Possible Shift in China Regarding Buddhism

In 1959, during the invasion of Tibet by China, the 14th Dalai Lama fled and has lived in exile ever since.[i] While there has been no change in China’s official stance towards the Dalai Lama, there are indications that tensions in China may be relaxing towards Tibetan Buddhism.

While corrupt business practices have been ensconced, for some of the super-rich in China there is a search for new ways to be even more successful. This longing has manifested itself as a desire for good karma through practicing Buddhism, and spending their resources promoting Buddhism, and providing for Buddhist monks.

In a New York Times interview[ii] with John Osborn, author of Anxious Wealth: Money and Morality Among China’s New Rich, Osborn stated,

Now that every Shanxi coal baron’s mistress can afford Louis Vuitton, in order to differentiate themselves, other new rich are moving on to other pursuits and tastes.

I think this is part of what’s driving this interest in spiritual and moral cultivation. Some people are genuinely interested in spiritual transformation. But there’s also an element of social distinction that’s feeding this trend.

Osborn explained that some of the wealthy donating to monks and temples call it their “spiritual protection money,” but found that others have been more serious about applying Buddhist teachings to their lives. He said, “. . . I’ve encountered several people whose lives have been radically transformed by Buddhism.”

In a recent BBC article, “China’s Super-Rich Communist Buddhists,”[iii] BBC Journalist John Sudworth described being invited into a former senior Communist Party official’s home. There he witnessed Xiao Wunan sitting with Buddhist monk Geshe Sonam and beneath a portrait of the Dalai Lama and a Buddhist shrine. He explained that the idea of seeing a former official doing this would previously have been “preposterous” or “laughable,” yet it was exactly what Xiao was doing.

Further in the article, another wealthy Chinese businessman, Sun Kejia, said, “I was once confronted with great difficulties and problems in my business. I felt they couldn’t be overcome by human effort and that only Buddha, ghosts and God could help me.”

Thirty-six year old Sun’s fortune is estimated at over $100 million. He runs a chain of clubs, and he pays for Buddhist gurus to come and teach his clients. Sun said, “I desire influence.”  He describes his friends coming to his club as being “attracted to this place. I can use the resources they bring to do my other business. From that angle, it is also my contribution for spreading Buddhism. This brings good karma and so I get what I want.”

According to the Cultural China website[iv], Chinese worship the Tibetan Gods of Wealth, such as the:

  • Heavenly King of Wealth
  • Yellow Wealth God
  • Black Wealth God
  • White Wealth God
  • Umbrella Heavenly King

In addition, “Each time of the Spring Festival, every family will hang a picture of the god for blessings of great luck and large wealth.”

It is unknown when China as a nation might officially recognize the Dalai Lama and Tibetan Buddhism, but it is evident at this time that the people of China have already begun to do so, and in particular many of the super-rich are in pursuit of karmic blessing and transformation.


[i] “Dalai Lama,” Wikipedia, retrieved February 9, 2015.

[ii] Ian Johnson, “Q and A with John Osburg on China’s Wealthy Turning to Spiritualism,” New York Times. (December 18, 2014), retrieved February 9, 2015.

[iii] John Sudworth, “China’s Super-Rich Communist Buddhists,” BBC.com. (February 7, 2015), retrieved February 9, 2015.

[iv] “Tibetan Buddhist Gods of Wealth,” CulturalChina.com, retrieved February 10, 2015.

Reducing Parkinson’s Symptoms Via Meditation

It is well known that stress increases the symptoms of those with Parkinson’s disease. Since it has also been established that many kinds of meditation can noticeably reduce a person’s level of stress, it would not be surprising to find that meditation can reduce the severity of Parkinson’s symptoms.

Michael J. Fox has described Parkinson’s as being,

. . . like having a 4-year-old child climbing around on your lap all the time, pulling on your arms and legs. “You’re just trying to be patient and focus on what you need to do.”[i]

In September 2013, theparkinsonhub.com website posted an article entitled “Meditation & Mitigating Parkinson’s Symptoms”[ii] by Australian naturopath, John Coleman. It had been written in response to an earlier article, “Meditation in Parkinson’s.”[iii]

In both articles, it is proposed that meditation can have a positive effect on decreasing Parkinson’s symptoms, (i.e., tremors, pain, etc.) I have personally experienced a dramatic reduction in my symptoms by meditating specifically on whatever part of my body is shaking (e.g., left hand or my lips). Similar results have been observed when meditating on the sentence, “Be still and know that He is God”, a paraphrasing of Psalm 46:10 (“Be still and know that I am God.”). When doing this, I imagine myself ordering my hand or lip to be still, and so to acknowledge God.

John Coleman noticed a significant reduction in his Parkinson’s symptoms from utilizing meditation. He writes,

In 1995, I developed symptoms of advanced Parkinson’s disease with severe tremor, festinating walk, unintelligible speech, mask-like facial expression, significant pain, constipation and urinary incontinence. During my three year journey to a symptom-free state, I utilised a number of self-help strategies and complementary remedies. Prime among my activities was daily meditation, and involvement in a weekly meditation group. I observed that, while meditating, many of my symptoms reduced in intensity and, over time, this intensity reduction lasted for some time after meditating. Other benefits I noticed were improved sleep patterns, clearer thought processes and, interestingly, improved relationships with work colleagues. If I missed my daily meditation for any reason, I found I was less able to make decisions, my tremor increased, and I felt generally less well.[iv]

The article continues with his clinical experience of the changes his patients found when they utilized meditation as part of their health regimen. During his career, he has treated over 2,000 people with Parkinson’s. He writes,

Specific benefits noted by my patients when meditating included reduced tremor, reduced pain, increased energy, feeling “more peaceful”, and improved communication with loved ones.[v]

If you are a Parkinson’s patient, see the article “Meditation in Parkinson’s”[vi] for a simple outline of how to begin meditating.


[i] Dr. Mehmet Oz, “Michael J. Fox’s Personal Battle,” Oprah.com, http://www.oprah.com/entertainment/Michael-J-Foxs-Life-with-Parkinsons-Stem-Cells-Optimism-and-More, retrieved November 9, 2015.

[ii] John Coleman, ND, “Meditation & Mitigating Parkinson’s Symptoms,” theparkinsonhub.com, http://www.theparkinsonhub.com/your-quality-of-life/article/meditation–mitigating-parkinsons-symptoms.html, retrieved November 9, 2015.

[iii] Carol Fisher, “Meditation in Parkinson’s,” theparkinsonhub.com, http://www.theparkinsonhub.com/your-quality-of-life/article/meditation.html, retrieved November 9, 2015.

[iv] John Coleman, ND, “Meditation & Mitigating Parkinson’s Symptoms,” theparkinsonhub.com, http://www.theparkinsonhub.com/your-quality-of-life/article/meditation–mitigating-parkinsons-symptoms.html, retrieved November 9, 2015.

[v] Ibid.

[vi] Carol Fisher, “Meditation in Parkinson’s,” theparkinsonhub.com, http://www.theparkinsonhub.com/your-quality-of-life/article/meditation.html, retrieved November 9, 2015.

 

Violence in Thailand and Burma

Particularly in the West, Buddhism is considered a calm, almost passive religion. Its adherents are known for spending long periods of time meditating. But recent headlines regarding activities in Thailand and Burma (Myanmar) would be contrary to that notion.

Ashin Wirathu is a 46-year-old Buddhist monk and spiritual leader in Burma. He has been accused of hate speech, and is active on YouTube and other social media forums. Due to his vitriolic speeches against the Rohingya Muslims, he was sentenced in 2003 to 25 years in prison, but was released in 2010.[i] The July 1, 2013 edition of Time magazine featured Wirathu’s face on the cover, with the cover article’s title, “The Face of Buddhist Terror.”[ii]

On May 4, 2015, the Associated Press reported the arrest of three Thai officials and a citizen of Burma (Myanmar) after the finding 26 graves on the southern border of Thailand near Malaysia.[iii]

By May 6, CNN reported that number had grown to 30 to 40 graves of people believed to have been held by human traffickers. Southern Thailand is known as a “hot-spot for human trafficking.” Last year, the U.S. State Department reported Thailand as a Tier 3, the lowest ranking, in its “Trafficking in Persons” report. The remains are thought to be of Rohingya Muslims, fleeing from the ethnic violence in Buddhist-majority Burma. They are smuggled and/or captured by human traffickers and held for ransom. If they are unable to pay, they are held until they die from starvation or disease.[iv]

During the police raid, one lone survivor was found. He was left behind, because he could not walk. During his nine month captivity, he was moved between seven different camps. He estimated that 200 people were being held. He told police that the camp they found is not the only one with graves. A Rohingya activist, Abdul Kalam, estimates that dozens of camps have been set up, and that this raid has revealed “just the tip of the iceberg.” [v]

Most Americans see Buddhists as non-violent. Most Americans view Thailand as idyllic and credit that to Buddhism. The reality is that both Thailand and Burma are deeply troubled countries, and Buddhists are not immune to committing violence.


[i] “Ashin Wirathu,” Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ashin_Wirathu, retrieved on June 11, 2015.

[ii] “Ashin Wirathu: Myanmar and its vitriolic monk,” BBC.com, http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-30930997, retrieved on June 11, 2015. See http://content.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,2146000,00.html for the text of the Time magazine article, “The Face of Buddhist Terror.”

[iii] “Thailand arrests 4, vows crackdown on human traffickers,” DailyMail.co.uk, http://www.dailymail.co.uk/wires/ap/article-3067019/Thailand-arrests-3-vows-crackdown-human-traffickers.html, retrieved on June 11, 2015.

[iv] “At least 30 graves found in southern Thailand, and a lone survivor,” CNN.com, http://www.cnn.com/2015/05/02/asia/thailand-mass-graves/, retrieved June 11, 2015.

[v] “Thailand arrests 4, vows crackdown on human traffickers,” DailyMail.co.uk, http://www.dailymail.co.uk/wires/ap/article-3067019/Thailand-arrests-3-vows-crackdown-human-traffickers.html, retrieved on June 11, 2015.

 

Possible Shift in China Re: Buddhism

In 1959, during the invasion of Tibet by China, the 14th Dalai Lama fled and has lived in exile ever since.[i] While there has been no change in China’s official stance towards the Dalai Lama, there are indications that tensions in China may be relaxing towards Tibetan Buddhism.

While corrupt business practices have been ensconced, for some of the super-rich in China there is a search for new ways to be even more successful. This longing has manifested itself as a desire for good karma through practicing Buddhism, and spending their resources promoting Buddhism, and providing for Buddhist monks.

In a New York Times interview[ii] with John Osborn, author of Anxious Wealth: Money and Morality Among China’s New Rich, Osborn stated,

Now that every Shanxi coal baron’s mistress can afford Louis Vuitton, in order to differentiate themselves, other new rich are moving on to other pursuits and tastes.

I think this is part of what’s driving this interest in spiritual and moral cultivation. Some people are genuinely interested in spiritual transformation. But there’s also an element of social distinction that’s feeding this trend.

Osborn explained that some of the wealthy donating to monks and temples call it their “spiritual protection money,” but found that others have been more serious about applying Buddhist teachings to their lives. He said, “. . . I’ve encountered several people whose lives have been radically transformed by Buddhism.”

In a recent BBC article, “China’s Super-Rich Communist Buddhists,”[iii] BBC Journalist John Sudworth described being invited into a former senior Communist Party official’s home. There he witnessed Xiao Wunan sitting with Buddhist monk Geshe Sonam and beneath a portrait of the Dalai Lama and a Buddhist shrine. He explained that the idea of seeing a former official doing this would previously have been “preposterous” or “laughable,” yet it was exactly what Xiao was doing.

Further in the article, another wealthy Chinese businessman, Sun Kejia, said, “I was once confronted with great difficulties and problems in my business. I felt they couldn’t be overcome by human effort and that only Buddha, ghosts and God could help me.”

Thirty-six year old Sun’s fortune is estimated at over $100 million. He runs a chain of clubs, and he pays for Buddhist gurus to come and teach his clients. Sun said, “I desire influence.”  He describes his friends coming to his club as being “attracted to this place. I can use the resources they bring to do my other business. From that angle, it is also my contribution for spreading Buddhism. This brings good karma and so I get what I want.”

According to the Cultural China website[iv], Chinese worship the Tibetan Gods of Wealth, such as the:

  • Heavenly King of Wealth
  • Yellow Wealth God
  • Black Wealth God
  • White Wealth God
  • Umbrella Heavenly King

In addition, “Each time of the Spring Festival, every family will hang a picture of the god for blessings of great luck and large wealth.”

It is unknown when China as a nation might officially recognize the Dalai Lama and Tibetan Buddhism, but it is evident at this time that the people of China have already begun to do so, and in particular many of the super-rich are in pursuit of karmic blessing and transformation.


[i] “Dalai Lama,” Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dalai_Lama, retrieved February 9, 2015.

[ii] Ian Johnson, “Q and A with John Osburg on China’s Wealthy Turning to Spiritualism,” New York Times. (December 18, 2014), http://sinosphere.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/12/18/q-and-a-john-osburg-on-chinas-wealthy-turning-to-spiritualism/?_r=1, retrieved February 9, 2015.

[iii] John Sudworth, “China’s Super-Rich Communist Buddhists,” BBC.com. (February 7, 2015), http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-30983402, retrieved February 9, 2015.

[iv] “Tibetan Buddhist Gods of Wealth,” CulturalChina.com, http://www.cultural-china.com/chinaWH/html/en/Traditions29bye115.html, retrieved February 10, 2015.