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Lions Roar : November 2016
VALERIANGUILLOT I’m interested in attending an event at my local Buddhist center, but I suffer from severe migraines triggered by scents and I understand that incense is burned at many Buddhist centers. Does that mean I can’t attend a Buddhist meditation program? It’s true that burning incense is common in many Buddhist traditions, but com- munities in the U.S. are more and more aware of chemical sensitivities. Incense is traditionally used on Buddhist shrines as an offering of scent to the buddhas. It can also represent the paramita (transcendent perfec- tion) of ethics and morality. But because of health problems associated with breathing smoke, including allergies, asthma, and the migraines you suffer from, some Buddhist centers now forego the use of incense altogether or place it on the shrine but don’t light it. Major Buddhist communities we contacted said they mostly offer scent-free environments, and some use hypoallergenic options or flower petals in lieu of incense. If you have concerns, it’s always a good idea to contact your Buddhist center in advance to find out their policy on incense and scents. I’ve been practicing yoga for many years and love it. Recently I’ve become interested in Buddhism. But if I become a Buddhist, do I have to give up doing yoga? Buddhism and yoga came out of the same spiritual culture of ancient India. In fact, many people believe that when Siddhartha was a wandering ascetic, he undertook yogic practice before the awakening that made him the Buddha. There are signifi- cant similarities in both philosophy and practice between Buddhism and Pantajali’s Yoga Sutras, and the tantric school of Bud- dhism works with flows of energy in the body in ways that would be very familiar to serious yogis. So it’s not surpris- ing that today, many people have discovered that yoga is a great complement to their Buddhist practice, and vice versa. Many Buddhist teachers recom- mend yoga for the flexibility, balance, and relaxation that are so important for meditation. Conversely, yogis find that Buddhist meditation is an ideal complement to their yoga practice, both for its own benefits and to help them practice yoga mindfully. So Buddhism plus yoga: go for it! ♦ WHO? WHAT? WHERE? LARUNG GAR BUDDHIST ACADEMY LARUNG GAR, the world’s largest Tibetan Buddhist institute, made international news when Chinese work crews began demolishing buildings at the site on July 20. Some observors have attributed the demolitions to Larung Gar’s large following among Han Chinese Buddhists as well as ethnic Tibetans. The Chinese government, which is wary of popular religious movements, has announced that Larung Gar requires its “ideological guidance.” Prior to the beginning of the demolition, the institute was estimated to have a population of more than 10,000 monastics and laypeople. Chinese authorities, stating concerns about overcrowding, demanded that the population be reduced to no more than 3,500 nuns and 1,500 monks by October. One resident nun com- mitted suicide to protest China’s demands. Located in the traditional Tibetan region of Kham in China’s Sichuan province, Larung Gar was founded in 1980 by the late Nyingma teacher Khenpo Jigme Phuntsok. The institute has been instrumental in producing the generation of cleric-scholars now teach- ing in Eastern Tibet and is at the center of a growing ethical reform movement. Khenpo Tsultrim Lodrö, one of the institute’s leading scholars, is a proponent of vegetarianism and AIDS prevention. He advocates for the use of the Tibetan language and has inspired the creation of a new set of ten Buddhist virtues now popular in the region. This year’s demolition at Larung Gar is not the first. In 2001, local authorities bulldozed more than 1,000 of the institute’s dwellings and evicted numerous residents. Following public criticism, the demolitions stopped and the community was left alone to grow again—apparently too much. Tell us what you’d like to know about Buddhism and meditation at