the media. I guess in a lot of ways, I find the negative much more interesting to message about.

But just this past Tuesday morning, I heard on the radio a report on Alabama’s most “violent and mentally unstable” prison inmates practicing Vipassana meditation. They’ve seen positive results in the inmates that participate in the program. Yet, the most interesting part of the story for me is the intercultural implications of having a program derived from Buddhist practice in a dominantly Christian state.

The Vipassana technique, though secular, is based on the teachings of Buddha. Soon after it started at Donaldson about a decade ago, the prison system’s chaplains expressed concern that it might not be in keeping with Christian values. The state put an end to the program.

But Hetzel, the warden, saw the dramatic results and brought it back.

It seems a bit ironic that of all places to see a positive, religiously relevant mention of Buddhism in the media, it appears under the context of a prison. Go figure.

You can listen to the whole report on KQED Public Radio’s website here.

“Save the Money”

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vVkFT2yjk0A&feature=player_embedded]

I get it. You’re trying to be funny, sarcastic, and witty. You’re trying to think out of the box and use humor that catches people’s attention and makes them actually remember the ad. Instead of Saving Tibet, why not just Save Money. According to Groupon:

The gist of the concept is this: When groups of people act together to do something, it’s usually to help a cause. With Groupon, people act together to help themselves by getting great deals. So what if we did a parody of a celebrity-narrated, PSA-style commercial that you think is about some noble cause (such as “Save the Whales”), but then it’s revealed to actually be a passionate call to action to help yourself (as in “Save the Money”)?

I don’t really think the commercial achieves the sense of satire that Groupon had intended it to. All I think of when I see this commercial is how disrespectful, insensitive and ignorant Timothy Hutton sounds. On their blog, Groupon does explain that…

…you can donate to mission-driven organizations that are doing great work for the causes featured in our PSA parodies. If you guys pony up, Groupon will contribute matching donations of up to $100,000 for three featured charities – Rainforest Action NetworkbuildOn, and the Tibet Fund — and Groupon credit of up to $100,000 for contributions made to Greenpeace.

What do you think of it?

What’s your ‘Inception’ totem?

Cobb's Spinning Top Totem

Venerable Kusala mentioned the movie during his dharma talk with the University Buddhist Association at UCLA and Reverend Danny Fisher wrote a review for the film. I’m sure many others have contributed their two cents on the movie Inception so here’s mine.

The part of Inception that became the most memorable for me was not the gravity-defying fight scenes nor was it the magnificent dream worlds the characters were transported through. Rather, the one part of Inception that really had me thinking was the totem. Cobb describes the totem as a small object used to confirm whether one is in reality or a dream – what an idea! Three totems are introduced in the film: Cobb and Mal’s spinning top, Arthur’s weighted red die, and Ariadne’s chess piece.

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Bodhi Branding

A friend passed along a question from a sibling on whether or not bodhi is an appropriate word to include in a professional logo. My short response is, “It’s fine.” I’ve shared the longer reply below.

Bodhi means “enlightenment” in the ancient Indian language of Pali. It’s also the name for the tree under which Siddhartha Gautama became enlightened as the Buddha. This word has a special spiritual meaning for Buddhists, but it’s also crossed into mainstream English usage with a broader range of associations. Just look at what sort of brands use the term “bodhi”…

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Prapañca: a Buddhist Journal

Dr. Scott Mitchell has announced a new online Buddhist journal coming out this June!

Along with the help of some friends, we’re launching Prapañca, a quarterly, online Buddhist journal featuring both original reporting and opinion pieces on a wide variety of Buddhist topics, but also fiction, poetry, and the arts. The co-founders/editors and I are passionate not only about bringing a wide diversity of Buddhist voices to our future readers, we’re also passionate about creating a venue for writers of Buddhist fiction and poetry to showcase their work.

I hope this magazine is able to showcase and promote the otherwise overlooked diversity in the Buddhist community. You can visit the home page here, and the submissions guidelines here. I’m definitely going to submit something!

Buddha Sighting! – The Daily Show

So as I was watching a Daily Show clip my friend posted on Facebook, I realized that the next clip on the video player included Jack’s Mannequin (official website), a band I liked back in high school.  Jack’s Mannequin has recently come out with a new album called The Glass Passenger as well as a DVD called Dear Jack. The DVD is a documentary that focuses on Andrew McMahon’s, the lead singer, battle with leukemia.

What I found interesting with Jack’s Mannequin’s performance on The Daily Show is that on top of the piano, there is a miniature statue of the Buddha. It’s in plain sight and I wished Jon Stewart asked about it, but it was never pointed out.

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Burma VJ: Reporting from a Closed Country

This past Friday, I had the opportunity to watch a free screening of Burma VJ: Reporting from a Closed Country. I saw the trailer last year. I’ve read reviews and heard other people talk and blog about it. It’s one of those films that you go in watching with high expectations because of all the hype generated from those that have already seen it. Yet, I still left the theater with mixed feelings of sadness and shock. The movie is intense and emotional. I encourage everyone to see it. Here are some of the screening locations and dates.

Image from Oscilloscope Laboratories.

The Wise Latina depicted by The Lazy Americans

I’ve been meaning to write a post for the longest time but gosh darn it, life just gets busier and never seems to give you a break. Well, the academic year has just ended so I’m given a few days to breathe before diving straight into my summer plans. While reading through Google Reader, I came across a post on the Angry Asian Man website that just left me…well speechless:

nationalreview_thewiselatina

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