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My Dogs Have Retired

By: Venerable Jim Jiang-Wen Kearse 将稳

I always knew it would happen one day. I just didn’t expect it when it did happen. My two little guard dogs, sisters, are nine years old and their hearing is faltering. They still fiercely guard the house against mail carriers, strange dogs across the street, and stray,  blowing plastic bags and leaves, but more and more, they sleep through such events. 


 They officially retired the other night when my wife came home, undetected, and walked into the room where the two sisters were sleeping, and woke them up. It happens to us all. After all, nine is pretty old for dogs. And so they take their place among the rest of us who are retired.

But life is about change. Change happens everywhere, all the time – including to us,  ourselves. We know that this is true, but still we cringe when we see the grey hair. Sometimes change is something that we have difficulty dealing with. But try as we may, we will not stop it.

As we get older, this is a fact that we simply reconcile with and so we stop trying to fix the world and people into place. We stop imagining that things are still an exact match to our memories of 20 years ago. We learn to be more fluid in our thinking and “go with the flow”. That way, it’s not so surprising when we find our childhood school replaced with condominiums.

It’s a practice.

Still, it would be nice to get out of bed in the morning and not to hurt for no reason in particular, just like it used to be!


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A Buddhist’s Thoughts On Gun Violence

By: Rev. Dr. Brian Chang-Jin Kenna 长金

We’re only 11 weeks into 2018, and there have already been 17 school shootings where someone was hurt or killed. That averages out to 1.5 shootings a week. The victims range from parents, children, friends, neighbors, police officers, managers, teachers –  Every death tears a hole in the intricate network of relationships that unites us.

Buddhism teaches the Three Pure Precepts. Do no harm, Do only good, Do good for others. From these we can cultivate a desire to protect those around us from harm and a willingness to make sacrifices to help even strangers. Cultivating and nurturing this love gives meaning to our short lives. Yet looking within ourselves, we also find our innate self-focus. This self-awareness is a sense that we exist apart from others. Rather than being a negative factor, it is this very self-focus that enables us to feel empathy because it is the basis for our common humanity. It is only because we experience suffering first hand that we generate the motivation to eliminate the suffering of others.
In contrast, many believe that human nature is malevolent, so we need to guard ourselves from others.  We invest in many defense systems ranging from security systems, door locks, firewalls, antivirus software, passwords, all the way to what some consider the ultimate protection – possessing guns.
There are many reasons why an individual would want to on a gun. Aside from protection as mentioned above other reasons could be hunting, target shooting, etc. For every perpetrator of gun violence there is another who uses theirs in a responsible manner. The “why” someone chooses to own a gun is not the issue, and if that is where the focus of gun debate lies then we will never solve the problem of gun violence.
Rather the focus needs to be on the “who” is purchasing and owning weapons and the type of weapons that are made available to the general public. In response to the Parkland shootings many have suggested arming teachers or putting armed police officers in every school. I’m not sure more guns is the correct solution. View Photos
As many have proposed, we need to increase expenditures for public mental health care so that the mentally ill receive appropriate treatment, supervision and care. It must be terrifying for someone who is delusional to be left to survive on the streets all alone.  Strict measures should be taken to ensure the mentally ill are unable to obtain guns.

Likewise, many want to point to the entertainment industry as a cause of violence today. Video games often get a bad rap. I’m not saying that video games per se cause violence. Many of us have played them and are well adjusted individuals. However if we do not educate and talk to our children and tv or video games or another external source becomes their main influence then our children may grow up thinking that aggression is an acceptable means of resolving problem. Violence breeds more violence; today’s killers may be tomorrow’s victims. According to the Buddha’s teaching about karma, actions always have related consequences. Murder is a misdeed because it harms others, not only those who lose their lives but the families of the murderer as well. There are no winners.

Still, many shootings in America are not committed by people who are mentally ill, but instead by people who are angry and restless, and who lack the ability to regulate their emotions. So what is the long-term solution? The Buddha taught that the only real medicine to cure the disease of harming others is by transforming our own minds. Through mindful meditation, we discover that the true source of our problems is not external enemies; instead, it is our own negative emotions and ignorance. Each of us needs to address the underlying malaise and discontent that give rise to our hatred, attachment, fear, and self-centeredness.

By cultivating generosity and compassion towards others we can find meaning and joy in life.  When we focus on the I we are inviting in suffering, however by focusing on others we can invite in happiness. The Bodhisattva ideal teaches of living our lives every day for others. This is not an ideal that Buddhism has cornered the market on, it can be found in may religions. Christianity teaches Do unto others as you have them do to you. When each of us learns to appreciate the critical importance of ethics and makes inner values like compassion and patience an integral part of our basic outlook on life, the effects will be far-reaching.

It is up to each of us as individuals to make these principles the rules we live by and thereby to fulfill our full potential as human beings. I think the students in Parkland are doing this by raising their collective voices and saying enough is enough. Interestingly enough the Dali Lama echoed these very sentiments in a tweet he sent even before the shooting in Parkland. His words are ones we should take to heart: “Although I am a Buddhist monk, I am skeptical that prayers alone will achieve world peace. We need instead to be enthusiastic and self-confident in taking action.”

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Students Making A Difference

We support our students as they take up the role as agents-for-change to enhance the realities for social justice and human flourishing.  If you choose to support them as we have, their official website is 


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Living By Principle

By: Venerable Jim Jiang-Wen Kearse 将稳

It is important to understand that our practice is a three-part plan: i) stop doing harm (Live By Principles), ii) Do only good (engage the Four Truths) and, iii) Do good for others (Develop Your Character).

The Principles are something that needs to be personal in order to work to maximum advantage. Generally speaking, most people tend to adopt a list of five Principles (also known as Precepts, or Mindfulness Trainings by Thich Nhat Hanh) but there is also a set of eight and ten that one could use. The five are: avoid killing, avoid lying, avoid stealing, avoid sexual misconduct, and avoid taking intoxicants.

You may notice that they are phrased in the negative with the word “avoid” introducing each one. This makes sense since the first point of the three-part plan is “Stop Doing Harm”! Each one of these five life principles is like a line that you draw in the sand and refuse to cross. Because of this each has to be specific to you and the way you live your life, and so before you adapt these Life Principles, consider each one carefully and wholly, and then commit them to writing so that you can refer back to them and update them as your life changes.

The first of the five asks you to consider just what it means to avoid killing. Simplistically, it may mean that you don’t go around murdering people willy-nilly. But deeper thought may show a variety of facets to this principle. It could extend to animals as well, hence the idea of not killing indirectly, and many people become vegetarian or vegan as a support for this principle. But once the concept of indirect killing is taken into serious consideration, then your practice may expand even more; what products do your purchase that helps to support companies or organizations that destroy ecosystems, or cause serious harm to localized people in under-privileged countries, or aid in the extinction of entire species, or harm the oceans or the earth? The list goes on and on. So each person must decide for themself how they specifically, are going to engage this idea of not killing.

The same process can be followed for the second principle “avoid lying”. On the surface of course, this might be the simple admonition to tell the truth. But we know from our life experience that black-and-white ideas are rarely black-and-white, for example often a mistruth is told to protect feelings of others. We may also consider the indirect approach to lying as well such allowing others to believe something because facts have been omitted or not refuted when we know differently. We may also consider the habit of accepting things as truth without first verifying for ourselves the reality of it, so this may require us to suspend belief temporarily before we commit to a particular point-of-view. And what about our own thoughts? What do we believe about ourselves that isn’t necessarily true?

These complicated, indirect angles extend to the third principle “not stealing”. Once we get past the obvious idea of theft, how else might we be stealing? Do we knowingly take credit for ideas that are not ours (or allow others to believe that the idea originated with us)? Do we misdirect in order to achieve some sort of gain from others – to inflate our reputation for example? How else might we be gaining something due to someone or something else’s loss? Do we delight in the misfortune of others because it makes feel good about ourselves? Do we take advantage of others in any way?

Sexual misconduct causes all sorts of difficulties for us and others impacted by these acts. One might ask do I cause harm or hurt feelings by what I do or how I treat others? We know that many people in these modern times use sex as another outlet to hide from the pain in their lives so we even need to question the habit of casual hookups – are these causing harm?

Often sexual misconduct is the result of intoxication, the fifth principle. Intoxication isn’t just through drugs or alcohol, but extend to sex, gambling, eating, video games, movies, etc. Anything that can lead our thinking to a place where harm can be done is a form of intoxication. We might ask ourselves does this lead to harm in any way?

So we can see that consideration of these is complex and takes time. But it needs to be specific to you. Ultimately we ask, “What is the line I will not cross?”

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Old Man Zen


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February 28, 2018 · 6:25 pm

Dharma Heir Announcement

It is in great respect for our Buddhist tradition and our Order’s ability to march forward in the dharma, that I announce that I have chosen Brian Chang-Jin as the OEB’s Dharma Heir Apparent and my Dharma Heir. The Installation and Acknowledgement Ceremony will be conducted on Monday February 12th at 7pm in Long Island New York. A private service between Chang-Jin and myself was held before this public event as is traditional in my Ch’an lineage. We follow in the footsteps of our Great Buddhist Ancestors and ride on their shoulders as we proceed in confidence to the other shore.  Sva Ha

Rev. David Shen-Xi Astor Sensei



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Step Back To “See” More

Some on the path might think the lighted doorway is “it”, and don’t awaken to the reality the path “goes beyond” the brightness of the illuminated door. The Ox also points to this reality. Put down all you think you know is enlightenment and keep a deeper practice. Step back to “see” more…


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OEB’s Social Outreach

Venerable Jim Jiang-Wen Kearse, an OEB Associate Cleric, speaking on World Religions Day in Lindsay Ontario, Canada.



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Personal “Ango”

By: Venerable Jim Jiang-Wen Kearse 将稳
In the early days of Buddhist monasticism, it was not uncommon to find monks
wandering all over the countryside teaching the dharma or visiting and studying at other
monasteries. But due to the climatic conditions of India (sub-tropic), there was a period
during the year referred to as the “rainy”, or monsoon season, usually June to
September. During the rainy season, monks would generally return to their home
monasteries because the weather made travel difficult and dangerous. Since travel was
restricted, monastics would often increase their meditation periods to deepen their
practice. In Japan this was known as “Ango”.
Zen Centres across North America participate in an Ango as a part of their regular
annual routine. But many people cannot, due to work or family circumstances, afford to
attend a 90 day retreat. However, that doesn’t mean that we cannot recognize and
participate in our own form of personal Ango retreat.
Let’s take an example of a practitioner who meditates 30 minutes a day for about four
days/ week. We could fashion our practice after the schedule found in many Chan
monasteries wherein meditation periods would slowly increase over the course of the
year until Ango is reached, and then decline afterwards. (See Holmes Welch. The Practice of Chinese Buddhism 1900-1950. pages 53-78.)
If we broke the year into general seasons (which we do!) we could follow this Ango
1) during the “summer”, we might meditate in the morning for most days
2) in the “autumn” months, we would add another 30 minute evening meditation
3) the “winter” months (our Ango) would see us add a third meditation period to our day
– perhaps at noon, or we could extend the evening meditation
4) in the spring months, we would return to two sittings, morning and evening
5) then repeat the cycle starting with the summer.
Of course each person has to decide their own schedule; some may opt to do less than
three meditation periods/ day, while others may opt to do more. But no matter the schedule you choose for yourself, it would give you the chance to follow a schedule, increase your discipline, and deepen your practice, while at the same time, allowing you the flexibility to alter the schedule at will.
Happy meditating!

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A Buddhist Interfaith Wedding Ceremony

We have been ask several times if there is a Buddhist wedding ceremony for interfaith couples.  While each Buddhist tradition and school has their own rituals associated with marriage ceremonies, I have found that for a more Western style ritual where one individual is a Buddhist and the other not, there is very little to go on, so we improvise.  Another example of creative re-description.  I have posted the OEB’s interfaith wedding ceremony that honors the language of Buddhist thought with a style that would be familiar to those here in America, especially Christians.  This ceremony identifies a Priest and a second Priest/Clerigy or Senior Monk, but only one is necessary.  Also it is important that the celebrant/Priest meets the State requirements for performing a marriage ceremony.  We will gladly provide a digital copy of this ceremony upon request, or provide one of our Priests to perform a wedding if you live within the area of one of our Priories or Chapter Houses.  


Opening and Altar Ritual:

1 Sangha is ask to stand
2 Procession in by priests followed by groom and best man
[Priest(s) performs a single bow in front of altar and turns to face Sangha]
3 Entrance by maid of honor and bridesmaids
4 Entrance by bride escorted by her father
5 Sangha may be seated
6 Priest performs formal bows then altar & purification ritual
[Priest turn to altar and performs three formal bows then goes behind altar and lights 3 sticks of incense and performs the incense ritual while silently reciting the refuges, then performs the salt offering, then takes the incense and walks around the bride and groom performing the purification ritual returning the incense to the altar. Priest now takes his place in front of couple.]


Presiding Priest:

Buddhism is a path of transformation of one’s inner potential, it is a way of life. It is a path dedicated to serving others, helping them awaken to their potential. Marriage is the vehicle to practice serving others. It is a practice grounded in generosity, tolerance, love and empathy. Marriage is the equal commitment to the happiness of your partner’s wellbeing.

Love comes from and encompasses the bonds you are here today to publicly declare to one another, it is a core element of your human universal natures. Like the Christian notion of the soul, it is the spiritual spark, incompatible, indivisible and one that acts to bind those you are interconnected to: your family, your friends, those you hold dear that supports your own human flourishing, as well as the many consequential strangers that help us along the way.

I now ask for all those present to take a deep breath and put your hearts and minds in full awareness to this ceremony of taking the marriage vows, and look and listen with your whole being. In this way you can continue to fulfill your friendship and express your gratitude to (bride name) and (groom name) by making this ceremony sacred with the gift of your knowledge, attention and intentional positive thoughts directed toward them in a way that binds us all through this act of compassion.

Senior monk:

Nothing happens without cause. An old Asian saying goes, “Even the chance brushing of one’s sleeve against a stranger’s sleeve may be the cause of their future encounters.” The union of (bride) and (groom) is not accidental. Indeed, due to the law of karma, the inexorable unfolding of the truth of interdependence, is the inevitable consequence of all of the actions of their lives. They, from their very beginning, have been coming together to this sacred moment. Therefore, this union must never be broken, especially now that it is going to be formally declared with the purity of all of our minds, the action from all of our hearts, and witnessed before all beings know and unknown.

Wedding Service

Presiding Priest:

[Priest turns and bows to the altar and removes the herb dish from the altar then turns and steps toward the couple and performs a blessing by placing his hand on their heads in turn, and says a silent blessing of intention. He then flicks the herbs to the side of the bride and groom, then returns the dish back to the altar.]


[BINDING RITUAL: The priest steps forward and ask the couple to hold one right and one left hand together as he binds them together with a white silk cloth]

Love each other from this day forward and these will be the hands that you hold tomorrow, and the next day, and into the next decade. These are the hands that will work alongside yours as you build your life together, the hands that will touch you with love and tenderness through the years, and the hands that will comfort you like no others’ can. These are the hands that will hold you through grief, fear, and hardship. These are the hands that will hold your family together, and that will give you strength when you need it. These are the hands, that when wrinkled and spotted with age, will still be reaching for yours.

[The Priest removes the silk cloth and with it bows to bride lifting it up and then places it around the neck of groom while bowing]

Today you promise to dedicate yourselves completely to each other, with body, speech and mind. In this life, in every situation, in wealth or poverty, in health or sickness, in happiness or difficulty, you will work to help each other aware of the encompassing and corrective vows you are about to take.

(bride) and (groom), do you pledge to help each other to develop your hearts and minds, cultivating compassion, generosity, ethics, patience, enthusiasm, concentration and wisdom as you age and undergo the various ups and downs of life and to transform them into the path of love, compassion, joy and equanimity?

“We Do”

Recognizing that the external conditions in life will not always be smooth and that internally your own minds and emotions will sometimes get stuck in negativity. Do you pledge to see all these circumstances as a challenge to help you grow, to open your hearts to accept yourselves, and each other and to generate compassion for others who are suffering? Do you pledge to avoid becoming narrow, closed or opinionated, and to help each other to see various sides of situations?

“We Do”

Understanding that just as we are a mystery to ourselves, others are also a mystery to us. Do you pledge to seek to understand yourselves, each other, and all living beings, to examine your own minds continually and to regard all the mysteries of life with curiosity and joy?

“We Do”

Do you pledge to preserve and enrich your affection for each other and to share it with all beings? To take the loving feelings you have for one another and your vision of each others’ potential and inner beauty as an example and, rather than turning inwards and becoming self absorbed, to radiate this love outwards to all beings?

“We Do”

When it comes time to part, do you pledge to look back at your time together with joy, joy that you met and shared what you have, and acceptance that we cannot hold on to anything forever?

“We Do”

Do you pledge to remember the disadvantages of ignorance, anger and clinging attachment, to apply antidotes when these arise in your minds, and to remember the kindness of all other beings and your connection to them? Do you pledge to work for the welfare of others, with all of your compassion, wisdom and skill?

“We Do”

Do you pledge to work to develop the wisdom understanding the relative functioning nature of things and the wisdom knowing their deeper way of existence, that they are empty of inherent existence? And to remember the laws of cause and effect?

“We Do”

Do you pledge day to day, to be patient with yourselves and others, knowing that change comes slowly and gradually and to seek inspiration from those that act as teachers and guides on your life’s journey?

“We Do”

Do you pledge to continuously strive to remember your own Universal natures, as well as the purposeful natures of all living beings? To maintain the awareness that all things are temporary, and to remain optimistic that you can achieve your greatest potential and lasting happiness together?

“We Do”


Presiding Priest:

[The priest and best man together approach the altar where the rings have been placed and the priest performs the ring blessing by lifting the ring dish high and says a silent blessing. He then turns to the best man who takes each ring and returns to his place next to the groom.]

It is now time to exchange rings. [The best man presents the rings to bride and groom as prompted by the Priest.]

(groom), please place the ring on (bride) left hand.
(bride), please place the ring on (groom) left hand.

Do you together accept the gifts of these rings as a reminder of the responsibility to remain aware that all things are temporary, but through diligence and optimism you can create a loving relationship with the utmost potential for lasting happiness?

“We Do”

May these rings continue to be blessed as the symbol of this loving unity.
These two lives are now to be joined in one unbroken circle in mutual interdependent social and intimate oneness that reflects another Universal reality.

Senior monk:

Wherever you go, may you always return to one another in your togetherness. May you find in each other the love and compassion for which all of us seek as refuge that acts to energize social harmony and wellbeing inherent to our human natures.

May you grow in understanding and in compassion. May the home, which you establish together, be such a place of sanctuary that many will find there a friend and compassionate guide.

May these rings act as shining symbols with a touch of the spirit and wonder of the nature of human love for all to see.

Closing Remarks and Blessing:

Presiding Priest:

Considering Buddhist thought, when we are joined in marriage we are connected heart to heart, mind to mind, body to body, nature to nature. Dear couple, give up your small selves and take loving refuge in each other. Take loving refuge in all things. This attitude in marriage becomes a living spiritual practice together.

Senior monk:

(bride) and (groom), do remember that your marriage is a sacred and blessed undertaking, being witnessed by your family, friends, and all beings. Do not forget what is happening right here and now. And feel the responsibility of this commitment called “marriage.” This practice, “Marriage Practice,” is your treasure throughout your lives together. When things go smoothly and joyously, practice joyously, practice loving mindfulness. When things are difficult and challenging, practice loving mindfulness. This loving mindfulness practice will always be with you and will guide you along this path we call life.

Presiding Priest:

Now witnessing that you have both agreed to marry, and declared your intentions publicly here today, according to the wisdom passed down to us throughout the ages, by the power vested in me through the wishes of (bride) and (groom), as well as the blessing of the connection of your spiritual friends, and by the rights and privileges ordained and invested in me through my sacred duty as a Priest (this phrase may very depending on ordained rank), I joyously pronounce you Husband and Wife, life companions throughout time and space. You may now seal this union with a kiss of loving kindness.

Ladies and Gentlemen, may I present the newly married (first names and last name including any formal titles).


Procession out, bride & groom followed by the priest(s)

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