Short Takes – End of May Edition

• Only last month, I featured Maya Angelou in a post for National Poetry Month. Now, she has passed away at the age of 86. Here is her obituary at the LA Times and an appreciation at the Washington Post.

• The Wall Street Journal reports that “In this interconnected global world, the leaders of other countries are more of a known entity then they were just a decade ago. In looking at how Americans feel about 16 leaders, the most striking thing is that the only two leaders whom a majority of U.S. adults have good opinions of are not leaders of countries, per se, but rather spiritual leaders. Three-quarters (76%) have a good opinion of Pope Francis, up from three in five (61%) who had a good opinion of him in May, 2013, right after he assumed the papacy. Over two-thirds (68%) have a good opinion of the Dalai Lama, up from 64% who said so last May.”

Pope Francis does have his detractors, or, skeptics. For instance, the head of the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests says Pope Francis’s plan to meet with abuse victims looks like “a public relations ploy.”

• John Fund at the National Review Online writes that Norway’s government caved in to pressure from China and snubbed the Dalai Lama during his visit to Norway earlier this month.

• Recently a Buddhist temple/center opened up just a few blocks from my home. I have long wanted to have a place close by where I could pop in and meditate with others. This place adversities itself as “modern Buddhism,” which I find appealing. However, it belongs to the New Kadampa Tradition (NKT). They charge money to sit with them. And, they are involved in the Dorje Shugden controversy. So, that means I will not be popping in. I’ve said previously that I share the Dalai Lama’s position on this matter.

While in Norway, the Dalai Lama had to contend with ongoing demonstrations by pro-Shugden supporters, and he had this to say about it: “We’re Buddhists and the Buddha advised us not to take refuge in ordinary deities and spirits. The demonstrators say I’ve banned this practice, but that’s not so, I haven’t and the monasteries associated with Shugden in South India are evidence of this.”

Here is the Statement of the Deutsche Buddhistische Ordensgemeinschaft (DBO, German Buddhist Monastic Association) on the Protests against the Dalai Lama by the International Shugden Community (ISC)

• At the BBC, Dr Andrew Skilton weighs in on “Why is Buddhism so hip?”

• Ray Bradbury on Zen and the Art of Writing (1973).

• Speaking of Bradbury . . . you are probably familiar with the 1972 Elton John song “Rocket Man,” composed by John and his long-time writing partner Bernie Taupin. It’s one of Elton John’s biggest hits and the lyrics were inspired by a Ray Bradbury short story by the same name. Taupin has also acknowledged that his words were inspired by another song called “Rocket Man,” and also based on the Bradbury short story. This “Rocket Man” was released by one of my favorite groups of the 1960s, Pearls Before Swine on their 1970 album The Use of Ashes. Here is their “Rocket Man” written by Tom Rapp.