Tag Archives: Buddhist

Buddhist, Christian holiday fall on same day this year

By Contributor Pearce Fujiura

Pearce Fujiura

This April 8, while millions (dare I say billions) of Christians around the world celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ, thousands (dare I say millions) of Buddhists will be celebrating the birth of Buddha.

In a somewhat infrequent confluence of holy events, Easter Sunday this year corresponds perfectly with the Japanese Buddhist holiday Hanamatsuri.

Hanamatsuri has been on April 8 every year since Japan converted to the Gregorian calendar in the late 19th century.  Hanamatsuri literally translates into ‘flower festival’ and is one of my favorite holidays.


Hanamatsuri celebrates the folklore surrounding the story of the birth of Siddhartha Gautama. According to versions of the Buddha’s birth, Buddha could walk the moment he was born. He took seven steps with his right hand pointing towards the heavens and his left hand pointing to the earth said, “I alone am honored in heaven and on earth.” At which point sweet nectar rained from the heavens (or in some versions perfume was poured over the Buddha by two dragon kings). Because of this story Buddhists in Japan and other East Asian countries celebrate the birth of Buddha by pouring sweet tea or sprinkling water over statues of the Buddha and decorating alters with flowers.

I have always enjoyed Hanamatsuri, and have looked forward to the ama-cha (sweet tea) made that year. Regardless of whether you believe the story about the events that transpired during the birth of Buddha, I think anyone can enjoy the beauty behind the ceremony. For Buddhists it is a holiday with traditions stretching back centuries, and it still holds a lot of meaning.

This is a concept that I find refreshing, especially during this season in which many people paint and hide eggs for reasons that are largely unknown by the common practitioner. While the church pews fill and everyone begins the conversation about the transformative power of the resurrection of Christ, temples are also filling with practitioners bearing flowers and tea celebrating the gift of Buddha’s arrival on earth.

I like to celebrate Buddha’s entrance onto this planet and reflect on my own contributions towards greater understanding. I would like to imagine it is not mere coincidence both of these significant events happen to fall on this date in the calendar. It’s nice to think that this time of year is holy to all. As I watch all my Christian friends file out of church this coming Sunday, I’ll smile knowing we share a common reverence for those who came generations before us to give us the gifts that provide spirituality to their children even today.

BRIEF: Zen meditation retreat to be held in April

By Tracy Simmons

On April 14 Daya Goldschlag will host a Zen meditation retreat called, “Getting Out of the Way So You Can Be Here.”

The retreat will be from 2 to 5 p.m.. Those wanting a brief introduction on meditation form are asked to arrive at 1:30 p.m.

Goldschlag said internal chatter easily gets in the way of “just being yourself.”

“A meditation practice can bring us back to our home-breath and a clear base so
we can be more fully present,” she wrote.

The retreat will include an afternoon of sitting and walking meditation, a short  dharma talk and time for questions.

Cost is $25. The retreat will be at 1604 W. Riverside Ave.

To register call (509) 328-6215 or email dayagee@gmail.com.

Daya Goldschlag is a SpokaneFAVS contributor.

Buddhists shout to be heard

By Contributor Pearce Fujiura

Pearce Fujiura

As the election year chatter begins the deafening crescendo towards November, the tone and tenor of the dialogue approaches a familiar chord: Christianity versus atheism.

I realized as I typed this was a gross over-simplification of the complex debate that occurs within our diverse society, yet it accurately describes how I perceive the discussion as a whole.  According to the U.S. Census Bureau, in 2008 close to 76 percent of American adults defined themselves as some form of Christian and just below 16 percent defined themselves as atheist or Agnostics, making these two groups the majority of the voting population. So it makes perfect sense that the debate would involve these two seemingly opposite yet, very influential ideals.  However it is often during this time of year I can’t help but feel a tiny twinge of something akin to neglect or disenfranchisement. I am part of a minority, the non-Christian religious (8 percent of the adult population), moreover Buddhist represent one of the smallest subsets of that group representing only 13 percent of non-Christians religious adults (0.5 percent of American adults).

So why should my political opinions matter?  What impact does my interest have on the political landscape? I would guess next to zero.  No politician stays up nights fretting about the Buddhist vote or alienating Buddhist voters.  So when election season comes into full swing I often find myself as a Persona non grata in the political conversation.

Sometimes it can be a relief and sometimes it can be really annoying. It’s like sitting at the kiddy table at a wedding reception, there’s no stress, drama, or arguments that really involve you but no one is offering you champagne for  the toast either. Maybe that is not my best simile, but I hope you get my meaning.

Everyone is talking about religion but they are only really discussing one religion.  Politicians must somehow reassure the country of his or her Christian faith and either ambiguously or flamboyantly cater to the needs and desires of his significantly Christian constituency. I realize it is unrealistic to expect people to segregate and compartmentalize such an important part of their identity away from complex issues, but I do sometimes long for that mythical separation of church and state.  That being said, I understand that the world would likely be a scarier place if we were truly able to completely separate religion from matters of the state.  We can’t have law without ideals, and we can’t have ideals without cultural and social contracts, which are ultimately rooted in some sort of religious foundation.  Yet it would be nice if some issues could remain religiously neutral so that everyone else could get involved without feeling at odds with the clear majority of the population. I would also like to add religiously neutral does not mean godless.

There is an interesting phenomenon in politics where opinions counter to Christian opinions are often assumed to be anti-religion.  Which statistically speaking would be a safe assumption, but practically speaking is demeaning to non-Christian religions. Upon deeper evaluation I find that I don’t really want separation of church and state, I want inclusion of churches into state.  If there is room for Christianity, which there obviously is, why can’t there be room for Muslims, Jews, Hindus, and Buddhists?  Why can’t Wiccans matter the way Christians do? If there isn’t room enough for everyone, how do we choose who to leave out? It is such a fine line we tread, bringing religion into the political arena, it is a wonder the whole thing doesn’t fall apart constantly.

Usually I offer up some insight or knowledge my religion has given me about a controversial topic, but this time I wanted to ask for input.  What can be done about this feeling of un-involvement I get from my demographic non-presence?  Is this just a natural and unavoidable byproduct of a democratic society?  Should I just shut-up and let the adults speak, or does the relatively tiny voice of the Buddhist community have as much to offer to the political conversation as everyone else? Unlike other demographics a person’s religious affiliation is (for the most part) a choice, so am I choosing to be left out?  This little post of mine is filled to the gills with questions, perhaps I am in an inquisitive mood; I hope that everyone else can help me find some of the answers.

Meet Daya Goldschlag, our Zen writer

Daya Goldschlag

Daya Goldschlag was born and raised in the Bronx in a Russian-Hungarian-Italian Jewish family. When she was 19 years old she spent almost a year hitchhiking around Europe and the Middle East including Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Jordan and Israel.

“It opened my culturally-sheltered eyes to see how differently people’s lives were lived and what beliefs they held.  I realized international borders were basically artificial and that we were really all one people,” she said.

Shortly after returning, Goldschlag went to live and train at the San Francisco Zen Buddhist Center and its monastery, Tassajara.  The abbot and head teacher at that time was Shunryu Suzuki Roshi (of “Zen Mind, Beginners Mind”). Goldschlag was lay ordained by him in 1971 and he has remained a powerful influence on how she tries to live her life, she said.

“Suzuki Roshi always emphasized Zen practice (even enlightenment) was ‘nothing special’ and is essentially to ‘just be yourself.’ I have taken this to mean that one must make every effort to be present without making much ado about it.  Through that effort arises a sense of humor about the joys and suffering in life, compassion toward yourself and others, and the understanding of the interdependence of all sentient beings,” Goldschlag said.

She was trained by Dr. Milton Trager  in therapeutic bodywork. Goldschlag maintains a private practice in integrative bodywork in Spokane.  Once a week she leads a Zen meditation and study group and has helped lead retreats at Tassajara. She currently offers half-day meditation retreats three or four times a year in Spokane. Goldschlag lives in Tum Tum with her husband Ted. They have four grown children.

Goldschlag writes about everyday activities, responses, questions and observations from a Zen perspective.

“I hope to grow from this dialogue with you,” she said.

E-mail: dayagee@gmail.com

Hundreds of Buddhists gather in downtown Spokane

By Tracy Simmons

Shin Buddhists gather in Spokane for convention/Tracy Simmons - SpokaneFavs

Buddhist teachings are practical, useable and helpful. At least, they can be if adherents strive to strengthen their minds, Ven. Bhante Seelawimala said Saturday morning at the opening service of the 65th annual Northwest Buddhist Convention.

He was one of 300 Buddhists who gathered in downtown Spokane for the conference, which continues through the weekend and is being hosted by the Spokane Buddhist Temple.

Buddhists, mostly Shin, traveled from Idaho, Oregon, California, Washington and parts of Canada to attend the conference.

In Seelawimala’s talk, “Experience the Dharma,” he explained how the Buddha journeyed to enlightenment and what he learned along the way. Seelawimala is a Theravada Buddhist monk from Sri Lanka who teaches at the Institute of Buddhist Studies at Berkley.

Ven. Bhante Seelawimala speaks at the Davenport/Tracy Simmons - SpokaneFAVS

“The Buddha found that almost every person does not use the mind to its fullest capacity,” Seelawimala said. “The mind is very powerful…but we don’t know how to use it and because of that we experience all kinds of problems in life…it’s a corrupted system, and it’s corrupted by our own behavior.”

Self-centeredness, he said, is the root problem of the corrupted mind.

He said the key to having a perfect mind and joyful life is simple.

“All you need to do is keep the Buddha in mind and you will become calm, peaceful and more focused,” he said.

The Buddha that one needs to focus on, he clarified, is not the person, but instead are the qualities of wisdom and compassion.

Seelawimala spoke during the public portion of the event. Many non-Buddhists were in the crowd and he urged them to test his advice.

“Buddhism is the only religion in the whole world that says if you don’t believe me, go see for yourself,” he jested.

Rev. Marvin Harada speaks at Buddhist convention/Tracy Simmons - SpokaneFAVS

Rev. Marvin Kenju Harada of the Orange County Buddhism Church, spoke after Seelawimala, delivering a keynote address on the essence of Buddhism.

Learning to control our egos, he said, is how one can live a peaceful life. He said marriages, families and societies struggles when egos clash.

“The ego-self is causing all the problems in life,” he said. “I think Buddhism offers the ultimate solution to all life’s problems, it gets to the core of the ego-self…and teaches us how to be liberated from the problems caused by the ego-self.”

The theme of the conference is “Under Amida’s Umbrella of Compassion.” Amida is the Buddha of light.

Numerous workshops were available to attendees Saturday afternoon, as well as a banquet dinner. The convention will conclude Sunday with a dharma message by Harada.

“When you’re bringing 200 to 300 Buddhist together from across the Northwest district, it’s always a wonderful experience,” said Jefferson Workman, a minister’s assistant at the Spokane temple. “We’re proud people came out for this.”

The temple will be offering an introductory course on Buddhism in March. For information visit the temple online.

View more photos of this event on our Flickr album.

Buddhist meditation group to host dharma talk

On Feb. 5 the Spokane Concentration Meditation Group will host Purification of the Mind, a meditation practice and dharma talk.

The guest speaker will be Brian Gavin, a Spokane resident and teacher-in-training in the jhana practice (an ancient concentration practice).  His talk  will focus on the “nuts and bolts” aspects of a meditation practice aimed at promoting tranquility in our daily lives, according to the event flier.

The event will be from 10 a.m. to noon at the Community Meditation Room in the Saranac Building35 West Main.  No previous meditation experience is needed and there is no cost to attend, though donations will be accepted.

For information visit the group’s Meetup site.

Buddhist abbey now home to 5 U.S.- born fully ordained nuns

By Tracy Simmons
Religion News Spokane

Vens. Jigme and Chonyi in their Chinese bhikshuni robes. Contributed Photo

NEWPORT, Wash. – There aren’t a lot of Buddhists in America —around 3 million or so, according to the Pluralism Project. And if the denomination is a minority then it makes sense that there isn’t exactly an abundance of monasteries here either, let alone Buddhist clergy.

Because there’s no central administrative office for Buddhists to report to, the demographics of the faith remain unclear.

Here’s what we do know. Just outside of Newport, Wash., a town of about 2,1000 people, is Sravasti Abbey. It’s one of the only monastic communities in the west for Americans to study the Buddha’s teachings. What’s even more unique is that as of December, the abbey now has five U.S.-born, fully ordained nuns, called bhikshunis. With five ordained nuns at the abbey, official sanghakarmas [Sangha ceremonies] can be held there, including the twice-monthly Posadha [ceremony of confession and restoration of precepts]. These particular ceremonies are private. To have the special rites, the abbey only needed four bhikshunis. By this summer, the abbey expects to have six.

“When we first set up the abbey there were three residents, myself and two cats. Now we have two cats and 12 human residents, five of them bhikshunis,” said Abbess Ven. Thubten Chodron. “I think this is a big thing because this isn’t a Buddhist country.”

Chodron founded the abbey in 2003, fulfilling her lifelong dream of creating a Tibetan Buddhist community in the states. For a decade she served as resident teacher at Dharma Friendship Foundation in Seattle, but she had no monastic community to call her own.

Originally from Los Angeles, Chodron became a bhikshuni in 1986. Like most Buddhist women, she had to travel to Taiwan to receive her ordination.

Precept receivers, guiding teachers, and the ordaining masters line up in front of the Non-Duality Gate after the First Platform Ordination. Contributed Photo

For full ordination a quorum of 10 fully ordained monks and 10 fully ordained nuns must be present and the ordaining sangha must have at least 10 years experience as fully ordained monastics, according to Chinese tradition. There aren’t enough fully ordained monastics in the U.S. or Indonesia, but there are enough in Taiwan and Vietnam, Chodron explained. That was the case 26 years ago and it’s still the case today. Full ordination was never established in Tibet because of the difficulty of traveling over mountain ranges from India.

“Our goal is, hopefully, that sometime in the future we’ll have enough monks and nuns at the abbey to give the ordination ourselves,” she said.

Ven. Thubten Jigme, 60, and Ven. Thubten Chonyi, 58, traveled together to Taiwan at the end of October to partake in the Triple Platform Ceremony, or full ordination where  they received the sramanerika, bhikshuni, and bodhisattva vows. Both women gave up their careers and possessions to become first-generation, home-grown monastics. They remain in touch with their families.

Jigme dropped out of high school as a teenager, later earned her G.E.D. and eventually earned nursing degrees. She’s worked at hospitals, clinics and classrooms, and before moving to the abbey she worked as a psychiatric nurse practitioner in Seattle.

Jigme met Chodron at a retreat in 1998 and said she knew immediately that she found her spiritual path.

“It has been a very organic journey,” Jigme said. “I grew up in a family that had little spiritual interest, and I really didn’t pursue spiritual practice but put my effort into my career. Over the years, however, I realized I had a spiritual longing and began a search.”

Almost eight years after she met Chodron she decided to attend a retreat at the abbey. There, Jigme said, she experienced the power of Buddha’s teachings and began to see a difference in her thoughts and actions.

“I realized I would need the support of likeminded people to develop these qualities,” she said.

She moved to the abbey in 2008 and took her novice vows in 2009. Saying goodbye to her friends, colleagues and patients wasn’t easy, but Jigme said the transition was good for her.

“Saying goodbye to them … was another peeling away of worldly involvement. Then, finally, the process of letting go of all the belongings I had accumulated for 56 years was another huge process. But the interesting thing was as I sold and gave away my belongings, I got happier and happier,” she said. “Giving up my worldly identities left me feeling, ‘Okay, now who am I and what is my role?’ I’m still defining this question as I try to embody the teachings of the Buddha and let go of the strong identity of I.”

Chonyi has been a student of Chodron for more than 15 years. She met her at the Dharma Friendship Foundation. At the time Chonyi  was working as the co-owner of Reiki Healing Arts Center.

She supported Chodron and became a lay founder of the abbey. For several years she toyed with the idea of becoming a monastic and in 2007, finally committed, Chonyi said.

Buddhist shrine in Taiwan. Contributed Photo

She and Jigme have been training for full ordination since they arrived at the abbey, but the final lessons took place in Taiwan. Chonyi explained that the intense training included everything from lessons on meditation and Buddhist history to classes on standing, sitting and eating properly. There are 348 precepts a bhikshuni must follow.

“When you have a calm body that’s focused and at ease, it has an influence on everybody around you,” she said.

Though exhausting and overwhelming at times, Chonyi said the training strengthened her faith and brought her closer to her fellow residents.

“I got a sense of what my responsibility is for helping to hold the value of the community,” she said. “I feel a very strong responsibility for establishing something that will be here, hopefully, for hundreds of years after us. We’re creating a space for the people behind us.”

The novice and fully ordained nuns at the abbey teach classes in Spokane and the surrounding areas and host events and retreats on their property. Because interest in the abbey is growing, the residents are currently fundraising and hope to build a new building that can accommodate more people.

For information visit http://www.sravastiabbey.org/.

Holiday season is a sacred time for Buddhists, too

By Blogger Pearce Fujiura

Blogger Pearce Fujiura

This week many Buddhists are celebrating the Mahayana New Year. However, because it’s from a different cultural tradition than my own, it’s not an event that I celebrate.

I am a Japanese Buddhist, specifically Nichiren. My family and I celebrate Shogatsu, which is celebrated at the same time as the Western New Year.

My family has always celebrated Shogatsu by pounding a sweet rice paste, called Mochi, with other members of the Japanese community. We do this using large wooden mallets known as Kine (pronouced Key-neigh) and a large stone mortar called Usu (pronounced oo-sue).

The mochi pounding (mochitsuki) is about building community and also about reflecting on yourself and your spiritual awareness.  For me, the mochitsuki is not a religious ceremony, but instead marks the end of the celebration of the Buddha’s enlightenment.

In Japan, the celebration of Buddha’s enlightenment begins on Dec. 8 and ends 30 days later on Jan. 7. During this time I celebrate the moment that the Buddha obtained enlightenment as well as the many paths to enlightenment that have been found around the world. It is a time to reflect on my own path and the steps that I am making towards finding my own way.

I love this time of year because it reveals to me how unique each of our journeys are, yet how they are each valid and correct in their own way.  While I may misstep along the way, I am still traveling and growing and learning.  This time of year reminds me to celebrate that knowledge and take reverence in the knowledge and path of others.

Like many Buddhists, I think that the principle of these celebrations and traditions can easily be understood and practiced by people of all faiths who use the holiday season to reflect on family, self-improvement, embrace, or even celebrate the newness of the moment and of the year.

Sravasti Abbey welcome home two ordained nuns

By Tracy Simmons
Religion News Spokane

The Sravasti Abbey community in Newport is now home to five official bhikshunis, or ordained nuns.

Ven. Chonyi and Ven. Jigme recently returned from Taiwan, where they participated in the International Triple Platform Full Ordination training and ceremony, making them the fourth and fifth bhikshunis at the abbey.

According to the monastic ethical code (the Vinaya), a community with four or more ordained nuns is authorized to hold special sangha activities. The abbey is now able to host a bi-monthly confession and precept ceremony, known as posadha.

More photos of the sisters’ trip can be seen on the abbey website.

Group joins Occupy Spokane through street meditation, looking within

By Tracy Simmons, editor

Sicco Rood meditates at Occupy Spokane/Tracy Simmons

They didn’t wave signs or urge passersby to sound their horns.

This time, the protesters were silent. They sat on stools or on the ground, hands folded loosely in their laps, eyes closed with a candle flickering by their side. Others cupped the candle in their hands and quietly paced the Occupy Spokane triangle.

All of them were meditating, looking inward rather than pointing fingers at the flush corporations that many say have thrown the economy off balance.

“It’s easy to see faults in others. Corporations are bigger, so their faults are magnified. Once in awhile we need to look at ourselves,” said Sicco Rood, a local Buddhist who organized the event, and also a member of the Zen Center of Spokane.

Although Spokane’s Occupy protests have been mostly peaceful, at some other Occupy sites the demonstrations have gotten foul, which Rood said only divides people.

A woman participates in a walking meditation at Occupy Spokane/Tracy Simmons

“It’s easier to yell, but a true transformation comes from each individual one by one,” he said, which is why he organized the flash mob meditation.

He recruited more than a dozen people from the Zen Center of Spokane, Friends of Compassion and Occupy Spokane to gather on Friday night at the triangle and meditate on how, as Gandhi said, they can be change. The meditation flash mob, as he called it, will also take place on Saturday at 7 p.m. and he urges people of all faiths to join in.

“The more people that do it, the more energy it builds,” Rood said, adding that meditating amongst the sound of traffic, nearby chatter and car horns is a discipline in maintaining a peaceful mind. “The real the real practice is taking it into the world.”

“Please consider joining us by taking your practice out of the temples and churches and into the marketplace,” he said in an email invitation. “The Occupy movement needs support and respect from folks from all walks of life.”

Dave Gordon, also a Buddhist, drove 90 miles from Barstow to participate in Friday’s flash mob meditation.

Local Buddhists join in street meditation/Tracy Simmons

He said suffering occurs when people, like the rich and the poor, feel separated from one another. The street meditation, he said, will help unify people.

“Hopefully (when people walk by) they’ll feel the peacefulness of our meditations,” he said.

Brad Rafford, chairman of Occupy Spokane’s committee of healing, came to pray with the meditators. He said it’s events like the flash mob meditation that have made the Occupy movement become less angry and more peaceful in recent weeks. Although it’s winter (it was 34 degrees Friday night), and Occupy Spokane protestors aren’t at the triangle daily anymore, he promises that they haven’t disappeared.

Updated Occupy Spokane events can be found on the group’s Facebook page here.

See more photos on our Flickr page here.