Akon’s Sri Lankan Tale

News stories about Akon have been clogging my Buddhist news feed. If you’ve been ignoring the situation as much as I’ve been, here’s an overview of what’s been going on.

  • Less than two weeks ago I learned about Akon’s music video, which many deemed an insult to Buddhism. [The Worst Horse]
  • Protests degenerated from heated rhetoric to stone-throwing before Akon’s scheduled Sri Lanka performance. [The Worst Horse]
  • The government yielded to internal pressure from a fired up constituency and refused to issue Akon a travel visa. [Barbara’s Buddhism Blog]
  • Sri Lanka’s overseas public image certainly isn’t benefiting from the antics of this controversial minority of militant, nationalist Buddhists. [Sweep the Dust, Push the Dirt]
  • Ven. Dhammika provides his own musings on this topic.I can’t say I have ever heard of Akon. But if he’s touring Sri Lanka (a beautiful country but let’s face it, top of the list [f]or rock music backwaters) he must be very desperate. And as for his video, I think the indignant monks can go back to their meditation in peace. After the video and Akon himself are forgotten (in 5 years?) the Buddha will still be around and attracting an audience. The Buddha has survived worse.[Dhamma Musings]

Will the furor die down now that Akon’s rescheduled to the Maldives?

Buddhist America in the Press

I decided to sift more finely through my “Buddhist” news feed and pick out articles on Buddhism in North America—some more tangentially than others. Here are some stories from March 26–29 (in no particular order).

  • Arjia Rinpoche discusses his book about experiences under Chinese rule at the Morris Book shop in Lexington Kentucky. [Lexington Herald-Leader]
  • The Frederick News-Post covers Zen master Gosung Shin at the American Zen College in Germantown, Maryland. [Frederick News-Post]
  • Buddhist nun Jun Yasuda leads a 700-mile trek through New York for environmental responsibility. [The Citizen]
  • Rabbi Vanessa Boettiger connects tonglen practice with a meditation on Passover. [The Bennington Banner]
  • Geshe Thupten Phelgye speaks about economics and human rights at Gonzaga University. [Gonzaga Bulletin]
  • Buddhist monks from Los Angeles join in a ceremony at the Portland Rose Festival Dragon Boat race. [Oregon Live]
  • Chua Phuoc Hau in Louisville suffers vandalism, but also receives community support. [The Courier-Journal] (Also see Danny Fisher’s blog.)
  • Brandeis students incorporate Buddhist meditation into a weeklong celebration of the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. [The Brandeis Hoot]
  • The Missourian covers the state’s only Cambodian Buddhist monk. [Columbia Missourian]
  • Watsonville Buddhist Temple holds a pancake fundraiser to support a Buddhist youth conference. [Santa Cruz Sentinel]
  • The Argus Observer reflects on Shin Buddhism and Hana Matsuri at the Idaho-Oregon Buddhist Temple. [Argus Observer]
  • Here’s a snapshot of the diverse Buddhist scene in Austin, Texas. [Austin American-Statesman]

It’s a great task for a sick day when you don’t want to do anything mentally intensive. I also feel so much more connected to Buddhist America! Maybe I’ll do it again next week.

Home Altars

Nate DeMontigny is collecting photos of home altars. How fabulous! If I had one, I would submit in a heartbeat. The closest thing I have right now is a travel altar on loan. Ever since my main Buddha statue broke, the other altarpieces have dispersed themselves around my home. Imagine if these photos were gathered up into a home altar gallery. How wonderful would that be!

Buddhism & Video Games Come to the Stage

Full Contact Enlightenment had an interesting post this morning about a play in Los Angeles involving Buddhism and video games!

In the recent newsletter from Ken McLeod, he made mention to a play by the name of “Cave Quest” put on by the East West Players in Las Angeles. The group are described as “The Nation’s premier Asian American theatre and

“EWP has premiered over 100 plays and musicals about the Asian Pacific American experience and has held over 1,000 readings and workshops. Our emphasis is on building bridges between East and West, and one measure of our success is an audience of 56% Asians and a remarkable 44% non-Asian attendance.”

The theme behind EWP’s production of “Cave Quest” will certainly resonate with many Buddhists who are noticing the increased trend towards ‘get enlightenment quick/make me rich’ gurus hoping to package up enlightenment in a easy to purchase format.

The play is described on the EWP’s website as follows:

“The search for inner peace is often a life long journey. However, Justin Yi plans to condense that journey into minutes by packaging it into a $49.95 video game. In order to create the game, he tracks down Padma, a legendary American Buddhist nun in a Tibetan cave high in the Himalayas. Padma hasn’t spoken in five years, but that’s okay, he’s only looking for the bullet points of enlightenment. When Justin’s charm and fervor falls short, he embraces darker tactics and the cave becomes an arena for a conflict of wills and surprising revelations that changes the course of their lives.”

If anyone does check out the play, I’d love to read a review. It’s running until March 14th so get there quick!

Many thanks to TMcG for this heads up. I’ll be sure to check out this playsometime this week!

Your Call: Buddhism in America

Right now I’m listening to an episode of Your Call with Sandip Roy interviewing Anchalee Kurutach of the Buddhist Peace Fellowship, Mushim Ikeda-Nash of the East Bay Meditation Center and Rev. Harry Gyokyo Bridge of the Buddhist Church of Oakland.

[W]e meditate on just what it means to be a Buddhist living and practicing in the United States. Buddhism is the fourth largest religion in the country. The Dalai Lama is a revered household name and Tiger Woods has publicly linked his infidelity to “losing track” of his Buddhist upbringing. What is the appeal of Buddhism to so many Americans? And what does it have to teach us?

The coolest thing about this interview (for me) is that all the participants—interviewer included—are Asian American! How awesome is that! And they come from such diverse backgrounds, traditions and perspectives. There’s a lot of wonderful material here for me to ruminate over and post about later on. I hope you get a chance to listen!

What a wonderful morning—many thanks to Working Dharma for the link.

Tiger’s Buddhism on BBC

A couple weeks ago I noted that the BBC avoided mentioning Tiger Woods’ Buddhist faith. But then I took that week’s news quiz.

As far as I have checked, no reference to Tiger Woods’ Buddhism has turned up on the BBC News site (though you will find it here). Still, I’m glad to see it. Some days it’s the little things that make all the difference.

HBO Asian Am Heritage Project

Following a tip from Asian Nation, HBO is looking for Asian Americans to share their story!

Asian American Heritage Project Seeking Stories

Hello everyone,

I was hired to direct a documentary PSA series for HBO which shoots at the end of this month in NYC. It is my first directorial project for HBO and luckily the subject matter has the potential to be fantastic but needs to be handled with care. You might laugh out loud when you hear what it is, but it’s an HBO Asian American Heritage Doc PSA. I know I am Asian and am not the most seemingly culturally Asian guy out there, but I am told they hired me because I am both inside and outside those circles. Works for me!

Now here is where you come in. I want you and/or your friends to be in it! And you are on this email because I think you might be able to send some good candidates. And if you or they get chosen, they’ll be on HBO in May and get paid, etc.

So do you have a story to tell about your experience as an Asian American? Can you tell the story on camera? Your story could be funny or inspirational or touching. It could be about your grandmother or your education or your favorite food. It could be your immigration story, your family’s unique approach to holidays, your job. As long as it’s real and as long as it’s uniquely you.

As an example, we currently have a story of a Korean kid who was adopted into an Italian family in Pennsylvania. He grew up 100% culturally Italian while looking very Korean to his peers. He won the outstanding Italian American scholarship for college and accepted the award in front of a room full of confused old Italians. Hilarity ensues and lessons are learned.

We also have a story of a grandfather who came to America from China. He couldn’t read the menu at McDonalds but was hungry as hell. All he could read were the words “Happy” and “Meal” so that’s what he ordered. He still cherishes the toy he received on that day.

We want a wide range of stories about how being Asian in America has shaped you in some way. We can also explore issues such as Asian fetishes and why Asians seemingly love break dancing and rap (I’m learning a lot about that one). And it would be great to hear from some folks who left a lot behind to come here and do not regret their decisions one bit. But most of all we want to show strength and color from all ages, demographics and backgrounds.

Email asianheritageproject@gmail.com with your story and a little about your background and we will be in touch. And if you’re camera shy (or if this isn’t relevant to you) but know someone who is amazing, who is a great storyteller (maybe it’s your uncle, maybe it’s your best friend growing up), let them know. Spread the word.

I am looking for all Asian nationalities (East Asia, South Asia and Southeast Asia). Chinese, Korean, Japanese, Indian, Pakistani, Filipino, Vietnamese, Laotian, Hmong, Sri Lankan, Thai, Malaysian, Cambodian, etc. etc. (the list is endless). I am also looking for Bi-Racial folks, Adoptees, Transplants (Asian Americans from non-Asian countries – Brazil, Argentina, UK etc), Gay and Lesbian, 1st Generation, 2nd Generation, 3rd Generation, etc.

Religious or non-religious (Buddhist, Christian, Catholic, Shinto, Muslim, Hindu, Jain, Judaism, and others). Individuals who embrace or question their “Asian Heritage/Identity.” All ages, all incomes and all genders. You can get a PDF flyer of the project too.

Wow, this email is long. Thanks for reading this far and I hope you or someone you know sends their stories along!

Jon Yi // Director + Cinematographer

Did you not see that explicit invitation for Buddhists? I hope you can represent!

Christianity in the New Asia

That’s the subtitle of the recently premièred film 1040, a documentary from director Evan Jackson Leong and producers Anson Ho and Carl Choi. The teaser trailer’s worth watching—here’s the promotional brief:

1040 is an explosive documentary that focuses on the rapid changes in Asia and the significant shift of spiritual landscape in the area known as the “10/40 Window”- the regions between 10 degrees and 40 degrees North Latitude on the eastern hemisphere. In the film, artist and minister Jaeson Ma takes us on an exciting journey through the Asian countries in the window, showing us the dramatic changes happening on the ground. We visit China, South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore, and Indonesia. Through incisive observations, intimate interviews with prominent leaders and celebrities, and powerful, never-before-heard stories, 1040dynamically explores a part of our globe that is experiencing vast socioeconomic expansion and profound shift in identity- it is an area that is now nothing less than the frontier of world Christianity.

Christian evangelism is a sore spot for many Buddhists, both in Asia and abroad. Buddhism is a long-established religion in Asia, a status that comes with great benefits as well as pernicious institutionalized drawbacks. That’s another post for another time, but I suppose this film lends me to dwell more on the sable clouds than on the silver lining. Thanks to the Angry Asian Man for this link. (Update: It wasn’t clear, but I’m happy for Asia’s Christian community—it’s just that this feeds into mixed feelings overall…)

Tiger Woods’ Buddhist Apology

You know Tiger Woods is the world’s most famous Buddhist when his apology causes a greater market volume spike than the FOMC discount rate hike announcement. Here are some links from the news and around the Buddhist blogosphere.

Here’s the Buddhist quote of the day. 

I owe it to my family to become a better person. I owe it to those closest to me to become a better man. I have a lot of work to do, and I intend to dedicate myself to doing it. Part of following this path for me is Buddhism, which my mother taught me at a young age. People probably don’t realize it, but I was raised a Buddhist, and I actively practiced my faith from childhood until I drifted away from it in recent years. Buddhism teaches that a creation of things outside ourselves causes an unhappy and pointless search for security. It teaches me to stop following every impulse and to learn restraint. Obviously, I lost track of what I was taught.

While I’m not particularly proud of what Tiger Woods has done to his family, I’m still glad that he was able to give the world a proper portrayal of Buddhism in the most public (and delicate) of situations.

Suggestions to the Editors

What can magazines like TheBigThree do to promote more Asian American writers? I have in the past provided some tentative suggestions, but my experience in the publishing world approaches nil. Fortunately, author 犀利士 g-their-work.html”>Claire Light today posted on her blog some very pertinent comments on the paucity of female and POC writers in literary magazines. (“Why Aren’t Women and POC Submitting Their Work?”) Claire Light has had a tremendous impact on how I see the world, from white privilege to use of the term hapa. Her thoughts here are, by and large, directly applicable to the editorial staffs of TheBigThree. Below are some suggestions from the end of her post about what these white folk can do to reach out effectively.

Archivist Note: Regrettably, the rest of this post was lost in transition to the new server.