Archive for October, 2011


Barbara Demick, “In China, self-immolations add radical bent to Tibetan protests” LA Times, 10/23/2011 (http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/world/la-fg-china-tibet-20111023,0,840542.story)

Tibet rally in New Delhi

Tibetan people in New Delhi rally to express solidarity with Buddhists in Tibet. (Tsering Topgyal, Associated Press / October 23, 2011)

On Monday of this past week, the ninth young Tibetan killed herself by self-immolation in a protest against Chinese rule.  This twenty year old woman was the first woman, a Buddhist nun, to kill herself in the protest.  As a result of the self-immolations, the exiled Dalai Lama led a day of prayer and fasting on Wednesday.  Also because of the rise in protest, Chinese authorities have increased their security in Aba, the city where most of the self-immolations have occured.  The self-immolations of the monks were done to rouse the Tibetan people into protest against the Chinese government.

This article shows that the ritual suicides being done demonstrate that Tibetans are shifting away from the Dalai Lama’s teachings of nonviolence.  Even though the monks closely follow what the Dalai Lama says, they have become very frustrated with the Chinese government and therfore want to protest.  This is similar to what happened in the 2007 Saffron revolution in Burma where the Buddhist monks led the uprising against the government.  One implication we talked about in class was how Buddhists main focus is for the greater good and so sometimes it might be okay to kill others (or yourself, in the case of the Tibentan protest) if it’s for the greater good.  Another intersting aspect of this article is the neutral perspective (maybe slightly positive toward the Tibetan monks) of the article.  A lot of the time, news articles are more negative towards religions and its followers; however, this article simply states what is going on with the Tibetan protest (the self-immolations of the monks) and how the Chinese government is responding.  The article does stir up some emotions though because self-immolation is not a light subject whatsoever.  It will be interesting to see what happens in the future with this protest.  Will more monks kill themselves to get the Tibetan people more involved with the protest? What will the Chinese government do if this protest escalates?  All of these questions will probably soon be answered.

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Mary Billard, “In Schools, Yoga Without the Spiritual” NY Times, 10/7/2011

This article is about yoga classes and programs being taught in schools and how the religious aspect of yoga is not supposed to be involved at all.  One specific example given in the article is called Bent on Learning; this ten year old program is offered at New York City public schools as an instruction in yoga and meditation to students.  The yoga is meant to reduce stress and improve concentration of students and does not have a religious element to it.  One of the founders of the program said, “No om. No prayer position with the hands. Nothing that anyone could look in and think, this is religious.”  Even though most of the article is about non-religious yoga in public schools, there a few paragraphs right at the end of the article that mention private schools with after school yoga programs that are more religious in nature.

This article is from the opposite point of view than my last blog post (Western instead of from a Buddhist point of view).  The tone of the article is positive towards yoga in general, but emphasis the fact that the yoga done in public schools is not religious whatsoever (showing separation of church and state).  Even though it was mentioned in the article that some private schools that do teach yoga incorporate religious aspects into the programs, this was not emphasized at all.  For instance, one charter school with yoga as an elective class included ringing a singing bowl. “Such a bowl is sometimes used in religious ceremonies, but here it (in the yoga class) had the secular goal of quieting rambunctious children and focusing their attention.”  Therefore it is shown that despite the attempt to include religious aspects in yoga, in the Western world this combination of yoga and religion is not as coherent.  Overall, this clearly shows that Western point of view of yoga and its purpose is not necessarily of a religious background, but used to relax oneself and reduce stress.

Lewis Richmond, “The purpose of Buddhist meditation is to be real,” Huffington Post, 09/26/2011, (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/lewis-richmond/meditation-and-discovering-reality_b_969021.html?ref=buddhism).

This article, written by a Buddhist writer and teacher, is about the true meaning of  Buddhist meditation and how meditation in the West (which is gaining popularity) is done in order to calm ourselves; instead of finding truth and what is real, like Buddhist meditation does.   Americans do not apply this dimension to their meditation rituals. We simply use meditation to get away from the hustle and bustle of our everyday lives and to calm our minds.  The author writes that there’s nothing wrong with using meditation to calm ourselves, but once we have done this we should go deeper to understand ourselves and the reality we live in.

The tone this article has is the opposite of what is usually presented in media; there is more of a positive tone towards Buddhist meditation than of the West and how Americans use meditation in their lives.  When reading the article I thought it was rather shocking that there is a different tone in the article than most media coverage.  However, it makes sense that the article was written this way considering that the author is a Buddhist writer and teacher.  Overall, I think this article is pretty good and interesting because it shows how meditation is different for each person (in particular: differences in meditation practices in the West versus the East) and how meditation, whichever kind, is purposeful in everyone’s lives.

Barbara Bradley Hagerty, “The Hard Economics Of High Holy Days”, NPR News, 09/27/2011 (http://www.npr.org/2011/09/27/140840049/the-hard-economics-of-high-holy-days)

The end of last week marked the Jewish New Year celebration, Rosh Hashana. This article discussed the impact of the slow economy on religion specifically Judaism. This article was a little surprising to me since even though I know that churches have to raise money and pay for buildings and other materials, economics is not usually the first thing that comes to mind when religion is mentioned. Also, it was interesting that the joyful New Year celebration is juxtaposed against tales of congregations losing members and thus funding. One such church had to merge with another in order to keep their building. And the interesting part was that one is a Reform Jewish congregation and the other was a Conservative congregation. Again, I don’t know all that much about Judaism but I found from the article that Conservative are the group that follow kosher laws, while the Reform don’t.
The tone of the article was analytical, but not harsh at all. The point of the article was more to bring the topic to the public. The emotions that are felt from this article, if any are more pity than anything for the churches that are forced to merge or close because of the economy. However, the end leaves the reader a little hopeful due to Rabbi Levi’s positive tone about the merger the Conservative congregation with his own.
This article is most interesting to me because it makes me wonder how congregations of other religions are being affected by the economic downturn. Are some religions affected more than others?The Jewish mostly have membership dues but Christians usually do not, does this magnify the economic effects more for one than the other? It would also be interesting to look at congregations in different areas, urban and rural and see if there’s a difference, as well as congregations around the world. Much like the article stated, the combining of congregations is “bittersweet” since it ends the independence of one, but brings new people together.