Newly renovated Paris Buddhist pagoda

Here is an article in The Guardian about the recent renovation of a little-known but impressive Buddhist pagoda in Paris, apparently home to Europe’s largest Buddhist image. Particularly interesting for me is the way different aspects of French colonial history, migration patterns, contemporary global Buddhism, and even the art scene, have come together to create this Buddhist space.

The Buddha image was constructed in the studio of Spanish artist Joan Miró, while the pagoda itself was built in 1931 as a replica Cameroonian house for a colonial exhibition. It was later acquired by the French Buddhist Union, an umbrella group representing various Buddhist traditions and created following migration of Buddhists from Vietnam and South Asia. Interestingly, the impulse to renovate the pagoda came from Asian Buddhists who were dismayed at its run-down state, thus adding another layer to the site’s complex international character.

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New Film: The Wisdom to Survive: Climate Change, Capitalism and Community

Here is the press release for a new documentary on climate change, as well as details of its premiere in Dallas, Texas.

Celebrate Mother’s Day by Honoring Mother Earth

Climate Change Film Debuts in Dallas May 9

“You’re born into this and you’re here to love it and to see that it goes on,” Buddhist author Joanna Macy’s soft voice delivers the heartfelt message of The Wisdom to Survive: Climate Change, Capitalism and Community. The award-winning documentary is one of the few to face the impending climate catastrophe head on.
Wisdom to Survive makes its Dallas premiere at White Rock United Methodist Church on May 9, at 7:30 pm. Co-director John Ankele will be present for Q&A. The screening is free, but donations will be accepted. The church is located at 1450 Old Gate Lane, Dallas, TX 75218. To reserve space or watch the film’s trailer, visit Brown Paper Tickets:
The 56-minute film accepts the consensus of scientists that climate change has already arrived, and asks—what is keeping us from action? In discussions with thought leaders and activists, The Wisdom to Survive explores how unlimited growth lies behind climate disruption, and is devastating our planet’s life support system, our social fabric, and the lives of billions of people. The film features Bill McKibben (, Buddhist author Joanna Macy, whale scientist Roger Payne, Herschelle Milford (Surplus People Project), Quincy Saul (Ecosocialist Horizons), and more. They provide insights, answers, and hope. What becomes clear is, we already have the tools we need to change our economy and lifestyle. Our attention must focus on taking action and building community.
Discussion follows with co-director John Ankele, Dr. Tania Homayoun, Conservation Biologist, Texas Audubon, and Yaira Robinson, Texas Interfaith Power & Light. Anna Clark of EarthPeople will moderate. A reception follows.
Dallas Interfaith Power & Light is organizing the program. Community partners include Dallas Shambhala Meditation Center and Video Association of Dallas.
Mother Nature News described The Wisdom to Survive as “one of seven must-see” films at this year’s Environmental Film Festival in Our Nation’s Capital (EFF). The documentary was the key film in the EFF’s special program “The Faith-Based Response to Climate Change.”
Frederic & Mary Ann Brussat of the influential website Spirituality & Practice write:The Wisdom to Survive offers the most inspiring, enlightening, creative, and practical overview of the spiritual dimensions of climate change that we’ve seen.”
Writes Mary Evelyn Tucker of the Forum on Religion and Ecology at Yale: “This film is deeply moving and profoundly engaging. Indeed, it has the potential to transform lives because it provides visions of how we should live in the midst of massive environmental challenges. I cannot recommend it more highly!”
Featured in the Film
  • Rucha Chitnis, Women’s Earth Alliance
  • Nikki Cooley, Jihan Gearon and Roberto Nutlouis, Black Mesa Water Coalition
  • Ben Falk, Whole Systems Design
  • Eugene M Friesen, Composer and Cellist
  • Terran Giacomini
  • Richard Heinberg
  •  Rev. Daniel Jantos
  • Anya Kamenskaya, Future Farmers
  • Stephanie Kaza and Amy Seidl, University of Vermont
  • Joanna Macy, Author
  • Bill McKibben, Founder of
  • Herschelle Milford, Surplus People Project
  • Lawrence Mkhaliph
  • Roger Payne,
  • Quincy Saul and Joel Kovel, Eco Socialists
  • Gus Speth, Co-Founder, National Resources Defense Council (NRDC)
  • Seema Tripathi, Gorakhpur Environmental Action Group (GEAG)

What Viewers Are Saying

“Marvelous and moving. Beautiful work.”—Fran Korten, Yes! Magazine
“A starkly prophetic film. It combines the direst of warnings with deep love of life. Better than any other film I know, it makes clear that our profit-oriented growth economy has caused the climate catastrophe and cannot itself rescue us from disaster. We need new thinking and a new way of life.”—Tom F. Driver,  Paul Tillich Professor Emeritus of Systematic Theology, Union Theological Seminary
“Brilliant, achingly poignant. Please SEE THIS FILM—bring it to your community, talk about it, share it with others. It is one of the most artfully-rendered films on the planet’s crisis (and how we move through it) I have ever seen. Extraordinarily moving.—Shyla Nelson, Founder, One Earth One Voice Campaign

“Beautiful, heartbreaking, urgent.” —Organic Soul, Natural & Holistic Living

Directors’ Statement

“Our primary goal for The Wisdom to Survive is to recruit activists. We need a big movement. And we have to connect existing movements. Some of what we’re showing is hard to watch. Whales being killed. Children starving. We’re urging our audience not to look away: take a good look! You must. Otherwise, you won’t do anything about it. You can’t remain the same, once you know. We want to inspire our viewers. Yes, climate change is horrifying. We need to know the facts and their implications, and then take action. You can be fully involved, fully aware, know that your house is on fire, and still be joyful and committed.”

About the Filmmakers

Ankele divides his time between Accord, NY, and New York City. As a producer of radio and TV programming in the 1960s, Ankele used mass media to empower faith communities advocating for civil rights and against the Vietnam War. During the struggle for independence in southern Africa, he worked with and trained political activists in the use of media to bring about social change. As an ordained minister in the Presbyterian Church and as a student in the Zen and Shambhala Buddhist traditions, he has been involved for many years in interfaith dialogue around contemplative practice and social justice.

Macksoud is based in Woodstock, VT, and is co-founder of Sustainable Woodstock. She spent 17 years as a teacher (English literature, photography, and music) before transitioning to film and video production. Once she discovered the “eye-opening” power of the documentary medium, she brought rented documentaries into her classroom on a regular basis. Eventually, Macksoud began helping her students make their own films and slide shows on the issues of the day (civil rights, the Vietnam War, and global poverty, to name a few). She approaches filmmaking from the perspective of an artist as well as an educator.

Through their non-profit company Old Dog Documentaries, Macksoud and Ankele have produced timely documentaries on urgent issues about the environment, social justice, and spirituality for over 25 years. Some of their films, such as The Global Banquet: The Politics of Food and Arms for the Poor, are classic references for educational use. Like their past films, The Wisdom to Survive supports Old Dog’s mission of promoting environmental justice and inspiring viewers to become activists.
For more information about The Wisdom to Survive or to view the trailer visit:
Bullfrog Films is the educational distributor for The Wisdom to Survive; Bullfrog is a premier distributor of environmental films.
For a press screener or to book interviews with the filmmakers, contact Angela Alston at or 718-407-0670.
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Poem: Below The Winter Sky

Below The Winter Sky

Below the grey, winter sky,
A covering of snow,
Lay upon the distant hills.
In the valley,
The familiar, but welcome sight
Of the grey stone cottage,
With smoke from the single chimney,
Gently drifting away
Upon the chilling winter breeze.

Journey’s end closer now,
Footsteps quicken through the snow,
Along the narrow lane,
Leading to the path
And the solid timber door
At the front of the cottage.

Already in my mind,
Smells of the kitchen,
A glowing fire,
The warmth and comfort of home.
As I close the door,
Fresh snow covers my tracks
Along the lane,
As winter secures it’s hold
Upon the cottage in the valley.

Inside at last.
Expectations of journey’s end,
As I rest, by the fire,
Of the cottage, in the valley,
Below the grey, winter sky.

Chris Roe

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In the context of the JGB’s just-released issue on Zen and Popular Culture, it’s worth mentioning Buddhism scholar Megan Bryson’s excellent and extensive blog Zensanity, which focuses on the way the “Zen brand” is used in the marketing of various commodities. As Megan herself writes, the purpose of her blog

is not to mock products with Zen labels, or demarcate authentic vs. inauthentic forms of Zen, but to catalogue the vast array of such products and examine what they say about (primarily American) understandings of Zen.

Posted in Briefly noted, The global imaginary | Tagged , | 1 Comment

JGB 2015 volume is online, with all new website

I’m very happy to announce that the 2015 volume of the JGB is now online. Even more exciting (in my view), we have launched a brand new website making use of the Open Journal System. This is a major upgrade from our old website, which had been basically unchanged since the year 2000. With the OJS, we now have an attractive new design as well as a lot of new functionality and features. I encourage everyone to have a look at the new site.

We have begun the 2015 volume with a special focus section on “Zen and Popular Culture”. Soon we will also be publishing a second special focus on the subject of “The Family and Buddhism”. Watch this space.

Here is the current ToC.

Introduction: Zen and Popular Culture

Research Articles


Book Reviews

Buddhist Nuns and Gendered Practice: In Search of the Female Renunciant, by Nirmala S. Salgado
Flowers on the Rock: Global and Local Buddhisms in Canada, edited by John S. Harding, Victor Sōgen Hori, and Alexander Soucey.
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E-learning course: Women in Indian Buddhism

There is still time to enrol in an E-learning course, or MOOC, on Women in Indian Buddhism, run out of Hamburg University’s Numata Center for Buddhist Studies. Here is the announcement:

The Numata Center for Buddhist Studies at the University of Hamburg, in cooperation with the Women in Buddhism Study Initiative, offers an E-learning Course on Women in Indian Buddhism. The course consists of a series of lectures by a group of international scholars. Participation is free of charge and open to anyone interested, but requires online registration. Lectures start on April 16 and are held every Thursday at 2.15 pm German  time. Recordings of the lecture are accessible for registered participants at any time of their convenience after original delivery. The e-learning platform also features a discussion forum for exchange between participants and lecturers.For registration and more information, please follow this link . )


16 April Analayo: Women in Early Buddhist Discourse

23 April Amy Langenberg: Female Virtue in Two Sanskrit Vinayas

30 April Mari Jväsjarvi Stuart: Women in medieval Buddhist and Jain monasticism

7 May Nalini Balbir: Women in the Buddhist and Jain traditions

14 May Ute Hüsken: Women in the Theravâda Vinaya and the Brahminical Tradition

21 May Reiko Ohnuma: The Nun Thullanandâ

28 May Shobha Rani Dash: Mahâpajâpatî Gotamî Narratives

4 June Liz Wilson: Hagiographic Buddhist Texts on Women

11 June Rita Gross: Women in Mahâyâna Sûtra Literature

18 June Alice Collett: Women in Early Buddhist Inscriptions

25 June Naomi Appleton: Women in the Jâtaka Collection

2 July Monika Zin: Buddhist Women in Indian Art

9 July Petra Kieffer-Pülz: Summary and Outlook on Scholarship on Women in Buddhism

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World’s first Chair in Thai Buddhism established

The University of Michigan has just announced the establishment of a Thai Professorship in Theravada Buddhism, apparently the world’s first such position. The professorship is being funded by a $2 million gift from Thai alumni of the university as well as Thailand’s Crown Property Bureau. From the article:

The holder of this chair at U-M will teach courses and conduct research to advance knowledge of Thai Buddhism. The research will be shared with scholars of Buddhism in Thailand and around the globe, enriching knowledge and understanding of an ancient religion whose teachings continue to inspire the modern world.

The gift was made possible through the initiative and generosity of Amnuay Viravan, the former deputy prime minister, finance minister and foreign minister of Thailand, with matching support provided by the Crown Property Bureau of the Ministry of Finance of Thailand.

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Using Atlas.ti for Buddhist cannonical analysis

Over at the Atlas.ti blog is an interesting article on the uses of its software in the analysis of Buddhist canonical texts. Atlas.ti is a prominent qualitative data analysis (QDA) software that I’m a little familiar with through my anthropological work. It’s main function is to allow researchers to code and analysis large amounts of text in order to find patterns and connections which aid the process of interpretation. 

This paper, by Fung Kei Cheng and entitled “Utilising Computer-Assisted Qualitative Data Analysis Software in Buddhist Canonical Analysis” shows how useful the software can be for finding patterns within enormous tracts of text such as Buddhist sutras. In Fung’s words:

This work specifies how to use ATLAS.ti 7, one of the leading computer-assisted qualitative data analysis software (CAQDAS), or briefly, qualitative data analysis software (QDAS) (Lewins & Silver, 2007), in analysing the Vimalakīrti Nirdeśa Sūtra (henceforth called the Sūtra), the Buddhist canon adopted in the current research for conceptualising a Buddhist-based counselling framework. Therefore, it exemplifies only the relevant constituents, rather than the entire scriptural text, which aligns with the research objective and research questions.

The full text of the article is here.

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New Book: Spells, Images, and Mandalas: Tracing the Evolution of Esoteric Buddhist Rituals

Here’s an announcement regarding a new book on Buddhist ritual that might be of interest to readers:

Columbia University Press is pleased to announce the publication of Spells, Images, and Mandalas: Tracing the Evolution of Esoteric Buddhist Rituals by Koichi Shinohara.

  • A new study of the relationships between esoteric Buddhist rituals in India and manifestations in China
  • The second book in the Sheng Yen Series in Chinese Buddhism
  • Based on an enormous collection of research on Buddhist ritual texts
  • Explains both in theoretical and historical terms how Buddhist rituals and Buddhist Art interacted with each other

“Shinohara has given us an insightful and detailed examination of the transition between Mahāyāna and early Esoteric Buddhism based on Chinese sources. He has illuminated the development of practices that include the worship of images, visualizations, and the use of mandalas, and his painstaking discussions of rituals give us a vivid sense of how practices might have been performed.”
— Paul Groner, University of Virginia

Koichi Shinohara traces the evolution of Esoteric Buddhist rituals from the simple recitation of spells in the fifth century to complex systems involving image worship, mandala initiation, and visualization practices in the ninth century. He presents an important new reading of a seventh-century Chinese text called the Collected Dharani Sūtras, which shows how earlier rituals for specific deities were synthesized into a general Esoteric initiation ceremony and how, for the first time, the notion of an Esoteric Buddhist pantheon emerged.

In the Collected Dharani Sūtras, rituals for specific deities were typically performed around images of the deities, yet Esoteric Buddhist rituals in earlier sources involved the recitation of spells rather than the use of images. The first part of this study explores how such simpler rituals came to be associated with the images of specific deities and ultimately gave rise to the general Esoteric initiation ceremony described in the crucial example of the All-Gathering mandala ritual in the Collected Dharani Sūtras. The visualization practices so important to later Esoteric Buddhist rituals were absent from this ceremony, and their introduction would fundamentally change Esoteric Buddhist practice.

This study examines the translations of dhāranī sūtras made by Bodhiruci in the early eighth century and later Esoteric texts, such as Yixing’s commentary on the Mahāvairocana sūtra and Amoghavajra’s ritual manuals, to show how incorporation of visualization greatly enriched Esoteric rituals and helped develop elaborate iconographies for the deities. Over time, the ritual function of images became less certain, and the emphasis shifted toward visualization. This study clarifies the complex relationship between images and ritual, changing how we perceive Esoteric Buddhist art as well as ritual.

Koichi Shinohara teaches in the Department of Religious Studies at Yale University.

To find out more about this book, see:

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CfP: International Conference on Buddhism & Australia 2015

Call for Papers: IC Buddhism & Australia 2015

The 4th International Conference Buddhism & Australia will be held on
26-28 February, 2015 in Perth, Western Australia.

This conference investigates the history, current and future
directions of Buddhism in Australasian region; theme for Buddhism &
Australia 2015 will be Buddhist Symbols and Symbolism

The organizers are open to proposals for contributions on Buddhist
history, philosophy, texts as well for proposals on any related theme.

All Buddhists, scholars and members of the general public interested
in Buddhism are invited to present their papers in this coming
conference. Researchers across a broad range of disciplines are
welcomed as well the submission of pre-formed panel proposals.

What to Send

Proposals may be in Word or RTF formats with the following information:

  • author(s);
  • affiliation as you would like it to appear in programme
  • email address,
  • title of proposal,
  • body of proposal; no more than 300 words,
  • up to 10 keywords.
  • CV max 2 pages

Please use plain text (Times Roman 12) and abstain from using
footnotes and any special formatting, characters or emphasis (such as
bold, italics or underline).

Proposals should be submitted by November 25, 2014 by the following
email: If a proposal is accepted for the
conference, a full draft paper should be submitted by January 20,
2015. We acknowledge receipt and answer to all proposals submitted

For further details of the conference, please visit:

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