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!

Funeral for Ven. Chhean Kong, 1945-2011

Today is the funeral of Venerable Dr. Chhean Kong, abbot of Wat Khemara Buddhikaram, who died last week. Locally known as Wat Willow, it is one of the oldest and largest Khmer temples in North America.

Because of his background both as a Cambodian and a monk, Chhean was uniquely suited to treat Cambodians suffering from mental disease and trauma, such [as] post traumatic stress disorder and depression.

“He helped a lot of Cambodians with mental problems,” said Borann Duong, a member of the temple and its board of directors. “He was on call all the time, and he was very good when we had problems.”

Describing his approach to therapy to the Press-Telegram about nine years ago, Chhean said, “Rational living creates balance in the mind and body, but for many people suffering from mental illness, medicine and therapy must also be used. There is no reason for the spiritual and medical treatments to be mutually exclusive.”

In its early years, Wat Willow also offered a variety of social, community and cultural services, including weekend basketball tournaments for Khmer youth and adult day care for the elderly parents of working adults.

You can read more at the Long Beach Press-Telegram; the funeral announcement can be viewed here in Khmer and in English at KI Media.

Bazaar Weekend

Obon season may be over, but temple festivities continue! This weekend the Buddhist Church of Sacramento and the Midwest Buddhist Temple(Chicago) are hosting bazaars. Both celebrations date back over half-a-century to a time when the Japanese American community struggled to rebuild itself out of the trauma of the concentration camps. As the Ginza Chicago website explains

Ginza Holiday found its beginning in 1956. […] The event serves two purposes; one as a fund raiser to meet the temple expenses and the other as a way of sharing Japanese traditions with the people of the neighborhood. […] The first event proceeded with some apprehension as it intended to draw upon the non-Japanese community. Most members harbored unfavorable experiences in the decade preceding. Uprooted from the West Coast to isolated camps, they made their final trek to Chicago on news of jobs and friendlier surroundings. The dread of non-acceptance ran deep.

The optimists among them proved right as fears were totally unwarranted. The good neighbors of Chicago attended in droves. Teriyaki chicken became an instant success. An old family recipe surely helped. To the consternation of a few, it may have eclipsed some of the cultural events.

These bazaars endure as a testament to the vitality of the Japanese American spirit and the temples’ longstanding openness to reach out to the local community. If you’re in Chicago or Sacramento and enjoy whiling your time kvetching about “insular Asian Buddhists”—please visit your local bazaar, grab some lunch or dinner and then leave me a comment to relate these temples’ insufferable refusal to be involved in the greater community!

Photo courtesy of Ginza Chicago.

White Buddhist for Asians

Over on Dharma Folk, kudos posts about largely Vietnamese immigrants in Orange County who have “hired a white American man to teach Buddhism to their kids.” This man is a Buddhist monk, Ven. Kusala Bhikshu.

There are a number of white Buddhist teachers who have ordained and now minister to multicultural communities, especially here in the United States. There’s Ven. Heng Sure and Thanissaro Bhikkhu to name just two. What sets Kusala Bhikhsu apart, in my opinion, is that he has not made the same effort to thoroughly immerse himself in another culture. While Ven. Heng Sure speaks flawless Mandarin and Thanissaro Bhikkhu speaks fluent Thai with a mastery of slang that would make my own mother blush, Kusala Bhikshu is a happily monolingual American Midwesterner—who also happens to reach out to Asian American Buddhist communities.

In my opinion, this is a most beautiful manifestation of Western Buddhism, where Western Buddhists of different stripes and colors come together in spite of—even because of—their differences. Here are people who are leveraging their community’s diversity to strengthen it! Kusala Bhikshu’s not the only white guy working in this vein. For example, I often talk of Richard’s assistance to a local Lao temple. My hope is that, one day, self-styled Western Buddhist institutions can outgrow their cultural insularity and follow in the steps of these multiculturally-minded individuals.

You can listen to the full story at PRI’s The World. (Photo credit to PRI’s The World.)

Hanamatsuri in Downtown LA

Here’s some Downtown Los Angeles Buddhist community news straight from the Rafu Shimpo via Little Tokyo UnBlogged.

Already, Hanamatsuri, the celebration of the Buddha’s birthday is right around the corner. This year’s Los Angeles Buddhist Church Federation’s Hanamatsuri will be held on Sunday, April 11 from 1 p.m. at the Jodoshu North America Buddhist Missions at 442 East Third Street in Little Tokyo. The theme of this year’s celebration is Buddhism and Compassion.

The celebration will begin at 1 p.m. with a special performance of by Kinnara Gagaku of Senshin Buddhist Temple. The visually stunning Bugaku, the classical dance that accompanies Gagaku music will be the featured part of this year’s performance.

The Hanamatsuri Service conducted by over ten priests of the federation temples will begin at 1:20 p.m. The traditional chanting of the priests will be enhanced by the music of Gagaku. An awards presentation for the winners of this year’s Children’s Art and Photography contests will take place immediately after the service.

This year’s highlight will be the commemorative lecture on Buddhism and Compassion delivered by Dr. Glenn Webb, Professor Emeritus of Pepperdine University and one of our country’s leading Buddhist scholars.

In addition to the celebration on April 11, the annual Hanamatsuri Golf Tournament was held on Friday, March 26 at California Country Club. The funds raised at this event will go towards maintaining the annual LABCC Buddhist Summer Camp program.

The Hanamatsuri Children’s Art and Photo exhibition will be on display at the Jodoshu North America Buddhist Missions from April 11 through April 19.

For more information, please contact (213) 626-4200 or

Oh California!

One of the reasons I moved to Southern California was for the large Buddhist community. While very different from the community I was raised in, we have both greater numbers and diversity than just about any region in North America. But I also moved here for days like this, where I can gaze upon the snow-capped mountains from the warm and sunny comfort of the beach in late December. Best to enjoy it while I can. I hear it’s going to drop to the 60s next week!

Buddhist Church of Oakland

A post on The Nenju pointed me to a wonderful article about the Buddhist Church of Oakland. Through interviews with members, Stinson shows how Japanese American history remains relevant to the congregation today—and also how they are moving forward to embrace a new generation in the twenty-first century.

BCO has existed throughout the last century as a spiritual place for worship, but also an important Japanese cultural and community center during a time when Japanese-Americans faced great discrimination. The Issei (first generation) intended for it to be a place to pass Japanese traditions down to new generations.

Matsui and her husband had two children and made sure they attended services and the Japanese language classes that were once offered at BCO on Saturdays. John Minamoto was from one of the few Japanese-American families that lived in Chinatown in the 1950s; he also attended Japanese language classes and watched samurai movies on a big screen in the church’s social hall. His two daughters, now in their twenties, spent weekends throughout their youth playing on the church’s thriving basketball team that competes in a Bay Area league. “There’s this element of community and an element of spiritual practice. The athletic practices, that’s all part of it. All part of the deal,” said Minamoto, adding that the church has acted as a safe haven for Japanese-Americans, a place to socialize, and a space for marriages and funeral services.

Check out the article when you get the chance—it comes with embedded sound and black-and-white photos!

Buddhist Church of Florin

My apologies for broadcasting this announcement so late. The Buddhist Church of Florin celebrates!

The Buddhist Church of Florin celebrated its 90th anniversary on Oct. 25 with the theme “Remembering the Past and Embracing the Future.”

Over 200 people attended the event. Through old photographs, maps and newspaper clippings, attendees reflected on the people and efforts that made the temple what it is today.

You can check out the photos on the church website. (You can also check out Florin!)

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.

Buddhist Stuff

I’m trying to catch up on all the posting I neglected this weekend. This past Friday I got the chance to visit the Jodo Shinshu Center for the first time. Very cool indeed. Here are some highlights. It’s really hi-tech. Asian Americans abound! It’s a Buddhist resource right at the foot of UC Berkeley. Anglais se parle. They’ve got a huge bookstore with Buddhist stuff! On that last point by “Buddhist stuff” I mean to say that in addition to books, the bookstore has a great inventory of the sorts of things you’d need to set up your own shrine or to buy as a Dharma gift for a friend! If you happen to be in Berkeley, I strongly encourage checking it out.