Magha Puja

Today is Magha Puja. I had forgotten this date was coming up and was only reminded when I went to temple yesterday. If you haven’t heard of this holiday before, or if you’re not sure how Asian Americans celebrate this holiday, I encourage you to read my Magha Puja interview with a young Asian American Buddhist monk.

May you have every good blessing.

Photo credit: windsordi.

Calling All Asian American Young Buddhists!

If you’re a young Asian American Buddhist (ages 18–39), I know someone who would love to talk with you. Chenxing Han, a graduate student at the Institute for Buddhist Studies, wants to write about the experiences and perspectives of Asian American Buddhist youth. That’s you. She wants to know about you.

She’s done more than either the Tricycle or Shambhala Sun foundations or even this little blog to reach out. She’s asking for you to speak with her directly:

While secondary readings in American Buddhist studies, Asian American studies, and other disciplines inform this project, the voices of young Asian Americans form its foundation. I am currently conducting one-on-one interviews with people between the ages of 18 to 39 who are 1) of Asian heritage, 2) engaged in Buddhist practice, broadly defined, and 3) willing to complete a two- to three-hour interview in English. The interview includes open-ended questions and interactive activities that explore participants’ Buddhist practices, communities, and beliefs; perceptions of Buddhism in America; and opinions about the representation of Asian American Buddhists.

So what are you waiting for? Go get in touch with her today!

For those of my readers who aren’t Asian American Buddhist youth, I encourage you to participate by reposting this call on Facebook and Twitter. Or heck, you could even blog about it too.

Why is the Under 35 Project So White?

This year Shambhala SunSpace has been posting weekly essays from the Under 35 Project, a laudable initiative to support and highlight the voices of the emerging generation of Buddhists and meditators. As usual, my naïveté never fails to let me down and I was once again shocked at the whiteness of the lineup. Not a single East or Southeast Asian among them.

A common retort to my posts of the whiteness of Western Buddhist publications is to question whether any Asian Buddhists are reaching out—or even writing—in the first place. In fact, I received a similar such comment on my last post on the overwhelming whiteness of the Buddhist Geeks conference.

In the case of the Under 35 Project, we can directly answer that question through open access to their archive of submissions.

This morning, I went looking for Asian authors who had submitted to the project, and I was able to find Nicole MahabirJoshua ShinChholay DorjiMinh Tue Vo ThanhSusan YaoGeorges HanDuc Hong TaJustin LuuTina NgPhoebe TsangSubha SrinivasanIshita GuptaAnthuan Vuongand Cristina Moon. These Asian authors are together more than were published in the last two issues of Shambhala Sun. Only one of them made it to Shambhala SunSpace’s weekly selection.

If we look at when Asian Buddhist authors submitted their work, we see a huge spike at the end of last year, when the Under 35 Project first went online. But during the nearly six months since Shambhala SunSpace began promoting this project by mostly reposting pieces by white authors, only one Asian author has submitted her work. She wasn’t included in the weekly Under 35 post.

I wonder if Shambhala Publications were to only start publishing more Asian authors, perhaps more would once again step up to submit. Or perhaps it’s already too late.

Voices of Tibetan Youth

There is an emerging generation of Asian Buddhists in the West and beyond, comprised of vocal young adults fluent in the language and currency of the West, but who refuse to be limited by it. And among them is the Angry Tibetan Girl.

As described by the Tibetan blogger Dechen on the youth blog Lhakar Diaries

“Angry Tibetan Girl” is angry, and funny, as hell. There are so many posts with echoes of countless conversations I have had (!) and been part of (!) with Tibetan friends which were often non-stop rants. Yes it’s uncomfortable to admit but it feels SO GOOD to rant! That’s why I love Angry Tibetan Girl – she just says what we’ve all been thinking!

You might have missed it, but there is a youth blog for the voices of young Tibetans. I couldn’t believe it when I found it.

As a nod to Lhakar, I encourage you to listen to the voices of Tibetans speaking for themselves, on their own terms. Follow them. Tweet with them. Support them. (h/t to @djbuddha)

The Future of American Buddhsim

While searching for inspiration for our temple’s summer camp next year, I came across some videos of other temples’ summer programs. These compositions reminded me that our “traditional Asian enclaves” are doing lots of work to nurture the next generation of American Buddhism. Much of what you read about Buddhist Asian America online comes from members of the Buddhist commentariat who are not part of these communities, and so I thought it would be good for you to see our backward, retrograde, traditional and insulated communities speak for themselves.

My favorite clip comes from the Sacramento Obon festival, where Socho Ogui, Bishop of the Buddhist Churches of America, danced to Taio Cruzalong with other Buddhist ministers and youth leaders.

The next generation of American Buddhism will come from many quarters, but it looks like some temples are already giving their kids a head start in community involvement.

Alternative Spring Break: Buddhist Retreat

This just in from an old friend about the Spring Break Guan Yin Practice Retreat at the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas—a practice retreat perfect for college students in a beautiful monastic setting tucked away in the hills of Northern California.

Spring Break Guan Yin Practice Retreat
March 19–27, 2011

In the Surangama Sutra, Guan Yin Bodhisattva teaches: “Return the hearing to hear within.” This was hailed as the foremost contemplative practice for people of our time. Who is Guan Yin Bodhisattva? How does one cultivate the Guan Yin practice? What does it mean to be mindful of Guan Yin Bodhisattva? This March, take a break from the bustle of student life to live out these questions with the Dharma Realm Buddhist University Alternative Spring Break Program. For one week, immerse yourself in the Guan Yin practice and life at a Buddhist monastery. This spring break, tap into a living embodiment of an ancient Mahayana Buddhist tradition at the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas.

  • Explore the methods of Guan Yin recitation, contemplation, and meditation.
  • Study from Buddhist sacred texts the methods of practices related to Guan Yin Bodhisattva.
  • Train according to the Buddhist moral code of conduct.
  • Engage in discussions with practicing monks, nuns, and teachers.
  • Meet other students interested in exploring Buddhism.
  • Try out a vegetarian diet.

$275 [registration, course fee and room+board]

For more information, contact

Participants of all backgrounds [religious and non-religious] are encouraged to apply. Financial aid available.

Another youth workshop for young Buddhists (21–39ish) is happening the week before—check out TechnoBuddha at the Jodo Shinshu Center in Berkeley!

Magha Puja

This year I’ve decided to celebrate Buddhist holidays by opening my blog to the voices of Asian American Buddhists. Buddhists across America will be celebrating Magha Puja this weekend, a lunar holiday that took place two nights ago. I decided to ask a good friend about this holiday and what it means to him.

[Archivist note: regrettably, the rest of this post was lost in transition to the new server.]

TechnoBuddha 2011

Everyone seems to be talking about the $300 $400 Buddhist Geeks Conference, but the conference that I’d really like to attend is the Techno Buddha Conference 2011 (“The Journey”). The conference is being held March 4–6 at the Jodo Shinshu Center in Berkeley, California. Here’s the description from their Facebook page:

TechnoBuddha was the theme of the first year’s conference for people who are “grown but not necessarily grown-up” and are interested in Buddhism. We targeted the age range of 21–39 with flexibility on the upper limit (but unfortunately not on the lower limit, since the weekend involved a happy hour).

The theme was TechnoBuddha because we wanted to focus in on how our generation’s experience with technology may affect our experience with Jodo Shinshu Buddhism.

Expect to get involved in workshops on tai-chi/hip hop, personal finance and buying a home, communication and interpersonal relationships, local involvement and—of course—what in the world it means to practice Jodo Shinshu in 2011! The keynote speaker is Rev. Bob Oshita, rinban for North America’s largest Jodo Shinshu congregation. If you’re curious about how to raise kids in a temple community, he’s a great person to talk to.

I know these topics have nothing to do with Buddhism in the West, but I figured some readers might be interested. I unfortunately have a drop-dead project deadline the following week, so I’m still on the fence over whether or not to make the trip up north.

Thanks to an anonymous follower for the tip!

Attention to the Little Things

Ven. Shravasti Dhammika points to a new book, Buddhist Animal Wisdom Stories, an illustrated retelling of 44 Jataka stories. Detail-oriented and a stickler for cultural accuracy, he is keen to note that “[a]lthough it would not detract from the value of this book if it were otherwise, McGinnis has done his research carefully and only depicted animals native to India.”

As a disclaimer, I don’t own this book, nor have I read it. I just feel it’s important to publicize these sorts of resources. Last year, Tricyclepublished a young writer’s short list of favorite Buddhist children’s books. I have found many more elsewhere using the usual tools.

There has been considerable recent discussion in the American Buddhist community about what the next generation will look like. Meditation centers, magazines, retreats and teachers must grow and adapt to relatively younger ranks of practitioners. But the essential future of the American Buddhist community is with those who are currently its youngest members. They are the ones who most deserve our attention.

Twheet: A Bay Area Meditation Conference

Not sure if I’ll be able to attend Turning Wheel Talks 2009 — Twheet! Examining Meditation in 21st Century America, but if you are, I certainly encourage you to check it out.

Meditation helps us connect to reality and discover profound peace in what’s really there. This event is intended to support and strengthen the meditation community in the Bay Area. Twheet is for folks who have been meditating for years and want to deepen their practice. Twheet is for those who have never tried meditating, but want to. Twheet is for the people who’ve dabbled in meditation and seek to establish a stronger habit and practice. It’s for “closet meditators” who wonder what else is out there. It’s for those who identify as Buddhists. It’s for those who don’t. It’s for anyone who wants to be part of the younger-adult community in the Bay Area! In other words, Twheet is for you.

They have a Facebook page too.