Sunday, December 26, 2010

BATW: A Buddhist Blogger from Singapore

Here we present the first in a new series of articles "Buddhism Around The World", which we hope to continue on with here. Our first "highlight" is Lee Yue Heng from Singapore. We hope you enjoy what he has to share...

I am a Buddhist blogger of Chinese ethnicity from the Republic of Singapore, which is a small island in Southeast Asia. Buddhism is a mainstream religion here, adhered to by about 42.5% of the population as of 2000.

We also have a very diverse Buddhist scene here. There are Theravadains, Chinese Mahayanists, Korean Zen practioners, Sokka Gakkai devotees, Vajrayana, etc. and they generally co-exist in harmony.

Personally, I am not exclusively affiliated with any particular school or sect but I do try to integrate aspects of Mahayana and Theravada Buddhism, with a little dash of Tibetan Buddhism, into my daily practice. This is not unusual among Buddhists in Singapore and sectarian lines are not so rigidly defined.

For example, some time ago, I attended a talk by Venerable Thubten Chodron (who hails from the Tibetan tradition) which was hosted at a Theravada Temple and Ajahn Brahamavamso (from the Thai Forest tradition) frequently gives talks at the Singapore Buddhist Lodge, which is a chiefly Chinese Mahayana organization.

Recently, I began a blog exclusively centered on Buddhism and its address is

I try to write about daily life from a Buddhist perspective and sometimes there are posts on the state of Buddhism in Singapore (from my humble and subjective viewpoint of course)

It would be nice to interact with Buddhists from all over the world and the Blogisattva Awards platform seems like one of the venues for doing so. Recently, you had a post about highlighting bloggers from non-English countries. Singapore is in Southeast Asia, but because of our colonial history, our main language is English. If you feel that any of my posts will be of interest to your readers, feel free to direct them to "The Refugee"!

Hoping this finds you in good health. With Metta

Lee Yue Heng

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Buddhism Around the World

Buddhism is a tradition that is growing exponentially throughout the world, and not just those countries where is English is the dominant language spoken. If you are a blogger, I'm sure you are more than aware of people from around the globe coming to visit your site. But I bet you weren't perhaps aware of the vast and diverse amount of non-English language Buddhist blogs out there. While the Blogisattva awards are primarily about recognizing English language blogs, we feel it is important that those voices around the globe, whatever language they maybe, have a chance to be heard and be part of the community. With technology today, language isn't the barrier to communication and the sharing of ideas that it once was.

With that in mind, Nate and I thought it would be a great idea to get bloggers from traditionally non English language countries to talk a little bit about Buddhism in their country, including a bit of the history, culture, growth and online world. So over the next several months, the Blogisattvas will feature posts from several different bloggers from around the world, who are kind enough to share their thoughts and experience from their perspective. We thought this not only a unique opportunity to expand our community, but a great way we all can learn what other wonderful voices are out there.

So far we have bloggers from Hungary, Brazil and Mexico lined up, and are working on bringing others in. If you are a Buddhist / Buddhist blogger from a non-English language country, and would like to share your thoughts and experience, send us an email here. It would be great publicity for not only your blog, but Buddhism within your country!

Also, Google has this handy tool that anyone can plug into their blog or website, that allows your blog to be translated into almost a hundred different languages instantly. We have put one up here on the right tool bar, and encourage everyone to put up a translator button.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

2010 Blogisattva Award Winners

I'll be perfectly honest, I was trying to find another word other than winner to use in the title here. Not because the winners here are less deserving, and not because I was trying to blur the line between winner and non-winner in the spirit of being a "Buddhist," but because all of these people that have had the heart, the guts and the determination to come online and share their thoughts and their practice with the world, cannot win or lose. What they do, what you do, day after day is immeasurably beyond the realm of relative winners and losers. YOU together are all the voices and the spirit that is moving and shaping the future of Buddhism, the future of an ancient tradition that points to a way beyond winners and losers, a way beyond suffering, a way beyond doubt.
Collectively, all of our words, which are linked together by print or by digital media or by podcasts, is far greater than one lone voice could ever be; and its real power and influence is beyond the poor abilities of human vocabulary to describe. However if I had to choose, I would say this community is the embodiment of Prajñā, Dāna and Śīla. We are all Sangha; Perhaps not in the traditional meaning of the word, but nevertheless a Sangha that I am most humbly overjoyed to be a part of.

In the Dhammapada, Guatama Buddha famously taught:
Are you a shepherd
Who counts another man's sheep,
Never sharing the way?
Read as few words as you like,
And speak fewer.
But act upon the dharma.
Give up the old ways -
Passion, enmity, folly.
Know the truth and find peace.
Share the way
From all of us at the Blogisattva awards, we thank each and every one of you for sharing the way in your own words and in your own way.

Your 2010 Blogisattvas!

✍ Best Achievement with Humor in a Blog or Blog Post 
✓ Sweep the dust, Push the dirt - Blogger: John Pappas

✍ Best Achievement in Wide Range of Topic Interests Blogging 
✓ Buddhist Geeks - Blogger: Group Blog

✍ Best Achievement in Design 
✓ 21awake - Blogger: Rohan Gunatillake

✍ Best Achievement Blogging Opinion Pieces or Political Issues
✓ Dangerous Harvests - Blogger: Nathan Thompson

✍ Best Achievement in Kind and Compassionate Blogging
✓ Discovering the Divine Connection - Blogger: Emily Horn

✍ Best Blogging on Matters Philosophical, Psychological or Scientific
✓ Wandering Dhamma - Blogger: Brooke Schedneck

✍ Best “Life” Blog
✓ Cheerio Road - Blogger: Karen Maezen Miller

✍ Best Buddhist Practice Blog
✓ Mind Deep - Blogger: Marguerite Manteau-Rao

✍ Best Achievement Blogging on Buddhist Practice or Dharma
 The Meditative Gardener - Blogger: Cheryl Wilfong

✍ Best Achievement in Skilled Writing
✓  Wandering Dhamma - Blogger: Brooke Schedneck

✍ Post of the Year!
Sweep the dust, Push the dirt  - Post: Point of Contact - John Pappas

    ✍ Blog of the year, Svaha!
     The Jizo Chronicles - Blogger: Maia Duerr

    I would like again thank our judges Rev. Danny Fisher, Philip Ryan, Tanya McGinnity, Barbara O'Brien and Andy Lambert; our resident guru graphic artist Anoki Casey from BuddhaBadges and DharmaDots; my amazing co-administrator and the man whose idea it was to revive the awards Nate DeMontigny; and with special thanks to the founder of these awards, Tom Armstrong.

    Also, a big thanks to Shambhala Sunspace, Tricycle Magazine's Editors Blog and Elephant Journal for getting the word out to the world about the awards. We will have some information about the 2011 Awards soon, so stay tuned for that.

    With deep gratitude to the entire community, thank you! - Kyle

    For those that would like them, here are some badges for the winners to post on your blogs, etc.

    Saturday, December 11, 2010

    Blogisattva Lifetime Achievement Award 2010

    This year, the Blogisattva Awards is offering up something new. Kyle and I decided that due to his passing, Robert Aitken Roshi should be the first recipient of the Blogisattva Lifetime Achievement Award. Aitken Roshi was a blogger too, but he will of course be remembered for his impact on Western Buddhism, which was as monumental as it was far reaching; so we felt this would be the right thing to do.

    I e-mailed his son Tom about using a bio and was told it was ok to use the bio from Aitken Roshi's site. It was written by Aitken Roshi, and is pasted here to help us all grasp just what this man meant to the Buddhist realm. It is lengthy and I hope you will take the time to read it. Below the bio are comments and remembrances from the likes of Roshi Joan Halifax, James Ford, Rev Danny Fisher, Jundo Cohen, John Pappas...

    I came to Hawai'i with my parents in 1922, when I was five years old. My father was an ethnologist at the Bishop Museum. His study, Ethnology of Tubuai is still in print. He was the first to earn a master's degree at the University of Hawai'i. I attended public schools here, with the exception of kindergarten at Hanahau'oli, two years of junior high at Punahou, and two years in California, including my final three semesters of high school. I attended the University of Hawai'i for 2 1/2 years before World War II, and two thereafter, graduating in 1947 with a degree in English Literature. Among my professors I was especially close to Daniel Stemple, Carl Stroven, Willard Wilson, Yukuo Uyehara, Andrew Lind, and A. Grove Day. Close friends among classmates included C. Frederick Schutte, late attorney in the Honolulu firm that bears his name, Jean McKillop (King), and Thomas M. C. Chang, retired professor of Educational Psychology at U.H. Acquaintances included Patsy Takemoto (Mink), Daniel Inouye, Duke Cho Choy, retired pediatrician, and Mary Whang (Choy). After the war, I lived near the University and had supper regularly at Hemmenway Hall with Marion and Allan Saunders. I was president of my senior class. 
    I returned to the University in 1949 for my masters degree in Japanese studies, graduating in 1950. Dr. Stemple was my thesis chair, and members of my committee included Cheuk-woon Taam, then East Asia librarian. I had a peripheral role in the East-West Philosopher's Conference the summer of 1949, and worked as a kind of gofer with Greg Sinclair, Charles Moore, and D.T. Suzuki. This was the beginning of a long friendship with Dr. Suzuki. 
    Later my connections with the University included a three year stint at the East-West Center as a program advisor in the Institute for Student Interchange, as student activities coordinator, and as alumnae secretary. Ms. Saunders was my supervisor during much of this time. I subsequently spent a year with the Youth Development Center as assistant to my friend Dr. Chang in the Upward Bound Program, and a year as English instructor at Kapiolani Community College. 
    Since the late 1960s I have been closely associated with the Religion Department of the University. I am a friend and colleague of David Chappell, Professor of Chinese Buddhism. I have spoken in classes in the Religion Department, taken part in colloquia and conferences which the department has sponsored, and written articles for its Journal of Buddhist-Christian Studies. 
    My record of community involvements in Honolulu includes stints in the late 1940s and early 1950s at community association coordination in Mo'ili'ili and Wahiawa. In this work I profited from a consultations with my then father-in-law, Ferris Laune, Executive Secretary of the Honolulu Council of Social Agencies. 
    I have had a long association with peace and social justice movements in Hawai'i. I took part in the Mother's Day Walk for Peace in 1952 with and Marion and John Kelly, an anti-nuclear protest, and the first of many demonstrations. During the Vietnam War as I was active as a resister and draft counselor, and was close to James Douglass, Walter Johnston, Oliver Lee, George Simpson, and Anita and Allen Trubitt. In 1967, while at the Youth Development Center I took part in the Bachman Hall sit-in as part of the faculty contingent. In 1972, I walked around the island for peace and social justice in a group led by Jim Albertini and John Wittick. 
    I am a founding member of the American Friends Service Committee, Hawai'i, and served on its first board of directors, chaired by Robert Bobilin. I attended the meetings called by Dean Saunders to establish the American civil Liberties Union, and have been active in that organization since, taking part in its campaigns, including the Camp Smith Cross case and more recently the various actions in support of same-sex marriage. 
    My major work through the years has been as founder, leader, and teacher in the Diamond Sangha, a Zen Buddhist society. With my wife Anne, I established the Koko An Zendo of the Diamond Sangha in Honolulu in 1959, and the Maui Zenda in 1969. In recent times the Diamond Sangha established a second Honolulu temple, the Palolo Zen Center, where I presently reside. The Diamond Sangha is now an international network, with centers on neighbor islands and in California, Arizona, Texas, Washington State, Germany, Argentina, Australia and New Zealand. 
     I have been fairly active in the local Buddhist community, beginning with a stint as a Sunday school teacher at the Hompa Hongwanji in 1957 and 1958, where my supervisor was the now retired Bishop Yoshiaki Fujitani. In recent times I have been a member of the Hawaii Association of International Buddhists. 
    In the macro dimension I am well established as a teacher of Zen Buddhism. I take part in Buddhist symposia in North America, particularly in the San Francisco Bay Area, and am especially close to leaders of the San Francisco Zen Center. I am co-founder with Nelson Foster of the Buddhist Peace Fellowship, now an international network of chapters concerned about the application of Buddhism in social, political and economic realms 
    I am author of eight books, co-author of one more, on aspects of Zen Buddhism, brought out by major publishers, including North Point; Farrar, Strauss, and Giroux; Pantheon; Parallax; Shambhala; and Counterpoint. Some of these books have been translated and published in Spanish, German, Dutch and Italian, with one to come in French. I am a frequent contributor to Turning Wheel, journal of the Buddhist Peace Fellowship, and have written also for a large number of other journals, mostly Buddhist, but also including Parabola and The Wallace Stevens Journal. I've also written a number of forewords to books by friends and colleagues, including a lengthy introduction to Hee-Jin Kim's Dogen Kigen: Mystical Realist. I did extensive research on Dwight Goddard, an early pioneer in Buddhist studies, and contributed a long introduction to the reissue by Beacon Press of his seminal work, A Buddhist Bible. 
    On moving to Kaimu-Kalapana on Hawai'i Island in 1997, I built a small home across the driveway from my son, Thomas Laune Aitken, a school counselor. I became ill with Hodgkins' Disease, and underwent chemotherapy and radiation, which ultimately was at least temporarily cured. The Zen Center of San Francisco sent an attendant to look after me, and since I have hired a series of many people in that role. In time I also hired a secretary, again the first of a series. I started a Zen group in my home. 
    In the course of this retirement I have taken part in Ho'opakele, a group of mainly Hawaiian people interested in decarceration and prison reform. I helped to organize the East Hawai'i Island Chapter of the Buddhist Peace Fellowship, and have taken part regular vigils and periodic rallies. 
    I have continued to contribute to Buddhist and other publications, and am at this writing completing preparing manuscripts for my 10th book, The Morning Star: New and Collected Writings, and a revised edition of my first book, A Zen Wave: Basho's Haiku and Zen. 

    After his passing, the online Buddhist community rallied behind him. I asked a few folks for words and or comments about him.

    Received these wonderful words from Lama Surya Das
    "Aitken Roshi was a great inspiration and spiritual friend to us all. His pioneering books, teachings, scholarship and example helped me grok zen Dharma during the past several decades. He and I both shared a great appreciation for and interest in haiku and oriental poetry, which we both wrote, translated and read widely. We never ran short of things to talk about, and he was always an Elder to me. 

    In my conversations with him over the years he always brought a different and interesting perspective to things, from his vast experience and Dharma wisdom, although he wasn't always right, which I found that amusing. 

    I remember once we were both at a Buddhist teachers Conference in San Francisco, discussing some particularly thorny issues around teacher-student relations in the American Dharma scene, and Bob advised shunning; that is, the practice of ostracizing, cutting off, isolating and shunning teachers who exploited their students. Along with my other colleagues, I thought that was just about the worst idea anyone had ever come up, since the time of the Puritans and Pilgrims; but we all had to laugh together, since we were united in being fond of the good ole roshi as well understanding, from knowing him personally, that it was somewhat consistent with his own patrician Protestant background.

    A year or two later, when I visited Bob briefly in Hawaii and shared this little insider anecdote to him, he laughed and said, "It seemed like a good idea at the time and may still be, who knows? These things continue to go on anyway." 

    Robert Thurman was gracious enough to send us the following words re: Aitken Roshi
    "Though I didn't know Aitken Roshi very well, his formation of BPF and his leadership in spurring Buddhist ethical activism against war and injustice was very inspiring to us all. I enjoyed some of his writings as well. The few times we met were occasions with lots of people around so never had very full dialogue. He made a great contribution and will be missed and remembered."

    Roshi Joan Halifax had the following to say about Aitken Roshi
    "Aitken Roshi brought into sharp focus for Western Buddhists the importance of a practice that was not only inward and spare, but as well outward and sharp. His tenaciousness in keeping social and environmental responsibility in the foreground of Buddhism in the West cannot be underestimated. For decades he was our elder, a source of deep inspiration, and as well a source of strength. His death leaves behind for all of us a legacy of integrity and courage."

    We received this fantastic remembrance from James Ford of Monkey Mind 
    "My most vivid memory of Aitken Roshi was following a big Diamond Sangha event we were at a small party in someone's back yard in Northern California. As I was standing enjoying the Summer weather and the amazing view from that yard, I noticed the roshi talking with a young woman. Actually, she was talking to him. He was pretty tired and at first he seemed reluctant to enter into the conversation. Then she mentioned "base communities," communal projects closely associated with the Christian liberation theology movement. He was instantly excited and the conversation quickly expanded to include a number of us, each speaking from our hearts about how our practice, the Zen way, just as it is true for other traditions, has a deep responsibility for the health and well being of all people and, indeed, for the world itself. Only the most vivid of a number of moments where his larger vision of what we're about came to the fore. Now, as I've completed the "formal" aspects of my training and am now teaching, I never forget his profound understanding we are not in this world alone, none of us."

    This link goes to a sit-a-long that Jundo Cohen of Treeleaf Zendo put together which was dedicated to Aitken Roshi

    And we were pointed toward this post by our friend, and fellow judge here at the Blogisattvas, Reverend Danny Fisher which has more links to articles posted by Tricycle, Shambhala Sun and Mahasangha News.

    John Pappas of Zen Dirt, Zen Dust/ Point Of Contact Subtle Dharma Mouth Punch had this to say:
    "Aitken was a rough and tumble zen master. Simple, profound and with all the scrapes and stories that life can bring. Unlike other Zen rough-necks, Aitken Roshi presented a uniquely simple American dharma composition without settling into zen aphorisms. His words and actions represented a practice that was internalized spiritually, physically and politically ~ a practice that encompassed your life. As a person he was willing to present his humble and flawed side as well. I love his words.."
    Old age ain’t no place for sissies...Yet I don’t mourn my loss of youth. What a confused mess I was! What time I wasted! All in all, I am really quite comfortable in these last years. Pass the marmalade.

    While it may seem he left us all early, his body of work is nothing to balk at and will be studied for years to come. Those that met him were lucky to know him, those that have read his work are lucky to have studied him. It is with this we dedicate the first ever Blogisattva Lifetime Achievement Award to Robert Aitken Roshi. Thank you and safe travels Roshi!!

    For those that would like to, feel free to add your comments below about what Aitken Roshi's teachings meant to you.

    Wednesday, December 08, 2010

    2010 Blogisattva Award Finalists

    This past six months has been quite the wild ride for us here at the Blogisattvas. First off, I want to thank everyone, the readers, the Buddhist publications and most of all the hard working bloggers out there that have made this whole thing possible. The response we received in nominations far exceeded anyones expectations, and that is why we would like to also thank the hard work the judges did in digging through literally hundreds and hundreds of entries. It was certainly no easy task for them!

    Below are the 5 finalist blogs and bloggers in each category listed in alphabetical order. Also, we have added a line for honorable mentions, to give as much recognition to the just enormous amount of excellent blogs out there. On Sunday December 12th, we will reveal the winners for each category. Congratulations to everyone!

    Without further ado, here are the 2010 Blogisattva Award finalists.

    Best Achievement with Humor in a Blog or Blog Post 

    Best Achievement in Wide Range of Topic Interests Blogging 

    Best Achievement in Design 
    ✍ Honorable Mentions: Sumeru, 108zenbooks, Cheerio Road

    Best Engage-the-World Blog

    Best Achievement Blogging Opinion Pieces or Political Issues

    Best Achievement in Kind and Compassionate Blogging

    Best Blogging on Matters Philosophical, Psychological or Scientific

    Best “Life” Blog

    Best Buddhist Practice Blog

    Best Achievement Blogging on Buddhist Practice or Dharma

    Best Achievement in Skilled Writing
    ✍ Honorable Mentions: 21awake, Run with MuDeitch

    Post of the Year!

    Blog of the year, Svaha!

    Monday, December 06, 2010

    Two Important Announcements

    On Wednesday December 8th, we will be announcing the finalists for the 2010 Blogisattva Awards. On Sunday December 12th, we will be unveiling the winners.  We want to thank everyone again for their patience and support!

    Secondly, as you all may have heard, the Buddhist Geeks are hosting a conference in July 2011 called Discover the Emerging Face of Buddhism. Nate and I spoke with them just yesterday, and they have volunteered to donate a quite sizable discount to the conference for the finalists ($50) and winners ($100) of the Blogisattva awards. We are very thankful to them for taking some time and effort to help recognize the online Buddhist blogging community!

    From their website about the conference:

    Taking place July 29th – 31st, 2011 in Los Angeles, Buddhist Geeks | The Conference brings together some of the most exciting teachers, leaders and thinkers from the US and beyond as Buddhist Geeks continues its ongoing mission to discover the emerging face of Buddhism. With a vibrant program of presentations, workshops, performance and participant-led elements and its inclusive non-denominational attitude, #bgeeks11 will be the most innovative, energetic and relevant event in the Buddhist world. We would love you to join us.

    By being part of  The Conference you will:
    • be inspired by amazing speakers, some of the freshest voices in the Buddhist world today
    • make connections with people around the world who—like you—are passionate about 21st century Buddhism
    • shape the conversation in an event where everyone has a valuable perspective
    This landmark Los Angeles weekend be an energetic adventure into the opportunities, the issues and the excitement of 21st century Buddhism.  Don’t miss out.