You Gotta Watch This…

Charles Prebish

I’ve blogged before about Utah State University’s wonderful Charles Prebish, who is (among many other things) effectively the Dean of the Study of Buddhism in North America. He is the author of more than twenty books, including the absolutely essential, must-reads Luminous Passage: The Practice and Study of Buddhism in America and Buddhist Monastic Discipline: The Sanskrit Prātimoksạ Sūtras of the Mahāsāmg̣hikas and Mūlasarvāstivādins. In addition, he is the co-founder of The Journal of Buddhist Ethics, the Buddhism Section of the American Academy of Religion, and Routledge’s “Critical Studies in Buddhism” series. Most recently, he was very deservedly honored with the “festschrift” Buddhist Studies from India to America: Essays in Honor of Charles S. Prebish in 2005, which acknowledges the tremendous debt our field owes him for all of his efforts.

Chuck, whom I had the great pleasure to meet at the American Academy of Religion Annual Meeting in San Diego in 2007 and today enjoy a lovely e-mail correspondence with, is retiring in December. His last academic presentation as “an employed scholar” was the keynote address at last month’s “Buddhism in Canada: Global Causes, Local Conditions” conference at the University of British Columbia: “The Swans Came to Canada Too: Looking Backward and Looking Forward”. The video of that address is below, and it’s an exceptional “state of the union” kind of talk about past and present trends in the study of Buddhism in North America.

Among other things, Chuck looks seriously at Buddhist blogs. In doing so, he ends up saying some really lovely things about this blog. I’m incredibly honored and flattered by his comments, especially since he’s been such a hero of mine as a young academic situated firmly in the “scholar-practitioner” category he defined. Anyway, if you want to skip ahead to the section of his talk on Buddhist blogs, click this link. Otherwise the entirety of his talk is below — and I strongly encourage everyone to watch it and (if you’re a blogger) blog your thoughts about it.

“Throwing Punches in a Buddhist Church Basement”

Photo by Brian Harkin for The New York Times.

This from Eric Asimov in the pages of The New York Times:

New York is full of closed doors, hidden communities and secret places. We pass by them all the time, without a hint of what lurks within, above or, in this case, below.

It has been almost 12 years since I happened upon one of them, the Kokushi Budo Institute, a dojo for training in the traditional Japanese martial arts, secluded in the basement of the New York Buddhist Church, on Riverside Drive near 106th Street. The dojo has no sign and does not advertise.

You can’t miss the church, though. Standing watch out front is an arresting superhero-size bronze statue of Shinran Shonin, a 12th-century Japanese Buddhist monk. Ring a bell and walk down three flights — and the dojo reveals itself in stages.

First come the sounds: the kiais, or exclamations, that accompany punches; and the thumps as big bodies fly through the air and land on the firm exercise mats with a slap of the arm to diminish the impact. Then the sights: men, women and children dressed in gis, or white-cloth training uniforms. There are smells, too: the funky, musky aromas of athletic exertion. Nobody shatters boards. That is all for show, anyway.

For 46 years, the dojo has been overseen by the sensei Nobuyoshi Higashi, who teaches the classic Japanese martial arts of judo, karate and aikido, as well as his own Kokushi-ryu jujutsu, ancient, deadly Japanese fighting techniques that he reinvented for use in safe, practical self-defense applications.

Read the rest here.

I’ve previously blogged about the New York Buddhist Church in this post, this post, and this post.

USA Today: “Is Tiger Woods Still a Buddhist?”

Photo by Robert Cianflone for Getty Images.

This from USA Today:

Tiger Woods, a year past the debacle that cost him his marriage and endorsements worth millions of dollars, is no longer wearing his wear-it-forever Buddhism bracelet.

He told The Golf Channel in a March interview that the pink strings on his wrist were a Buddhism bracelet intended to offer him “strength and protection,” and remind him the ancient philosophy that he learned in childhood from his Buddhist mother (then forgot as he strayed into serial infidelities.)

Interviewer Kelly Tilghman asked him it would be wearing it “for the rest of your life?” and Woods replied, “Absolutely.”


Months later… bracelet? What bracelet? By November 8, Radar Online had already noticed that Woods had shed the stringsduring a tournament in Thailand.

At the November 14 Australian Masters matches, still no bracelet (see photo above).

His November 17 preemptive posting for Newsweek, all about how much he’s trying to be a better person, also made no mention of any faith or philosophy.

Arun of Angry Asian Buddhist wrote a great post about the meaning of the string many months back. Check it out at Dharma Folk.