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Buddhism grows beyond religion in America

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Akash Shukla

No one saves us but ourselves. No one can and no one may. We ourselves must walk the path… and so began the spiritual entourage of Florida native Michael Paul Schlosser. The blue-eyed and fair-skinned native was ordained as one-of-the-first Anglo American Buddhist monks in the country.

“26 million Americans are influenced by Buddhism in their daily lives. I went to Houston and I was pleased to see that a lot of people in temples were happy to witness an American monk,” Schlosser revealed. One of the most fascinating beliefs about Buddhism is that there is no Creator or God.

The founder of Buddhism was a young prince of Nepal, Gautam Buddha. After gauging that wealth and luxury do not guarantee inner peace, he set out to find inner peace. Even after devoting his 16 years to the grind in public relations, Schlosser failed to plug the void within. ‘Unfulfilled’ as he felt and rattled by the rat race around, he said, “The transition didn’t happen overnight. He began to read and notice the difference between Eastern and Western philosophies. Encounter with Buddhism made me feel that I have reached the spot,” he revealed in spiritual satiety.

At SGI-USA, another strong Buddhist practitioner Michelle Riofrio recollected that she felt tangled between her two noxious emotions: one, being robbed at gunpoint and the second having fear of expressing the same to her conservative catholic parents. After seeing no way out of this quagmire, she resorted to win it all with Buddhist practice and she claimed that ‘it summoned her to put forth her courage’.

Michael Paul Schlosser, who has served as a resident monk at Buu Mon Buddhist temple since November of 2006 as Bhante M Kassapa, and Michelle Riofrio are not the only Americans who have chosen the Buddhist trail of spirituality in America: As per the statistics and an ABC 13 bulletin, Buddhism currently ranks as the fourth largest religion in the world.

Buddhism, which is 350 million strong, continues to grow as we speak the faith and read the depths of non-theistic religion. Emmett Till Justice Campaign  Civil rights activist Alvin Sykes sought out Mamie Till-Mobley to talk to her about her son. Emmett Till, a black teenager from Chicago, had been brutally beaten and murdered. His offense: allegedly whistling at a white woman. While Till’s killing turned one of the events that energized the booming American Civil Rights Movement, his killers were acquitted of the crime. Although they later admitted their guilt, they remained free.

In January 2003, Sykes and Till-Mobley kicked off the Emmett Till Justice Campaign. Till-Mobley succumbed two days later.  Sykes helped craft the legislation, which creates two positions– one in the FBI and the other in the U.S. Justice Department– to investigate these unsolved cases. The bill also sets aside up to $135 million over 10 years for investigations.

The activist’s life changed at the age of 18 when he encountered Nichiren Buddhism at a Herbie Hancock concert. The life-changing philosophy of Nichiren Buddhism includes chanting of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. His practice and analysis of Buddhism fortified his determination to fight for justice and enhanced his faith in the might of dialogue to bulldoze walls and achieve results that otherwise seemed impossible.

While Buddhism continues to shape lives of countless Americans in more ways than one, SGI-USA perennially puts forth unique experiences of neo-Buddhists in US who relentlessly lend voice to the unsung. In an earlier incident, Tibet’s exiled Buddhist Dalai Lama was discharged from Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. Evidencing the popularity boom of Buddhism in US, many local newspapers reported that dozens of Tibetans draped in ethnic clothes greeted the Dalai Lama at the Mayo Civic Centre.

en.wikipedia.org
en.wikipedia.org

“His life means the world to us,” said a US national of Buddhist told the newspapers and added, “We follow his footsteps. He touched our faces. It was a blessing.” Amid all the furore over Tibet and against China’s warning to stop interference, US President Barack Obama met Dalai Lama at the White House and reiterated his strong support for the preservation of Tibet’s rights.  Situation as is playing out for US is more of a fence-sitting sort…  “US supports Dalai Lama’s middle-way approach of neither assimilation nor independence for Tibetans in China,” said Caitlin Hayden, a spokeswoman for the White House’s National Security Council.

However, Buddhism and its peace-loving agenda continue to prevail over this political turmoil. Despite the upsurge in hate and race crimes in US, Buddhism among natives is gaining momentum.

(With inputs from SGI-USA)

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As Huawei CFO Gets Released On a Bail, Trump Suggests a Trade Deal With China

China's Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang suggested Kovrig’s employer is not properly registered as a non-governmental organization in China.

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huawei, Trump
People are escorted out of the court registry by a B.C. sheriff after the B.C. Supreme Court bail hearing of Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou, who was released on a $10 million bail in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. VOA

A court in Canada has released tech giant Huawei’s chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou on bail as she awaits possible extradition to the United States over bank fraud allegations linked to Iran sanctions.However, in a new twist to the case that has quickly mushroomed far beyond its initial scope, U.S. President Donald Trump has said that he might intervene.

“Whatever’s good for the country, I would do,” Trump told Reuters in an interview, shortly after the ruling. “If I think it’s good for what will certainly be the largest trade deal ever made, which is a very important thing. What’s good for national security, I would certainly intervene if I thought it was necessary.”

 

Huawei, China, Trump
Meng Wanzhou, Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd.’s chief financial officer, is seen in this undated handout photo obtained by Reuters. VOA

The United States has 60 days from the day of Meng’s arrest to issue a formal extradition request and provide Canadian courts with evidence. Meng, the daughter of Huawei’s founder, was taken into custody on December 1 while transiting planes in Canada.

 

While her legal fate is worked out, Meng agreed to post $7.5 million in bail, hand over her passports and remain in British Columbia. She will also wear an ankle bracelet and be under 24-hour surveillance, barred from leaving a home she owns in Vancouver between 11 at night and six in the morning.

Huawei Technologies is one of the world’s biggest manufacturers of mobile phones. The case against Meng is not only about violations of U.S. sanctions against Iran but deep suspicions about the company and its connections to Chinese authorities, allegations Huawei has both repeatedly denied.

 

Huawei, Trump
People walk past an advertisement for Huawei at a subway station in Hong Kong. VOA

 

Suspected intel links 

National security experts have raised concerns that data on Huawei devices could be made available to China’s intelligence services. The company is also a key global competitor in the ongoing race to roll out fifth generation or 5G mobile networks.

U.S. officials say Meng lied to banks about Huawei’s control of Hong Kong-based Skycom — a company that allegedly sold U.S. goods to Iran in violation of U.S. sanctions against Tehran.

If convicted in the United States, she could face up to 30 years in prison. Meng maintains she is innocent and some argue that U.S. authorities have a lot to prove in their case against Meng.

Zhao Zhanling, a researcher at the Intellectual Property Center of China University of Political Science and Law, argues that the United States cannot apply its local laws to a foreign company or one of its top executives.

And that is just one of many uncertainties in the case, Zhao said.

Trump
U.S. President Donald Trump sits for an exclusive interview with Reuters journalists in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington. VOA

“This is a case that is politically complicated, that has diplomatic elements and is linked to the U.S.-China trade war,” Zhao said. “And under those circumstances, whether the extradition is approved or whether the U.S. will press ahead with extradition remains to be seen.”

Trump intervention 

Zhao believes there’s a good chance that Washington will give up the extradition request in exchange for a better trade deal with China.

At a regular briefing Wednesday, China Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said Meng’s arrest was a mistake from the “start,” but welcomed Trump’s remarks.

“Any person, especially if it is a leader of the United States or a high-level figure who is willing to make positive efforts to push this situation in the right direction, then that of course, deserves to be well received,” Lu said.

Julian Ku, a professor of law at Hofstra University in New York, said that while President Trump can instruct the attorney general to withdraw an extradition request, “it doesn’t sound like he has been fully briefed on the charges against Meng and its legal basis.”

That or the “complexities of making these comments during an extradition proceeding,” he adds.

Huawei, China, Canada, Trump
The exterior of the Alouette Correctional Center for Women, where Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou was being held on an extradition warrant, is seen in Maple Ridge, British Columbia, Canada

For now, Ku said it is his impression that Trump does not have any plans to act one way or the other, just that he didn’t want to rule anything out.

China has argued that the case against Meng is politically motivated and the president’s comments will go a long way to bolstering that view. Some analysts also worry that it sets a dangerous precedent, putting Americans at risk and undercutting rule of law.

Beijing retaliation likely 

China has already lashed out at both Canada and the United States over her arrest, warning Ottawa of severe consequences. There are already signs that both governments may be preparing to issue travel warnings to their citizens traveling to China.

And analysts have said retaliation from Beijing is likely.

Just prior to Meng’s final day in court, Canada confirmed Chinese authorities have detained Canadian Michael Kovrig, a former diplomat who is currently a senior adviser at the International Crisis Group.

Hong Kong, Trump
In this image made from a video taken on March 28, 2018, North East Asia senior adviser Michael Kovrig speaks during an interview in Hong Kong. VOA

The Canadian government voiced its “deep concern” but said it sees no explicit connection between Kovrig’s arrest and the Meng case.

Others disagree.

“We are doing everything possible to secure additional information on Michael’s whereabouts as well as his prompt and safe release,” the group said in an earlier statement.

Also Read: China Warns Canada Against Severe Consequences If Huawei CFO Isn’t Released

On Wednesday, China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang suggested Kovrig’s employer is not properly registered as a non-governmental organization in China.

“If they are not registered and their workers are in China undertaking activities, then that’s already outside of, and breaking, the law, revised just last year, on the management of overseas non-governmental organizations operating in China,” Lu said.

ICG could not be reached for further comment. (VOA)