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 Recent Articles about Buddhism, meditation and Zen

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Jcbaran

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PostSubject: Recent Articles about Buddhism, meditation and Zen   Sat Jun 23, 2012 4:53 pm


June 16, 2012 - NYT
Buddhists’ Delight
By JAMES ATLAS


WHY was I in a tent in northern Vermont? Much less a tent in the woods at a Buddhist meditation center, reading Sakyong Mipham’s “Turning the Mind Into an Ally” by the light from my smartphone?

If you really want to hear about it (to borrow a phrase from Holden Caulfield), I was on retreat. Perhaps I should say, I was in retreat, from a frenetic Manhattan life, hoping to find the balance and harmony that have formed the basis of the Buddhist tradition ever since Siddhartha Gautama discovered enlightenment around 2,500 years ago while sitting under a Bodhi tree in Northern India.

The fundamental insight of the Buddha (the Awakened One) is this: life consists of suffering, and suffering is caused by attachment to the self, which is in turn attached to the things of this world. Only by liberating ourselves from the tyranny of perpetual wanting can we be truly free.

Not that I am ready to renounce this world, or its things. “I am still expecting something exciting,” Edmund Wilson confided in his journal when he was in his mid-60s: “drinks, animated conversation, gaiety: an uninhibited exchange of ideas.” So do I. But I need a respite from those things, too.

I wasn’t eager to end like the Buddhist couple who went on a retreat in Arizona and turned up, one dead, one nearly dead from dehydration, in a remote cave. But I am far from alone in my choice of spiritual nourishment. The Vermont retreat was so oversubscribed that people slept on futons in the Shrine Room. (I was lucky to get a tent.) Dr. Paul D. Numrich, a professor of world religions and interreligious relations, conjectured that there may be as many Buddhists as Muslims in the United States by now.

Professor Numrich’s claim is startling, but statistics (some, anyway) support it: Buddhism is the fourth largest religion in the United States. More Americans convert to Buddhism than to Mormonism. (Think about it, Mitt.)

Many converts are what Thomas A. Tweed, in “The American Encounter With Buddhism,” refers to as “nightstand Buddhists” — mostly Catholics, Jews (yeah, I know, “Juddhists”) and refugees from other religions who keep a stack of Pema Chödrön books beside their beds.

So who are these — dare I coin the term? — Newddhists? Burned-out BlackBerry addicts attracted to its emphasis on quieting the “monkey mind”? Casual acolytes rattled by the fiscal and identity crises of a nation that even Jeb Bush suggests is “in decline”? Placard-carrying doomsayers out of a New Yorker cartoon? Uncertain times make us susceptible to collective catastrophic thinking — the conditions in which religious movements flourish.

Or perhaps Buddhism speaks to our current mind-body obsession. Dr. Andrew Weil, in his new book, “Spontaneous Happiness,” establishes a relationship between Buddhist practice and “the developing integrative model of mental health.” This connection is well documented: at the Laboratory for Affective Neuroscience at the University of Wisconsin, researchers found that Buddhist meditation practice can change the structure of our brains — which, we now know from numerous clinical studies, can change our physiology. The Mindful Awareness Research Center at U.C.L.A. is collecting data in the new field of “mindfulness-based cognitive therapy” that shows a positive correlation between the therapy and what a center co-director, Dr. Daniel Siegel, calls mindsight. He writes of developing an ability to focus on our internal world that “we can use to re-sculpt our neural pathways, stimulating the growth of areas that are crucial to mental health.”

I felt this happening during my four-day retreat. Each day, we sat for hours as bees hummed beyond the screened windows of the meditation room, a converted barn. It was hard to concentrate at first, as anyone who has tried meditating knows: it requires toleration for the repetitive, inane — often boring — thoughts that float through the self-observing consciousness. (Buddhists use the word “mindfulness” to describe this process; it sometimes felt more like mindlessness.) But after a while, when the brass bowl was struck and we settled into silence, I found myself enveloped, if only for a few moments, in the calm emptiness of no-thought. At such moments the seven-hour drive from New York seemed worth it.

During the lectures, there was talk of “feelings,” “loving kindness” and “the inherent goodness of who we are” — tempered by good-natured skepticism. (“Feel free to resume struggling with things,” a teacher concluded after a long “sitting.”) But it wasn’t all about looking inward. There was also talk of issues I thought we had left behind. “What’s affecting the world is the unhealthy state of mind — culture, environment and society,” a teacher reminded us: “violence, horror, bias, ecological catastrophe, the entire range of human pain.” In Tibet, he noted, monasteries aren’t sealed off from the life around them but function as community centers. The resistance to Chinese oppression has come largely from monks, who demonstrate and even immolate themselves in protest.

Engaged Buddhism — a concept new to me — has a tradition in the West. Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac, among its early American proponents, didn’t just cultivate their gardens. Kerouac’s Buddha-worshiping “Dharma Bums” were precursors of the sexual revolution (their tantric “yabyum” rituals sound like fun); Ginsberg, a co-founder with Anne Waldman of the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics at Naropa University in Boulder, Colo., the first accredited Buddhist-inspired college in the United States, faced down the police at the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago by using meditation as an instrument of passive resistance.

Reading “Buddhism in the Modern World,” a collection of essays edited by David L. McMahan, I was struck by the pragmatic tone of the contributors, their preoccupation with what Mr. McMahan identified as “globalization, gender issues, and the ways in which Buddhism has confronted modernity, science, popular culture and national politics.” Their goal is to make Buddhism active.

As I drove out of the parking lot on the last day, ready — sort of — to return to what passes for civilization, I wondered whether I would be able to hold on to any of what I had learned — or if I even knew what I had learned, or had learned anything at all. Perhaps it was simply the lesson of acceptance — and the possibility of modest self-transformation. A teacher had said: “Don’t fix yourself up first, then go forth: the two are inseparable.” To enact, or “transmit,” change in the world, we need to begin with ourselves and “learn how to have a skillful, successful, well-organized, productive life.” That was a lot to ask from a four-day retreat, but at least it was a start.

My phone pinged. I could check it later.
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PostSubject: Re: Recent Articles about Buddhism, meditation and Zen   Sat Jun 23, 2012 4:58 pm

What’s an American Buddhist?
By William Wilson Quinn - ON FAITH - Washington Post


In this Sunday, June 19, 2011 photo, Rev. Karen Do-on Weik and her husband Rev. Jay Rinsen Weik meditate at the Toledo Zen Center in Holland, Ohio. The two have created a Sunday school and other programs to be especially welcoming to families. Many U.S. Buddhists say that meditation centers aren’t especially welcoming of children, and some worry it will cost them the next generation of adherents. (JD Pooley - AP) American Buddhism’s numbers are booming. Published just over three years ago, an American Religious Identification Survey survey showed that from the years 1990 to 2000, Buddhism grew 170 percent in North America. By all indications that remarkable rate of growth continues unabated.

Why is a faith founded under a Bodhi tree in India 2,500 years ago enjoying a newfound popularity in America today?

There is no such thing as a historic North American Buddhist tradition, a fact that is crucial to understanding and facilitating Buddhism’s blossoming. This growth is all the more remarkable given that Buddhism was arguably the most recent import of a major religion to North America from the East. It’s important to note that Western practitioners meditating in Massachusetts or applying the Eight-fold Path in Portland often reach back to the established Buddhist traditions of Sri Lanka or Thailand, Tibet, or Vietnam, Myanmar or Korea, China, or Japan. But that’s not the only way to be Buddhist.

Some North American authors have suggested that North Americans might consider foregoing any such wholesale adoptions of Eastern traditions in deference to gradually developing their own. While not necessarily endorsing this view, even the Tibetan teacher Shamar Rinpoche posited that “Tibetans can benefit from being less sectarian, and certainly non-Tibetans [in context principally Europeans and North Americans] have no need for such distinctions.” The development of such a new North American sacred tradition is more possible with Buddhism than most other world religions owing to the relative simplicity and universal applicability of the dharma’s core principles and the Buddha’s teachings. That is partly because the dharma does not rely on faith in any deific being as conditions to one’s beliefs, as do other religions.

Still, some wonder: Does a practitioner born and raised in North America more easily adopt Buddhism if he takes it wholesale from the East?

One way to look at this question is through the example of practice. When done correctly, what Buddhist meditators refer to as “sitting”–whether following the vipassana or zazen (or other) approaches to sitting meditation–does not rely on ceremonial chanting and recitations and actions that typically surround collective meditation sessions. This is not to say such ceremonial activities normally performed in an ancient or modern Eastern language are not useful or helpful. This is only to say they are not a necessity for the gradual expansion of consciousness that is the result of regular meditation. If one accepts this basic premise, which can be supported by the sutras attributed to the Buddha, then the conclusion that North Americans could conceivably develop their own Buddhist tradition some day is perfectly rational, if not probable.

After all, none of the cultural accessories of Buddhist practices in the East came into being overnight; they themselves developed over time.

In Buddhism, that which does not differ from culture to culture or era to era is the state of a meditator’s mind and presence when that person is sitting in true mediation.

In association with other core teachings of the Buddha, such as compassion, non-violence, and loving-kindness all found within the Eight-fold Path, the attainment of the expanded states of consciousness almost always occurs only through regular and constant and diligent meditation practice, or sitting. This fact supersedes every associated ceremonial activity, whether Eastern in origin or some new (as yet unrealized) North American form. While such culture-based ceremony can be useful and helpful as a docent to meditation, if it becomes the practitioner’s focus, it becomes a distraction.

North American Buddhists are likely to create their own traditions and schools of thought, but they should do so with the awareness that they are forging a new Buddhist culture, not the ‘true’ Buddhist culture.

If they don’t recognize this fact, the same problem of adaptation would also apply, hypothetically, to any developed North American Buddhist tradition 900 years in the future either by its devout ecclesiastical adherents or when first introduced to the population of some other culture that had never been exposed to the teachings of the Buddha.

William Wilson Quinn is a scholar of Buddhism and brother of On Faith’s Sally Quinn.

By William Wilson Quinn | 07:03 PM ET, 06/17/2012
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PostSubject: Re: Recent Articles about Buddhism, meditation and Zen   Sat Jun 23, 2012 5:02 pm

News story / profile on the PBS program, Religion and Ethics Newsweekly:

http://www.pbs.org/wnet/religionandethics/episodes/june-15-2012/buddhist-abbot-nicholas-vreeland/11256/

June 15th, 2012
Buddhist Abbot Nicholas Vreeland


KIM LAWTON, correspondent: During a special reception in New York, guests are paying their respects to the Venerable Nicholas Vreeland, or as many here still call him, “Nicky.” The Dalai Lama has given Vreeland an historic task: as the first Westerner appointed abbot of a Tibetan Buddhist monastery, he’s to be a bridge between East and West.

ABBOT NICHOLAS VREELAND: His holiness wishes to bring Western ideas into the Tibetan Buddhist monastic system and that comes from his recognition that it is essential that there be new ideas brought in, that there be new air brought into these institutions.

LAWTON: For many observers, it may be surprising that an American has been given this important role…and perhaps even more surprising given the background of this particular American. Vreeland had a privileged upbringing: his father was a US diplomat and his grandmother was fashion icon Diana Vreeland. He was a photographer who had worked in some of the top studios. And then in his 20s, he began exploring Tibetan Buddhism.

VREELAND: What is it about Tibetan Buddhism that interested me? I think that it’s this very linear, very carefully organized, path to enlightenment that I, I liked.

LAWTON: Vreeland sees a linear progression in his own path into Buddhism. He was born in Switzerland and also lived in Germany and Morocco, before his family returned to New York. They were Episcopalian and sent 13-year-old Nicky to a boys’ boarding school in Massachusetts. He was miserable there, until he discovered photography.

VREELAND: I don’t know what it was about it that caught me. I really don’t know, but it caught me.

LAWTON: Vreeland says he had a good relationship with his famous grandmother, Diana, the legendary editor of Vogue magazine.

VREELAND: I went to NYU to study film and at that time initially lived with her and became very close. She was a wonderful, enthusiastic friend.

LAWTON: She opened the door for him to work with prominent photographers Irving Penn and Richard Avedon.

VREELAND: In my role in the studios of these photographers I was the assistant, I was the student, I was the devotee as it were. It is the relationship that I have with my teacher now.

LAWTON: It was Richard Avedon’s son John who in 1977 first introduced Vreeland to Khyongla Rato Rinpoche, founder of the Tibet Center. Under Rinpoche’s supervision, Vreeland began learning about Tibetan Buddhism.

Then in 1979, he went on a photography assignment in India. Because of his growing interest in Tibetan Buddhism, he included a visit to Dharamsala, headquarters of the Dalai Lama. Vreeland received permission to photograph the Tibetan leader. His camera had an extremely slow exposure, so his subjects had to sit absolutely still for one minute. That was a challenge for the Dalai Lama.

VREELAND: The shutter opened and we waited 10 seconds, 20 seconds, 30 seconds, 40, seconds, 50 seconds, and then his holiness started to move. And we did one time after another, after another, and suddenly after all these attempts to get a, a fully, a properly exposed shot, we both burst into laughter and it was as if all the tension went.

LAWTON: The Dalai Lama tried standing and they finally managed to get the shot.

VREELAND: His holiness very, very kindly remained there as I packed up my equipment and talked to me. And I had been so moved by the way in which the Tibetan people had supported me, had helped me in my travels and during my time in Dharamsala, and I asked his holiness what I could do in return. And he said, “Study.”

LAWTON: Vreeland took that advice to heart, and with the help of his teacher, explored the Tibetan Buddhist concept that logic clears the mind and facilitates meditation, which then can lead to developing compassion and attaining enlightenment.

VREELAND: If the ultimate goal is the full enlightenment of a Buddha, a Buddha who is omniscient, that’s the ultimate state of awakenness. All the steps that lead to that are little awakenings.

LAWTON: In 1985, Vreeland decided to become a Buddhist monk. I asked him how his grandmother took the news.

VREELAND: She was definitely concerned. She was not a big proponent of following a spiritual life, and so for a grandson to wish to become a monk was not something she was too happy about.

LAWTON: But she came to accept it?

VREELAND: Well, yes. She was always wonderful about showing her support for whatever I decided to do.

LAWTON: Vreeland pursued his monastic studies at Rato monastery in South India, the monastery that he will now lead. Rato was established in Tibet in the late 14th century to preserve Buddhist teachings on logic and debate. After the Chinese takeover of Tibet, Rato was reestablished in India.

When Vreeland arrived in 1985, there were 27 monks. Today, there are about 100 between the ages of six and 90. The monastery undertook a massive construction project, which was largely funded through the sale of Vreeland’s photographs. He raised $400,000 with a special series of photos documenting life in and around the monastery.

This 2002 photo of the Dalai Lama was taken in Rato’s debating court. Over the years, Vreeland has collaborated closely with the Tibetan leader,

VREELAND: His Holiness is practical, down to earth. It was those two qualities that I felt the moment that he walked into the room the first time I met him. And they were a surprise. I mean, I think in the West we have a view of holiness as being sort of ethereal and this person was not that.

LAWTON: He says the Dalai Lama hasn’t gotten any more patient in posing for photos.

VREELAND: Many years ago, when I photographed His Holiness, he, I was using the large-view camera. And, after a few sheets of film, His Holiness said, “So, OK?” And I said, “Well, not quite.” And he said, “We must be content with what we have.” [Kim laughs.] And he left.

LAWTON: As abbot of Rato, Vreeland will have administrative and spiritual responsibility for the monastery and its monks. He’ll also interact with abbots of the other Tibetan monasteries. And it’s here that the Dalai Lama has instructed him to help incorporate more Western ideas.

VREELAND: These institutions, if they, if they aren’t contemporary won’t have any relevance. Now, of course one has to be very careful. If you go too far you dilute what they do possess and you’ve lost everything.

LAWTON: Vreeland will divide his time between India and New York, where he’ll continue as director of the Tibet Center, which helps promote Tibetan Buddhism in the West.

VREELAND: I am a human being, I’m a Buddhist monk, I am a Westerner, and how I will bring what I believe in and what I have been, let’s say formed in, trained in? I think it’s by just living my life.

LAWTON: He’s well aware of the challenges he faces.

VREELAND: Your only influence on the rest of the world is the work that you do on yourself and this is an opportunity to do just that in respect to my monastic community.

LAWTON: As for his photography, he says in the new digital world, he finds it challenging to maintain an attitude of mindfulness as he takes pictures.

VREELAND: I wish it were easier to give it all up. I tried hard. But I’m still taking photographs and whether the abbot is going to be able to go out and take pictures, I don’t know. I shall see.

LAWTON: I’m Kim Lawton in New York.
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PostSubject: Re: Recent Articles about Buddhism, meditation and Zen   Mon Jul 23, 2012 1:52 pm


July 22, 2012
A Self-Improvement Quest That Led to Burned Feet
By CAROL POGASH


SAN JOSE, Calif. — Madina Kaderi, 18, who walked over burning coals and suffered blisters during a Tony Robbins seminar here, returned to the San Jose Convention Center on Sunday for the fourth and final day of motivational talks.

She called the fire walk a positive experience and blamed herself for her injury. “I got scared,” she said. And with her Vans now safely on her feet, she added, “I’m glad I felt the pain.”

Ms. Kaderi was one of nearly two dozen who were injured on Thursday, the first night of Mr. Robbins’s “Unleash the Power Within” seminar, which included a fire walk as a signature experience. She said she did not seek medical attention, but many of those hurt reported second- or third-degree burns, Capt. Reggie Williams of the San Jose Fire Department told The Associated Press.

Thousands participated in the walk, which stretched down 24 lanes, each around eight feet long.

“It transformed people’s lives in a single night,” said Carolynn Graves, 50, a real estate agent from Toronto, who crossed the coals without injury. “It’s a metaphor for facing your fears and accomplishing your goals.”

Ms. Graves suggested that the people who burned their feet “were out of state,” a term that participants said meant having the proper mental attitude.

Mr. Robbins was not available for comment. A member of his staff explained that he rarely gives interviews except to “Piers Morgan Tonight” and the “Today” show.

But Robbins Research International Inc., the coaching company based in San Diego, issued a statement saying that “more than 6,000 attendees participated in the traditional fire walk across hot coals. We have been safely providing this experience for more than three decades, and always under the supervision of medical personnel.

“A small number of our participants experienced pain or minor injuries and sought medical attention,” it said. “We continue to work with local fire and emergency personnel to ensure this event is always done in the safest way possible.”

Ms. Kaderi’s sister, Safaa, 16, said Mr. Robbins had “worked all night to prepare people” before the walk. If some people were injured, she said, “it’s not his fault.”

Sgt. Jason Dwyer, the San Jose Police Department’s public information officer, said the department was not considering charges against the Robbins group. “Those people were volunteers,” he said. “There are no criminal implications.”

A person connected to the Robbins group who helps facilitate the walks over hot coals, but who did not want his name disclosed because he was not authorized to speak publicly, said, “This is not without risk.” Mr. Robbins, he added, “spends a couple of hours preparing people.”

He suggested that those who were hurt must have “slowed down and stopped because they didn’t feel anything. Those are the folks who end up sometimes with hot spots.” Traditionally, he added, the coals reach a temperature of 2,000 degrees — “give or take 100 degrees.”

“I won’t say it never happens,” the man said. “But I’ve never heard of anyone having third-degree burns. A couple of times people have had second-degree burns.” Mr. Robbins advises people “to soak their feet in cold water for 20 minutes,” he said.

“People don’t come to this and not participate,” he added.

More than a dozen participants and staff members who were interviewed at the convention center on Sunday said they were unaware that anyone had been hurt until they read about it in the news the next day.

“The fire walk is not about the fire walk, it’s about taking steps in life, in anything,” said Jason Cocco, 31, who attended the conference with his father, Richard Mello, 64.

Mr. Mello said, “I knew I was stepping on hot coals, but it didn’t feel like anything.”

Terri Hart, Robbins Research International’s director of productions, said, “I’ve walked over them over 50 times” without ever being hurt.

Participants said they paid between $600 and $2,000 to attend the seminar. Mr. Mello and Mr. Cocco own an auto collision repair shop in Fremont, Calif., and said that what they learned would help them in their business. “We’re going to go to the next level with this thing,” Mr. Mello said.

Inside a cavernous room at the convention center on Sunday, several thousand people listened to Joseph McClendon III, Mr. Robbins’s top coach, tell the crowd that pharmaceutical companies “do not have your best interests at heart. The reality is 80 percent of prescription drugs do nothing to change the disease itself.”

In the hallways, participants were invited to further their self-improvement with CDs and DVDs, including “Total Commitment Package” for $647 and “Love & Passion: The Ultimate Relationship Program” for $249.

“The media wants to concentrate on the bad news, when so much good goes on,” said Danny Davis, 43, who owns a roofing company in Denver. On his Facebook page, he said, “All anyone commented about was, ‘Did you get burned?’ ”

“It was 20 people out of 6,000,” he said with a shake of his head. He credited Mr. Robbins with making him “look at the old tape in your head, at old ideas your parents taught you and how you perceive the world” and rethink them.

“It gets you to be introspective,” Mr. Davis said. “It’s extremely exhausting.”
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PostSubject: Re: Recent Articles about Buddhism, meditation and Zen   Mon Jul 23, 2012 1:53 pm


July 22, 2012
In New Jersey, a Knot in a Tree Trunk Draws the Faithful and the Skeptical
By NATE SCHWEBER


WEST NEW YORK, N.J. — Dante Domenech held his leather-bound Bible in front of him on Sunday morning and shouted at the throng of people kneeling, making the sign of the cross and weeping at the base of a Ginkgo biloba tree with a strange knot that they believe resembles the Virgin Mary.

“This is witchcraft; you are worshiping devils!” bellowed Mr. Domenech, 50, of North Bergen, N.J.

That remark prompted Maria Cole, one of dozens of people from West New York and nearby who had come to pray and lay flowers and votive candles by the tree, to charge at Mr. Domenech.

“We don’t want Satan!” Ms. Cole, 57, shouted in Spanish as a 90-year-old woman with a long-stemmed white rose walked up and hit Mr. Domenech on the head and shoulders with the flower until three police officers asked him to move along. (The flower-wielder gave her age, but not her name.)

At the site of what some believe is a miracle, prayers of the faithful and shouts of the skeptical have grown louder as word of the tree’s distinctive knot has spread since its discovery this month. Mayor Felix Roque said the town was spending $1,000 a day for police officers to prevent vandalism of the tree, defuse confrontations and keep traffic moving on the busy strip of Bergenline Avenue between 60th and 61st Streets.

Those gathered at the tree on Sunday say that the passion over the knot, which is about four feet up on the flagpole-size trunk, comes from its resemblance to Our Lady of Guadalupe. Roman Catholics in Mexico and elsewhere in Latin America believe that the Virgin Mary appeared to Juan Diego, an Aztec convert to Catholicism, in the 16th century. According to tradition, she filled his cloak with roses and left an image of herself on it. That image — the name Guadalupe comes from a shrine — has long been a powerful religious and cultural symbol that resonates among immigrants and children of immigrants in the United States.

Many say that a dark outline around the edge of the knot depicts the cloak the Virgin Mary wore when she first appeared in the New World.

“You can tell it’s the Virgin of Guadalupe by the way she is dressed in a cloak,” Maria Julieta Baez, a West New York resident, said in Spanish. Ms. Baez, 35, originally from Puebla, Mexico, has stayed close to the tree, breaking only for a few hours of work and sleep, since July 12.

“This has united all the Hispanic communities,” Mr. Roque said as he stood by the tree Sunday morning, accepting the thanks of several worshipers. “I have to allow them to express their faith.”

Priests from the Archdiocese of Newark examined the tree and determined that the knot was a natural occurrence, said James Goodness, a spokesman for the archdiocese.

“We’re hopeful that even though this is just a knot in a tree, it will spark people to examine themselves and find a deeper understanding of their faith,” he said.

Carmen Lopez, of Passaic, N.J., noticed the knot on July 5 while car-pooling to her job at a perfume factory in Edison, N.J. She brought it to the attention of two priests, the West New York police and finally the mayor.

“Here it’s perfectly clear,” she said in Spanish. “It’s the true one.”

Ms. Lopez said that in 2003 she was one of thousands who saw a tree stump found in a Passaic junkyard that many believed also looked like Our Lady of Guadalupe (that shrine was vandalized in May of this year). Ms. Lopez added that the difference between the two is that the one in West New York is more vivid.

Still, many are unconvinced. One woman, who declined to give her name, scowled at the worshipers as her companions shouted at them. “We are evangelical Christians and we believe the Bible forbids idol worship like this,” she said. “What these people are doing is a sin.”

With all the commotion, Mr. Roque proposed transplanting the 20-foot tree with fan-shaped leaves to a nearby park. In response, members of a group standing vigil around the tree said they had gathered 5,000 signatures on a petition demanding that the tree stay put. Mr. Roque said he would appoint a commission this week to discuss how to proceed.

The police have built a barricade around the tree and set up barriers to protect the overflow crowds from traffic. Dozens of vases with brilliantly colored floral bouquets, and many more votive candles, sit beneath the leaves. On one of the barricades hangs a large tapestry showing Our Lady of Guadalupe. On the back of it is a Mexican flag.

Maria Alava, 50, a butcher from Union City, N.J., who works in Manhattan, snapped photographs after Mass on Sunday.

“It’s the shape of the Virgin Guadalupe,” she marveled. “I see it clear.”
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PostSubject: Re: Recent Articles about Buddhism, meditation and Zen   Tue Jul 24, 2012 12:12 pm


July 24, 2012
Philadelphia Church Official Sentenced at Least 3 Years in Prison
By JON HURDLE and ERIK ECKHOLM


PHILADELPHIA — Msgr. William J. Lynn, the first Roman Catholic official in the United States to be convicted of covering up sexual abuses by priests under his supervision, was sentenced to three to six years in prison on Tuesday.

“You knew full well what was right, Monsignor Lynn, but you chose wrong,” said Common Pleas Judge M. Teresa Sarmina as she imposed the sentence, which was just short of the maximum of three and a half to seven years.

Monsignor Lynn, 61, a former Cardinal’s aide, was found guilty on June 22 of one count of endangering a child, after a trial lasting more than two months that revealed an effort lasting decades by the Philadelphia archdiocese to play down accusations of child sexual abuse and avoid scandal.

Monsignor Lynn served as secretary for clergy for the 1.5 million-member archdiocese from 1992 to 2004, recommending priest assignments and investigating abuse complaints. During the trial, prosecutors presented evidence that he had shielded predatory priests, sometimes transferring them to unwary new parishes, and lied to the public to avoid bad publicity and lawsuits.

Last week, Monsignor Lynn’s lawyers asked the judge to spare him from prison, and instead sentence him to probation and work-release or house arrest. They argued in a memorandum that a long prison sentence would be “merely cruel and unusual,” and “would serve no purpose at all.”

“Monsignor Lynn has never harbored any intent to harm a child,” wrote the lawyers, Thomas Bergstrom and Jeffrey Lindy.

But prosecutors urged the judge to impose the maximum penalty. They told the court last week that the gravity of Monsignor Lynn’s crime — giving known sexual predators continued access to children, causing lifelong anguish and damages to some — was “off the charts.” They wrote that Monsignor Lynn had refused to accept responsibility and had an “apparent lack of remorse for anyone but himself.”

Monsignor Lynn’s lawyers have promised to appeal the conviction, saying that the child endangerment law at the time of the events in question did not apply to supervisors, and that the judge erred in allowing testimony about Monsignor Lynn’s handling of priests who were accused of sexual abuse outside the statute of limitations.

The trial and conviction of Monsignor Lynn, church experts say, has already sent a strong warning against lax oversight of sexual abuses to bishops and other senior Catholic officials around the country.

“I think this is going to send a very strong signal to every bishop and everybody who worked for a bishop that if they don’t do the right thing they may go to jail,” said Rev. Thomas J. Reese, a senior fellow of the Woodstock Theological Center at Georgetown University and a Jesuit priest. “They can’t just say the bishop made me do it, that’s not going to be an excuse that holds up in court.”

In the trial, Monsignor Lynn’s lawyers argued that he had tried to protect children, but that his powers were limited and that he had followed the instructions of the Cardinal at the time, Anthony J. Bevilacqua. But prosecutors argued that Monsignor Lynn played a central role in deciding how to handle complaints against priests and that “following orders” was no defense.

Monsignor Lynn’s conviction for endangering children centered on his lax oversight of one former priest who had a known history of abuse, but was allowed to continue in ministry. The former priest, Edward V. Avery, now 69, spent six months in a church psychiatric center in 1993 after an abuse episode, and doctors said he should be kept away from children. But Monsignor Lynn sent him to live in a parish rectory and did not warn parish officials.

In 1999, Mr. Avery undressed with a 10-year-old altar boy, told him that God loved him and had him engage in oral sex. Mr. Avery pleaded guilty to the assault just before Monsignor Lynn’s trial began and was sentenced to two and a half to five years in prison.

Monsignor Lynn was acquitted of a conspiracy charge and of a child endangerment charge involving another priest.

But the prosecutors, in their sentencing recommendation last week, said that Monsignor Lynn’s handling of Father Avery “was no aberration,” but rather “part of a continuous, systematic practice of retaining abusive priests in ministry, with continued access to minors, while taking pains to avoid scandal or liability for the
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