Monday, January 31, 2011

BATW: Buddhism in Denmark

Our fifth installment of "Buddhism Around The World" comes from Senshin of Senshin's Lotus. For me, I learned quite a bit from this entry and it has peaked my interest to learn more about the tradition Senshin follows and practices within, Tendai. We hope you enjoy this as much as we did!

Now is an exciting time to be a Buddhist in Denmark.  There is steady growth in the number of Buddhists; one estimate states that there are more than 20,000. Most of these are immigrants and refugees from nations such as Thailand, Vietnam and Sri Lanka. The rest are ethnic Danes who have converted. The three major schools of Theravada, Mahayana and Vajrayana are represented.

I practice in the Tendai tradition, a Mahayana school founded in Japan. This tradition teaches that all forms of Buddhist practice lead to enlightenment and thus unites all these practices. Because of this we call ourselves Ekayana or the One Vessel. Danish Tendai groups are well organized and are associated with the Karuna Tendai Dharma Center in the US ( which was designated as the location for training of those outside Japan who seek ordination.  Our primary presence in Denmark is located near Copenhagen. Now there are two branch sanghas in other cities, one served by a doshu priest and one by myself, since I began my training for ordination.  Additionally there are two groups who are headed by lay leaders who have received thorough training in leading meditation groups.

In general I have found many Danes are cautious about religious matters. However many have the desire to learn about meditation and through this they come into contact with Buddhism.  Of course, there is a wide range of committment that flows out of this contact, from those who go to temples for practice to those who view Buddhism as a path to self-development. Some seek an understanding of life's meaning while others are attracted to the opportunity to meet like minded individuals in a cultural and social community. Some people call themselves Buddhist but have a modest practice. Others perform the practices intensely but never refer to themselves as Buddhists.

I came to Buddhism less than three years ago. Last year I began the training for ordination, and if I do well enough I may be ordained a Doshu, i.e. temple assistant, next year.  If I am, the training will not finish then; training never ends for Tendai priests.  There is always much more to learn and understand.

Most Tendai priests have a normal family life and support themselves with income from jobs of all kinds. I have dedicated my life fully to the Buddha Dharma and do not have what would be considered a normal job.  The sangha I serve meets in a private home, but I am working with the goal of have a temple established in this part of the country one day.

I started my blog, Senshin's Lotus, in December, 2008 shortly after I took refuge.  Since then it has evolved into a website ( with information about Tendai in Denmark as well as our sangha.  I don't write as often as I would like to, but when I do I try to share my life as a Buddhist and as a priest in training.  The blog has a relatively large number of visitors.  For those who do not read Danish, I have Google Translator incorporated.  I enjoy the extended sangha of the internet where I have had the great joy of meeting lots of wonderful people via Twitter, Facebook, blogs and various forums.

Together may we progress along the Buddha path of liberation.

Senshin Karina Blomkvist.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

BATW: Buddhism in Thailand

In our fourth part of the series, Buddhism Around the World, Brooke Schedneck of the blog Wandering Dhamma, gives us a taste of Buddhism in Thailand. Brooke, who was also one of the 2010 Blogisattva winners, was awarded one of the 2009-2010 Fulbright research grants, to conduct fieldwork in Thailand for her ongoing Ph.D. dissertation. Her blog contains many more excellent in-depth first hand accounts of Buddhism as it is in Thailand, and is well worth visiting.

As an American living in Thailand, Buddhism is seemingly omnipresent. From huge monasteries next to shopping malls and young novices all around to lay people offering food into alms bowls each morning, Buddhism here is lively and dynamic, even to the casual observer. However, when one looks deeper Thai Buddhism reveals a diversity of practices and ideas about this religion.

There is not just one Thai Buddhism but a number of different groups. Anyone who has studied about Thai Buddhism knows about the Dhammakaya movement and the Santi Asoke group. These two have been well-studied because of their contrasts: Dhammakaya exhibits a modern religiosity of Buddhism mixed with consumer culture while Santi Asoke, with its focus on natural, simple living and organic products is the opposite. Besides this pair, one can also contrast city temples with forest ones. The forest tradition of Thailand is also one that casual students of Thai Buddhism will be familiar with. Ajahn Mun founded this tradition and today it lives on through his student Luangta Mahabua and his temple and many branch temples in Udon Thani in the Northeast of Thailand, and also through Ajahn Chah and his western disciples, who have founded temples in many English-speaking countries. The forest temples represent an ideal of monasticism with monks who do not even accept money into their alms bowls. This is in contrast to the many monks and novices in city temples who can be seen purchasing items in malls and talking on their cell phones. Many of these monks are temporarily in robes for the education this provides, especially international monks from poor backgrounds who can attain a college degree for free. All of these groups and images of Thai Buddhism can be found in different regions of Thailand.

Another major facet of Thai Buddhism in this era is lay meditation. Throughout Thailand there are many meditation centers with a variety of methods. The most widely-used, however, would be based on the Mahasi Sayadaw technique of noting daily-life activities and following the rising and falling of the abdomen while in seated meditation. However, there are many other indigenous Thai meditation methods such as that of the forest tradition (repeating ‘Buddho’), and the Dhammakaya method of concentrating on a ball of light inside one’s body. Basic methods of mindfulness of breathing and following the four foundations of
mindfulness can be found in abundance as well.

Many Thai lay Buddhists are seen everyday in the popular meditation centers in the cities and in more remote forest temples. Lay meditators dress in white and receive the eight precepts. They stay for a course with a set number of days or come for however many days they can take off from work. The meditation centers run off of donations and often receive much from the laity they serve.

My blog, Wandering Dhamma (, has many more in-depth posts about meditation methods and lay meditation in Thailand. There is certainly a plurality of practices, groups, and ideas about how to be a Buddhist and meditate effectively here. I recommend a trip to see for yourself!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

BATW: Buddhism in Sweden

**The third installment is brought to us from Sweden. Thanks to Fugen for this piece, we hope you enjoy it!

I got the question if i wanted to write something about my view of Buddhism in Sweden.

Although I'm not an authority in the matter, after some discussion with some priest-friends of mine, I decided to go ahead.

First though, who am I?
An answer might be ”dont know”.

Another might be the one have on my blog, ”A nowadays single dad who spends most of my time taking care of my son. When not doing that I work at a school, a bookshop and as a zen priest in training, even though I don't consider any of them as work...”

I am also content to say that I was with part of the first online Shukke Tokudo in August 2010, where I received the Precepts from Jundo Cohen at Treeleaf Sangha.

Buddhism has had somewhat of an upswing here in Sweden, although there is much to work on. The upswing, I believe, has much to do with the introduction of mindfulness, and as we are more or less still in the starting blocks of this, it still remains to be seen where it will land.

A side effect to the introduction of mindfulness is that it has started to get people to realize what Buddhism is really about.

Buddhism has been depicted as a religion which is either all about escaping suffering through different means or baldheaded monks in robes doing strange ceremonies.

Now, I'm not saying Buddhism doesn't contain these things, just that it has a tendency to be depicted primarily as such.

While doing some research for this article I heard about people, in the 70's and 80's, having different contacts with Buddhism in all forms. Some stayed on, some didn't, but today, I think, we have about all the branches of the Buddhist tree represented in Sweden, with the emphasis on Tibetan Buddhism, Zen and the Theravadan Buddhism practiced by Thai men and women.

Aside from the Buddhists who has moved here from other countries, most ”large” Buddhist centres are centered in, or about, larger towns, with some ”small” Sanghas appearing in small towns all over Sweden.
As Buddhism starts to spread, this is about to change.

But in the end it's all good practice.

Thank you for your practice,

Fugen, Unsui Treeleaf Sangha

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

BATW: Buddhism in Hungary

**In the second part of our series Buddhism Around the World, comes a group blog in Budapest, Hungary, who write for the site BuddhaPest. These folks hold a bit of a special place for me, since both my grandparents immigrated to the United States from the area of Transylvania, which at the time was still part of Hungary. We thank Roni and the other bloggers of the BuddhaPest Blog!

The BuddhaPest Blog was started in 2008 by Yoscha (also posting stories by Milaba) and became a group blog in 2010 when Astus and Roni joined in. All 4 of us have graduated from the The Gate of Dharma Buddhist College/Budapest Buddhist University which offers BA and MA degrees in Buddhism.

The name of the blog comes from a very old pun that was already well known in the 15th century, when Galeotto Marzio, the Italian chronicler of Matthias Corvinus, assumed that the town Buda (now the Western part of the capital Budapest) possibly owns its name to "a certain holy man called Buddha". This assumption has lived on to this very day and has given rise to claims that the Buddha in fact was Hungarian.

Instead of giving a historical overview of the early phases of Buddhism in Hungary myself, I would like share a couple of links (in English). First of all A Short History of Buddhism by Ernest Hetényi (PDF, Bulletin of Tibetology, 1973), and some about the most prominent Buddhists and Orientalists Hetényi refers to: Alexander Csoma de Kőrös from Transylvania (at that time Hungary, now Romania), Tivadar Duka (Csoma’s first biographer), Ferenc Hopp and Zoltán Felvinczi Takács (founders of the first Asian art collection), Aurel Stein archeologist and explorer, who disovered the Cave Temples of the Thousand Buddhas in Dunhuang, Trebitsch-Lincoln adventurer, international spy and Buddhist abbot in Shanghai*, who wanted to found a Buddhist monastery in Hungary in 1937.

The more recent history of Buddhism in Hungary begins with the author of the article above: Ernest/Ernő Hetényi and the founding of the Buddhist Mission** in 1951 (which became part of the Arya Maitreya Mandala founded by the German Lama Anagarika Govinda in 1952 and exists up to now). In the Communist Era the activity of the Buddhist Mission (and its educational project, the Kőrösi Csoma Buddhology Institute) was tolerated by the authorities, but Buddhism (as practising religion in general) was certainly not encouraged. With the political changes of 1989 Hungary became a new market for all kinds of religious, spiritual and New Age ideologies coming from the West. From then on we also can see a (reconstruction and) revival of the Shamanism of the early, nomadic Hungarian tribes.

An example of this revival is one of the largest Buddhist communities (Karma Kagyupa**, in Tar), that emphasises the parallels between Vajrayana Buddhism, Mongolian and Scythian culture, and Hungarian folk tales. The largest Buddhist community with many centers all around the country is that of Diamond Way Buddhism by Lama Ole Nydahl. With many more Tibetan Buddhist sanghas (among others the Sakya Community of Sakya Trizin with a resident lama in Budapest, and the Dzogchen Community** of Namkhai Norbu), Tibetan Buddhism is the most popular form of Buddhist practice in Hungary, probably due to the translation of the Dalai Lama’s books and also his visits (most recently in 2010). Zen/Chan/Seon lineages are also present, partly via the West (Mokusho Zen of Deshimaru Roshi, Kwan Um of Seung Sahn and One Drop Zendo** by Harada Roshi), partly by the presence of Chinese teachers whose communities** consist mostly of Chinese and Vietnamese immigrants. Theravada Buddhism is represented by two Vipassana schools: Goenka’s international "movement" and Mahasi Sayadaw’s Buddhist Vipassana, and also by a monastery in progress in the Forest Sangha lineage: Dhammadipa Sangha**. There is one Buddhist monastery/temple functioning in Hungary: Wong Kwang Sa of the Kwan Um lineage. The most recent group is Hang Truong’s ComPaSS, that combines Ken Wilbers’s teachings, Engaged Buddhism, Integral Tai-Chi, meditation and mindful living. Another fairly new group is Jai Bhim, that integrates roma people in the trail of Ambedkar’s Dalit Movement with the help of the Triratna Buddhist Community (formerly FWBO).

The Gate of Dharma Buddhist College was founded in 1991 by a handful of teachers who had studied (and later lectured) at the above mentioned Kőrösi Csoma Buddhology Institute. During its nearly 20 years of existence it has grown to an internationally acknowledged university accredited by the Hungarian State. The university is not affiliated with any lineage or school, the (core) curriculum gives a rather balanced overview of Buddhism.

Astus has a BA and MA in Buddhism from the Gate of Dharma Buddhist College/Budapest Buddhist University, he has been active on Buddhist online boards and he is currently one of the administrators of Dharma Wheel, a Mahayana Buddhist forum. He does translations of Buddhist texts to Hungarian**, also runs two blogs of which one is in English. His main interests are Chan and East Asian Mahayana.

Roni (who has written this summary) is interested in Theravada (especially the teachings of Ajahn Brahm & Ajahn Sujato) and (together with her fellow bloggers) in making Buddhism more popular(ized) via the BuddhaPest Blog.

* Roni wrote her thesis about him, the abstract can be read here (in English)
** Link in Hungarian