Tag Archives: Buddhism

There’s a Dark Side to Mindfulness Meditation

Four years ago I attended a Prison Yoga Project (PYP) training. James Fox is a valuable outlier in the yoga world. In 2002 he decided to devote his life to bringing yoga to at-risk communities, leading programs in juvenile detention facilities and inner-city community programs in Chicago. After moving to the Bay Area he started donating his time teaching prisoners yoga in San Quentin, which eventually led to PYP.

There are many approaches to a physical yoga practice. I teach a rigorous form of Vinyasa, in which you lead the class through a flowing series of postures and exercises to eventually cool students off with stretches, meditation, and relaxation. You fire up their nervous systems in order to slow them down. This is the exact opposite approach that Fox teaches. 

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A home in the Himalayas for Buddhist nuns

Flanked by the upper Himalayan ranges, Ladakh is a remote region along India’s northern tip.

The area is largely Buddhist and its monasteries attract thousands of tourists each year. But a little-known fact about Ladakh is that the region is also home to 28 nunneries.

Photographer Deepti Asthana chronicles the story of one such nunnery in a tiny village called Nyerma.

An elderly nun holds prayer beadsImage copyrightDEEPTI ASTHANA

The tradition of nuns in Buddhism dates back to the time of the Buddha, who is believed to have advocated for the right of women to be ordained.

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Buddha tattoo woman Naomi Coleman wins compensation

A woman who was deported from Sri Lanka for having a tattoo of the Buddha on her arm has won compensation.

Naomi Coleman, from Coventry, was detained for four days in April 2014.

The country’s Supreme Court said her treatment – during which a prison guard made sexually-explicit remarks to her and she was forced to give police money – was “scandalous and horrifying”.

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Buddhism and the Brain: Mindfulness in Modern Times

Evan Thompson is a professor of philosophy at the University of British Colombia who specializes in cognitive science, Buddhism, and philosophy of mind.

His latest book, Waking, Dreaming, Being: Self and Consciousness in Neuroscience, Meditation, and Philosophy, investigates the intersection of brain science and Buddhism in an honest, non-judgmental fashion that’s true to neuroscience and psychology without negating the metaphorical value of millennia-old aphorisms.

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Archeologists are scrambling to excavate a 2,600 year old city before it becomes a Chinese copper mine

At the end of the year, state-owned Chinese mining company China Metallurgical Group will take control of an ancient Buddhist city in Afghanistan, Mes Aynak.

Southeast of Kabul, the ancient, abandoned city is home to sculptures, art, and jewelry dating back to the time of Alexander the Great—as well as 5.5 million tonnes of copper ore, one of the world’s largest deposits.

Mes Aynak Stupa
An ancient Buddhist stupa uncovered at the Mes Aynak archaeological site. Brent Huffman

Before China Metallurgical turns the site into a copper mine, a team of understaffed and underfunded archaeologists is scrambling to excavate the area, believed to be one of the most important (pdf) stops along the Silk Road and critical for understanding the spread of Buddhism.

It’s unclear exactly what will become of the area, but given that the company plans to build an open copper mine, most of Mes Aynak and the surrounding mountain range will have to be destroyed.

Experts say a full excavation of the 9,800-acre (4.8 million square-foot) archaeological site would take at least 25 years.

Afghan and Chinese officials aren’t likely to wait that long: China Metallurgical has a 30-year deal with the Afghanistan government, which is desperate for revenues.

Mes Aynak Gold Buddha
A gold-plated Buddha head is just one of many artefacts found at the Mes Aynak site, as archaeologists scramble to preserve what they can with limited time and resources. Brent Huffman

“From one side, my people need food. We are poor people. My national budget needs to generate revenue. But on the other side, I have to protect the international heritage,” Nasir Ahmad Durrani, deputy minister of mining told Al Jazeera in June.

A Mining Company, An Ancient City And 5.5 Million Tons Of Copper
A Mining Company, An Ancient City And 5.5 Million Tons Of Copper

Instead, local and international archaeologists have been working on a “rescue excavation” since 2009, hiring locals from nearby Pashtun villages to remove as many valuable artifacts as they can and record on film the existence of structures or items that may not get saved.

Archaeologists are trying to remove stupas, structures, sculptures and painting but say they need specialized equipment and more diggers.

Diggers in 2010.AP Photo/AP Photo/Dusan Vranic

Activists, meanwhile, have been trying to halt the mine, and secure UNESCO protection for the area. Over 50,000 pro-protection signatures were collected and handed to president Hamid Karzai last year, but Afghanistan’s presidential election earlier this year, which has left the country in political paralysis, means there’s no president to lobby now.

Huffman-Abdul Qadeer Temore
Abdul Qadeer Temore, one of the lead Afghan archaeologists on the project, works on one of the standing Buddha statues at Mes Aynak. Brent Huffman

Digging for the copper mine was supposed to begin last year, but has been put on hold as China Metallurgical tries to renegotiate parts of the deal, which includes the company building a power plant, processing facility and railway in addition to the mine.

Mes Aynak Workers
Locals from nearby villages work at the site the site, assisting archaeologists by removing dirt and rocks to expose the artifacts beneath. Brent Huffman

Those negotiations are supposed to resume (paywall) once a new administration is in office, according to the South China Morning Post.

A prolonged audit of the election, and the fact that China Metallurgical has run into problems at home—its deputy chief engineer was dismissed from the communist party in June for “serious disciplinary and legal violations” could buy conservationists a bit more time.

The Dalai Lama to appear at Glastonbury Festival

Glastonbury’s 2015 festival is going to be a more spiritual experience than usual: His Holiness the Dalai Lama will headline the UK festival’s Pyramid Stage on Sunday, June 28th.

The 79-year-old Buddhist monk will deliver a “message of compassion and mutual understanding” during his morning slot.


Afterward, he’ll DJ with Thom Yorke inside an abandoned airplane fuselage and make smores with Mumford and Sons.

The 2015 edition of Glastonbury takes place June 24th – 28th in Pilton, UK.

The only other confirmed artist is Lionel Richie, who will undo all the purity brought by his Holiness during his Sunday night headlining performance.

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