To the south of Los Angeles is a lively independent suburb named Garden Grove. This small city with a population of around 170,000 is home to the Little Saigon of the Los Angeles region, named for the large number of Vietnamese refugees that immigrated there during the 1970s. Garden Grove has long been known as a conservative bastion with a well-run political machine that kept a tight leash on who ran the city. On 4 November by a margin of just 15 votes, Bao Nguyen beat incumbent mayor Bruce Broadwater to become one of a growing number of Buddhists now engaging in public political service in America.
In doing so, Bao Nguyen became not only the second Vietnamese-American mayor in US history, but also the first to serve in an American city with a population of over 100,000. In addition, at the sprightly age of 34, he became the youngest mayor in the history of Garden Grove. His path into the arena of public service was accompanied by a journey deep into the heart of the Buddhist faith. His Bachelor’s degree, which was in Political Science, came from the University of California in Irvine, but after graduating he turned to Naropa University, where he received a Master’s degree in Indo-Tibetan Buddhist studies, studying under the guidance of Dr. Judith Simmer-Brown.
Having been highly active in civic service since his youth, he did not take his studies at Naropa as a call to become a recluse; rather, he took the ideas of Buddhism as a call to benefit others through public service.
When asked how his faith and Buddhist Studies have influenced his experience, he says that Buddhism guides him in his belief in good government. He is highly influenced by the Vimalakirti Sutra, specifically the The Holy Teaching of Vimalakirti: A Mahayana Scripture, a translation of the sutra by Robert Thurman. In a telephone interview, Bao said, “Vimalakirti showed that there is a way for a lay person to benefit many beings—one does not have to be a monastic. He shows that as a lay person one can help many beings see reality and engage in non-judgment . . . one can develop tolerance through recognition of the non-arising of phenomena.”
Bao emphasized being influenced by the principle of anutpattikadharmakshanti, which Vimalakirti says is the “entrance into non-duality” and Judith Simmer-Brown explained as “tolerance for the birthlessness—or incomprehensibility—of all things, which allows one to experience joyful patience within ambiguity and have a direct curiosity into the unknown.” Bao believes that someone who has dedicated their life to public service will find that this helps to free them from a divisive view and to engage with people from a place of openness, enabling them to hear others’ needs.
When speaking of his education at Naropa, he fondly remembered his time there: “I was able to develop a very strong moral compass. I am grateful for the education that I received there,” he said, adding that when people ask him how he finds Buddhism useful, he replies that it is “extremely useful. I used it every day during my campaign, and now I use it in governing.”
Bao Nguyen winning the election to govern Garden Grove is not just a sign of Americans accepting a new generation of youth into the realm of governance—it is a sign that the Dharma is starting to be well accepted in American culture. Bao’s election indicates that Buddhist thought is beginning to shape and influence American political thinking, and in doing so, is bringing principles of compassion, openness, and integrity into an area of life that is well served by good motivation and intention.
The Seeker's Glossary of Buddhism
By Sutra Translation Committee of USA/Canada
This is a revised and expanded edition of The Seeker's Glossary of Buddhism. The text is a compendium of excerpts and quotations from some 350 works by monks, nuns, professors, scholars and other laypersons from nine different countries, in their own words or in translation. The editors have merely organized the material, adding a few connecting thoughts of their own for ease in reading.
In the course of it His Holiness briefly addressed the audience about the background of his relation with the Kalachakra Initiations... His Holiness shared with the audience an “interesting dream” that he had at the conclusion of the initiation in Dharamsala.
Ven. Dr. Thich Thien-An came to Southern California in the summer of 1966 as an exchange professor at UCLA. Soon his students discovered he was not only a renowned scholar, but a Zen Buddhist monk as well. His students convinced Dr. Thien-An toteach the practice of meditation and start a study group about the other steps on the Buddhist path, in addition to the academic viewpoint.
Venerable Ajahn Chah was born on June 17, 1918 in a small village near the town of Ubon Rajathani, North-East Thailand. After finishing his basic schooling, he spent three years as a novice before returning to lay life to help his parents on the farm. At the age of twenty, however, he decided to resume monastic life, and on April 26, 1939 he received upasampada (bhikkhu ordination).
A yellow-colored Buddhist temple adorned with flags and golden dragons on its pointed roofs in a quiet town outside Tokyo presents a stark contrast to the typically somber-looking Buddhist places of worship usually found in rural Japan.
But the steady stream of out-of-town weekend visitors and their nationality also set it apart, for the temple was built by and serves members of the large Vietnamese community in the Tokyo metropolitan area.