Thursday, March 26, 2015

Thinking clearly towards Buddhist enlightenment

by Cynthia Karena

Perth, Australia -- I first went to Buddhist teachings because I was interested in meditation. My mind seemed unsettled and my thoughts were wandering all over the place. I didn’t want to take drugs to get calm, but the calmest person I knew meditated, so meditation it was.
Breathe in; breathe out. Yeah, I can do this. Feeling good; but I must remember to weed the garden, and I definitely have to send an email to, woops, back to breathing in, breathing out, breathing in, breathing - actually I have to ring a friend, and what did she mean when she said….. What rubbish is going on in my head? I thought meditation was supposed to settle the mind, not make it an uncontrollable swirling mess.
But that’s what meditation does - because my mind is calming down, it is revealing all my wandering thoughts. Meditation is giving me the space to see my already undisciplined mind. The idea is to not follow the thread of each thought, but get back to focusing on the breath.
My Buddhist teacher says that meditating regularly will eventually settle and calm the mind by preventing it from becoming distracted and scattered by thoughts. When our mind is not overwhelmed with wandering thoughts, we are more at ease with the world.He says our distress and anxiety is caused by allowing our minds to be completely immersed in distractions and focused externally, and that our inner turmoil will continue if we allow our minds to be distracted in this way.
Meditation will calm our mind, but it is so much more than that. According to Buddhism, the goal of meditation is to liberate the mind from ignorance and suffering. Once the mind is calm, we can more efficiently cultivate positive qualities such as patience, love, compassion, and wisdom.
Just as exercise is used to train the body, meditation can be used to train the mind to be in a more positive state. We work on our bodies, why not work on our mind to make it the best it can be?
The idea of meditating regularly is to transform the mind on a subtle level so we have increased concentration and clarity.
My teacher says to meditate every day, no matter how briefly, so it becomes a habit. But as soon as I open my email I’m gone for the day. He told me the other week to just meditate first thing, before breakfast, before having a shower. I’m OK most mornings now, but sometimes I cheat and check my emails on my phone first. Maybe I should just get up 15 minutes earlier. Now there’s a thought worth following.
Cynthia Karena is a freelance journalist and Buddhist.

Buddhist Union – Spiritual Confluence or Geo-Politics?

by Claude Arpi, Niti Central, March 23, 2015

New Delhi, India -- On March 19, an unusual event happened in Delhi. The Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama met with a delegation of Sri Lankan Theros (senior monks), to discuss about Vinaya, the Buddhist monastic discipline. It is a rather rare occurrence, as the followers of the Buddha rarely ‘exchange’ their views on their respective interpretations of the Buddha’s words.
The Dalai Lama told his Sri Lankan colleagues:
“We are all followers of the same Buddha. At a time when scientific minded people are expressing some doubts about religion, many of them are expressing an interest in aspects of the Buddha’s teachings.”
The Tibetan leader added:
“To think of yourself as different from them, as someone special, is to create distance and a barrier between yourself and others, which can lead to isolation and loneliness.”
Unfortunately this is what has happened between the different Buddhist schools over the years (or perhaps centuries). The Sri Lankan monks who attended the meet, were the heads of the three principal traditions of Sri Lanka: the Ramanya, Shiyam and Amarapura Nikayas; the President of the Mahabodhi Society was also present. The spokesman of the Sri Lankans later explained their presence in Delhi:“We discussed the Vinaya all day. We compared the Theravada and Mulasarvastivada traditions, which are the Vinaya traditions of Sri Lanka and Tibet respectively, and found no significant differences between them.”
During their meeting with the Dalai Lama, the Theros expressed the unanimous wish to see him in Sri Lanka soon.
This religious happening has however some strong political connotation and it is a direct outcome of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s recent visit to Sri Lanka.
In Colombo, Mr. Modi affirmed:
“Sri Lanka is where Buddhism has truly flourished.”
Later, he paid a visit to Sri Lanka’s ancient capital Anuradhapura and offered prayers at the sacred Mahabodhi tree. It was a strong gesture, especially as he was accompanied by the Sri Lankan President, Maithripala Sirisena. Both spent 30 minutes at the Mahabodhi tree temple and performed some special Buddhist rituals.
Already during his official visit to Japan, the Prime Minister had reminded his hosts:
“Buddhism from India has inspired Japan for over a millennium.”
This is important at a time when China tries hard to take the leadership of the Buddhism movement in Asia.
On October 27, 2014, The Buddhist Channel, a global news platform which provides news on Buddhism, reported ‘China lays claims to Leadership of the Buddhist World’.
Xinhua elaborated:
“Hundreds of the world’s Buddhists gathered at an ancient temple in northwest China’s Shaanxi Province to open the World Fellowship of Buddhists’ 27th general conference. Congregating around a relic said to contain one of the Buddha’s finger bones at the Famen Temple in Baoji City, more than 600 representatives from 30 nations and regions were in attendance.”
When it is convenient, Communist China believes in the Buddha (and in the reincarnation of Buddhist masters); already in 1957, on the occasion of the 2500th anniversary of Gautam Siddharth’s birth, Zhou Enlai, the Chinese Premier (and hardcore Communist), brought ‘back to India’ some relics of the Great Monk.
Dr Kalinga Seneviratne, who, in October, attended the WFB in Shaanxi on behalf of the German Dharmadutta Society delegation from Sri Lanka, praised China:
“Though not officially acknowledged, China is today home to between 200-300 million Buddhists thus making it the country with the world’s largest Buddhist population. The restored grand Buddhist temples in Baoji and in close by Xian, and the impressive Buddhist cultural display at the opening ceremony of the WFB meeting if is anything to go by, it indicates that Chinese Buddhism has undergone a remarkable revival.”
Beijing always finds sycophants to support its claims and eulogise China’s ‘correct’ attitude.
The highlight of the conference was the speech of the Chinese-selected Panchen Lama, Gyalsten Norbu who urged Buddhists worldwide to jointly strive for deepened exchange and cooperation and work together to boost environmental protection and safeguard world peace. Norbu told the international gathering:
“Buddhism has already integrated into the Chinese culture and it is recognised by the Chinese government. For over thousand years Tibetan Buddhism has become the precious gem of the Chinese nation.”
Of course, there is another side to the coin: while Buddhism is promoted for ‘political reasons’ outside China, it is banned for entire sections of the society inside the country.
One can understand: 200 or 300 million ‘official’ Buddhists could be very subversive for the regime. Today, the membership of the Communist party is a small percentage of these figures, how could Buddha be more popular than Karl Marx in the Middle Kingdom?
Till the recent meet between the Sri Lankan monks and the Dalai Lama, the Tibetan Buddhist tradition (known as the Nalanda tradition) has had very few contacts with the Theravada School or Hinayana, which is prevalent in Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Thailand or Laos. It is quite regrettable.
For political reasons (Beijing’s pressure), the Dalai Lama has never been able to visit Nepal, Bhutan, Sri Lanka, Myanmar or even Bangladesh where a tiny Buddhist minority lives.
Sri Lanka’s Modi initiative is most welcome; the time has indeed come for Dharamsala to create a South Asian Bureau for Buddhists Affairs to facilitate a Buddhist Union. A delegation of respected (Tibetan or Indian) Buddhist figures should at the earliest visit the South Asian capitals and start establishing contacts with local Buddhists.
With the strong support of the Modi Sarkar, it should not be impossible.
In this perspective, it was refreshing that New Delhi took the initiative to host a dialogue between Theravada Theros and Tibetan/Himalayan monks of Nalanda tradition on some aspects of the Vinaya. It was a first exchange since decades.
The Vinaya dialogue was organised by the International Buddhist Confederation (IBC). It was a long way since November 2011, when before the Global Buddhist Congregation (GBC), organised by the Ashoka Mission in New Delhi (with an attendance of some 900 monks and nuns from over 40 countries), Beijing objected to the presence of the Dalai Lama in one of the functions. After China threatened to call off the 15th round of the border talks between the Special Representatives, the then Indian government backed out: both the Prime Minister and President were suddenly too ‘busy’.
Interestingly, the Sri Lankan and ‘Nalanda’ delegations informally met over tea at the residence of Minister of State for Home Kiren Rijiju, a native of Arunachal Pradesh. The most respected Prof. Samdhong Rinpoche, a former prime minister of the Central Tibetan Organisation was present for the occasion.
This current dialogue should definitely be extended to other Buddhist countries of the region.
And there is no reason why a country which treats its religious minorities so badly, should take the leadership of the Buddhist movement in Asia. The problem is that Beijing has a lot of money to invest in ‘soft’ diplomacy and many are tempted.
Tail End: It is regrettable that Amartya Sen could not understand that it was one of roles of the Nalanda University to organise such fruitful dialogues.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Rahul Gandhi In Vipasana meditation centre at Myanmar -Reported by Malayala Manorama Daily

Indian natioanl congress leader Rahul Gandi In Vipasana meditation centre at Myanmar -Reported by Malayala Manorama Daily   dated 23-03-2015

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Security lapses at Nalanda ruins irk Buddhist council



by Pranav Chaudhary, TNN, Mar 4, 2015

PATNA, India -- Buddhist Monuments Development Council (BMDC), a national body dedicated to the preservation and promotion of Buddhist heritage, has expressed its deep concern over security lapses at various Buddhist sites in the state, including the famous ancient ruins of Nalanda university.
Council chairman Arvind Alok, who is currently visiting various Buddhist sites in Bihar, said he has communicated this to Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) DG and sought his immediate intervention. He said a large number of visitors visiting these sites are also causing damage to the world heritage site. "There is also an apprehension that some people may take away the scattered bricks and valuable artefacts to sell them to smugglers," Alok said, while talking to TOI over the phone.

He demanded immediate deployment of monument attendants and security people to protect the antiquities at the ancient site in Nalanda. "Most of the attendants hired for the security of the site have already retired and private security guards do not pay much attention. Such a huge complex of ancientuniversity must be on the top priorities," he said, adding, "I have also requested the ASI DG to post a senior archaeologist at the Nalanda site immediately as only one junior officer is posted at all the nearby sites."

'Swarn Bhandar', 'Saptarni cave', 'Maniyar Math', Venuvan monastery are important archaeological sites which are directly related to Buddha and his disciples, need immediate renovation for the preservation.

'Venuvan Vihar' is the place where Buddha resided during his stay at Rajgir. The ancient Vihar is presently being looked after by forest department. It should be handed over to the ASI or state archaeology. Recently a new construction has come up inside the Vihar which may affect the archaeological glory of the place, he said.

Meanwhile, the council will start Buddhist information centres at important Buddhist places of Bihar to facilitate services to the pilgrims from September this year. It will also soon start documentation of the Buddhist remains in rural parts of Bihar, Alok said.

The council will train youth of rural areas of Buddhist places in Bihar as tourist guides with the help of Indian institute of tourism and travel management to generate employment.


Monday, March 2, 2015

Buddhist Women As Agents of Change: Case Studies from Thailand and Indonesia

by Lai Suat Yan, Kyoto Review, Issue 16, Sept 2014

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia -- While in Thailand the majority of its population are adherents of the Theravada Buddhist ‘tradition’, in Indonesia, Buddhism is a minority religion with the Theravada Buddhist ‘tradition’ embraced by the majority of Buddhists. However, the development of the Theravada tradition in Indonesia is much influenced by its counterparts in Thailand.
Consisting only of men, the Theravada Buddhist ecclesiastical authorities in both Thailand and Indonesia do not recognize bhikkhunis (a fully ordained female monastic). In this context, the aspiration and determination of Buddhist women to be female monastics in the Theravada Buddhist tradition in the 21st century reflect their role as agents of change to bring renewal to their faith. Their convictions and actions affirm women’s spirituality and gender inclusiveness as envisioned by the Buddha in establishing the female monastic order. They are able to survive and even grow due to their ability to attract their own supporters and followers. Furthermore, those who aspired to be female monastic are able to travel outside of their countries to be ordained due to the transnational dimension of Buddhism. These Buddhist women thus reclaim their identities and roles from only being supporters of Buddhism to that of spiritual leaders, religious innovators and ritual specialists. The Theravada Buddhist ‘tradition’ is a changing one as the female adherents stake their claim to their rightful heritage as female monastic. Similarly, the identity and roles of Buddhist women are fluid.
Changing Identity of Buddhist Women
In Thailand, Ven. Dhammananda, and in Indonesia, Ven. Santini both reference the Buddhist scripture for a usable past 1 to posit that where bhikkhunis are not in existence, it is possible for them to be ordained by bhikkhus (fully ordained male monastic) only (Lai 2014, 3, 6). They thus became religious innovators by leading the way in becoming ordained and legitimized, deeds based upon the ‘original’, ‘pure’ message of the Buddha. Detractors of bhikkhuni ordination claim that the proper procedure and requirement for bhikkhuni ordination is to require both bhikkhus and bhikkhunis (dual ordination) as the ‘original’, ‘pure’ message of the Buddha (Lai 2011, 147-48). Ven. Dhammananda received her full ordination as a bhikkhuni in 2003 in Sri Lanka and Ven. Santini with three other Indonesian Buddhist women did so in 2000 in Taiwan. Their ordination subsequently paved the way for other Thai and Indonesian Buddhist women to be ordained and to defend their ordination as being based on the Buddha’s ‘tradition’. However, none of them are recognized by the religious authorities of the Theravada ‘tradition’ in their home countries. Despite this, Ven. Dhammananda and Ven. Santini introduced samaneri (novice female monastic) temporary ordination which is based upon the samanera (novice male monastic) temporary ordinations in their respective countries.
Nevertheless, both Ven. Dhammananda, and Ven. Santini are able to attract their own followers and are invited for ritual blessings of new homes and donated lands for schools. When they go for pindapata (almsround), a ritual symbolic of being a monastic in the Theravada tradition, laypeople give them dana (offerings of food, drink and flowers) indicating their support. Significantly, monastic — in this case, bhikkhunis — who practice well and purify their minds as they observe 311 precepts are sources of merits. Conventionally, women are perceived as only receivers of merits or as supporters of Buddhism (Terwiel 1994, 243). However, as female monastic they become “conveyor of blessings” (Harvey 1990, 241) in their role as ritual specialists whether it is going for pindapata (almsround) or in ceremonies conveying blessings for healing, protection or to ward off evil spirits. In ordaining and practicing well, women become synonymous with sources of merit and conveyers of blessings and symbolically represent sacred and positive power (Lai 2011, 203-17), a role conventionally identified with male monastic.
Both bhikkhunis are regarded as a spiritual leaders in their respective countries with their own followers and are well known for being socially engaged Buddhists. The female monastic at Songdhammakalyani Temple where Ven Dhammananda is abbess have worked with female prison inmates since 2011 (Dhammananda 2013, 16-20) and run an environmentally friendly project. Ven. Dhammananda has contributed to training and strengthening the Indian Bhikkhuni Sangha (Yasodhara 2013, 8-11) as well as facilitating the ordination of male monastic from Sankissa, India in Thailand (Thakur 2013, 5-7) and became involved in interfaith dialogue with Muslims in southern Thailand.
Furthermore, Ven. Santini and her followers are known for their work with the disadvantaged that transcends religious lines whether it is donating basic necessities such as rice, oil and sugar or monetary contribution in the aftermath of a fire to rebuild homes of the villagers nearby Wisma Kusalayani, Lembang where she is abbess or coming to the aid of the victims of the recent Mt Kelud eruption who are predominantly Muslims (Lai 2014, 5-6). The Wisma Kusalayani is run in an environmentally sustainable manner with a policy of reduce, reuse and recycle whether it is with regards to water or other household products and a separation of organic and non-organic waste.
Buddhist Women As Agents of Change
The research conducted indicates that these Buddhist women are agents of change as they bring renewal to their faith by ordaining as female monastic in spite of the obstacles encountered. They refer to the Buddhist scripture to reclaim their heritage as female monastic. As educated persons knowledgeable about Buddhist history and teachings of their tradition, they are able to withstand the opposition encountered and defend their ordination. As female monastic, they become more visible publicly, be it as a spiritual leader, a ritual specialist or a religious innovator. Both Ven. Santini and Ven. Dhammananda are religious innovators as they tap local culture and sentiments by introducing the samaneri temporary ordination in their respective countries, an innovation based on the existing samanera temporary ordination.
… And Growing Support
Support for the female monastic is growing as they find a niche in attending to the needs of female Buddhists due to the prohibition of close contact between a monastic and the opposite sex and in meeting the needs of the more disadvantaged sections of society. The socially engaged Buddhist practice that transcends religious lines bodes well for the future and can serve as a stepping stone towards religious harmony. In both the Thai and Indonesian case, networking at the international dimension enables them to be ordained. Furthermore, international networking offers a pathway for female monastic to share their experiences and ideas on a broader stage as well as learning from each other.
Dr Lai Suat Yan 2 is API Fellow 2013/14, Gender Studies Program, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, University Malaya, Malaysia.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Love Religion, but Hate Intolerance? Try Buddhism

by Tom Jacobs, Pacific Standard, Feb 19, 2015

New research finds that, unlike those of monotheistic faiths, Buddhist concepts do not inspire prejudice toward outsiders.
San Francisco, CA (USA) -- Does religion do more harm than good? Considerable research suggests the answer depends upon the type of “good” you are considering. Many studies have linked religiosity with mental and physical health, as well as a stronger tendency to help those around you. Others have found it inspires prejudice against perceived outsiders.
A newly published paper reports this trade-off may not be universal. It finds calling to mind concepts of one major world religion—Buddhism—boosts both selfless behavior and tolerance of people we perceive as unlike ourselves.
Reminders of Buddhist beliefs “activate both universal pro-sociality and, to some extent (given the role of individual differences), tolerance of people holding other religious beliefs or belonging to other ethnic groups,” writes a research team led by psychologist Magali Clobert, a visiting postdoctoral researcher at Stanford University.
In the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, Clobert and her colleagues concede that the mention of mantras or meditation don’t impact everyone in the same way. Indeed, they have little if any effect on people with strong authoritarian tendencies.But for the rest of us, having Buddhist ideas on the brain appears to not only evoke caring, but also reduce prejudice. This dynamic was found in three experiments featuring, respectively, people raised in a Christian society, people raised in a Buddhist culture, and Western converts to Buddhism.
The first experiment featured 116 Westerners who had joined Buddhist centers in Belgium. They were asked to complete one of two versions of a word-search puzzle. One included 10 Buddhism-related terms, including “Dharma” and “Sutras;” the other featured 10 positive non-religion-related words, such as “freedom” and “flowers.”
They then filled out a series of prejudice-related poll questions, in which they were asked whether they would like to have certain minority group members (including Muslims, atheists, and gays) as a spouse, a neighbor, or a political representative. “After being primed with Buddhist words,” the researchers report, “participants reported lower explicit negative attitudes toward all kinds of out-groups.”
Of course, it can be argued that converts to a religion are a different breed. What about people who gradually assimilated a Buddhist worldview by growing up in an Eastern culture?
To find out, the researchers conducted another experiment featuring 122 undergraduates from National Taiwan University. (Only 8.5 percent of them identified as Buddhists; the majority were either “folk believers” or atheists.) They completed a “lexical decision task” which included either Buddhist terms such as “monk” and “reincarnation,” Christian ones such as “church” and “Bible,” or neutral concepts.
They then took two Implicit Association Tests designed to reveal any underlying prejudice against African people and Muslims. Finally, they completed surveys measuring the extent to which they possess certain psychological traits, including religiosity and authoritarianism.
The key finding: “Exposure to Buddhist concepts, compared with neutral and Christian concepts, activated decreased ethnic and religious prejudice,” particularly in people who score low in authoritarianism.
These results essentially duplicate that of yet another experiment, which featured 117 students from a French-speaking Belgian university, who (aside from the authoritarians) responded to the Buddhist terms even though they overwhelmingly identified themselves as either Catholic or atheist.
To put it another way, putting Buddhist ideas into the forefront of people’s minds apparently inspires them to weaken the distinction they make between in-group (“one of us”) and out-group (or “outsider”). All that talk of compassion and comfort with contradictions seems to lower defenses and broaden our sense of oneness.
So with its lack of dogma, Buddhism doesn’t seem to inspire the same antipathy toward outsiders that is the dark side of Western religious traditions. While these results need to be duplicated, they suggest that one common knock against religions may in fact apply only to monotheistic faiths.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

A people’s temple for the Buddha

K. A. Shaji

The Buddha temple under a Pipal tree at Kakkayur in Palakkad. Photo: K.K. Mustafah
The Hindu
The Buddha temple under a Pipal tree at Kakkayur in Palakkad. Photo: K.K. Mustafah

It is claimed that the Kakkayur Buddha temple was built under a Bodhi tree grown from a seed brought from Bodhgaya by a local farmer about 65 years ago.

 It would be intriguing to see a small but well-maintained Buddha temple in a nondescript agrarian village with hardly any followers of the Tathagata. Located at Kakkayur on the outskirts of Chittur town, the temple is attracting a large number of people. 
The shrine is built beneath a Bodhi tree (Pipal tree), grown from a seed collected by a local farmer about 65 years ago from Bodhgaya. “The seed was collected by my maternal grandfather Kuttikrishnan Nair from the same Bodhi tree under which the Buddha meditated. A devout Hindu, he used to travel around the country inspired by traditions and cultures. He brought the seed from Bodhgaya and planted it here,’’ says E.V. Gopinathan, owner the land on which the temple located. 
Kuttikrishnan Nair constructed the temple using his own resources. The Mahabodhi Movement in Chennai was contacted for the Buddha idol to be installed in the temple. The idol, believed to have been made in Colombo, has Sinhalese inscriptions on it. 
“The temple has been lending a distinct identity to the Kakkayur village for the last six decades. Though there is no Buddhist family in the village, its residents are now taking turns to light candles on a daily basis in the temple. On occasions like Buddha Poornima, followers of Buddhist ideals from the State and outside gather at the temple to pay homage to the Buddha,” says S. Guruvayurappan, a local resident and noted environmentalist.
“Though Buddhism was widespread in Kerala once, this region is was not among the Buddhist centres. It may be one among the few Buddha temples built and maintained by people of other faiths,” says Haridas of the Kerala Mahabodhi Mission.
The mission has over 1,000 followers in the district and they assemble at the temple on Buddha Poornima. The mission is running a meditation centre and Buddhist library in Palakkad town.

Famed ‘Tiger Temple’ doesn’t abuse tigers, say wildlife officials

The Rakyat Post, Feb 12, 2015

KANCHANABURI, Thailand -- Thai wildlife protection officers say they found no mistreatment of more than 100 tigers housed at a Buddhist temple that is a popular tourist attraction, though charges have been pressed for keeping rare birds there.
<< A Thai Buddhist monk playing with tigers at the 'Tiger Temple' in Saiyok district in Kanchanaburi province, west of Bangkok, on Feb 12, 2015. Wildlife protection officials say they found no mistreatment of the more than 100 tigers at the temple, one of the country's most popular destinations for foreign tourists. — AP pic
About 50 officials from the wildlife department and local religious affairs office, along with soldiers, made a three-hour inspection today of the Luangtamahabua Buddhist temple compound in the western province of Kanchanaburi.
The so-called “Tiger Temple,” famous for its tame-looking big cats living alongside Buddhist monks, had been accused of drugging the creatures to keep them tame. The monks and the veterinarian who takes care of the animals have denied the allegations.
A wildlife department raid last week found that the temple was illegally keeping 38 hornbills and other protected bird species.

The Later Buddhist Logic on Causation (Pratityasamutpada)

by Aik Theng Chong, The Buddhist Channel, Feb 13, 2014

Singapore -- The usual realistic view of causation implies the simultaneous existence of two things of which one operate in producing the other. Cause and effect must exist simultaneously at least during some of the time. To the realist, the potter and the pot exist simultaneously.
To the Buddhist, the potter is only a series of point instants. In one of this instant, it is followed by the first moment of the series of point instant called a pot. It is an impersonal process, they is no enduring Ego’s working on the pot. The cause ceased to exist when the effect is produced. To the Buddhist, simultaneous existence of cause and effect is not possible. It is only possible when both are static and causation is than an imagination.
Existence in Buddhism is a dynamic process, not static. What does not work, what is inefficient does not exist. Existence is composed of a sequence of point instants which are interdependent. Every point instant is a cause for the subsequence point instant. Things cannot be produced by another thing. All things and people are momentary existences. There is no real motion, because there is no duration. There is no real production as production requires time. It is only a limitation of our cognition that we do not perceive the distinctness of similar moments and assume that they represent substance and duration.
It is an illusion to assume that a thing can exist placidly, without acting, and then suddenly rise and produce an action. Whatsoever exists is always acting, is always a cause. Existence is change. What is non-cause does not exist. It is also a non-reality.
There are two different realities, a direct one which is pure, it is the reality of the point instant and an indirect one attached to that point instant. The indirectly one is an image constructed by our imagination it is the reality of the empirical object. Consequently there are also two different causalities, an ultimate one and an empirical one. The first being the efficiency attached to the point instant, the transcendental reality. The other, is the object attached to that point instant, an empirical reality of limited duration.
A thing does not produce anything alone. Result come into being only when there is a combination of other elements. This totality is composed of causes and conditions. To the realists, causation consists of a succession of two static things. It is a one-to-one relationship. To the Buddhist, there is no destruction or creation of things. There is always the present of constant, uninterrupted, infinitely graduated changes going on. A result can be produced by human cooperation, but it is just one cause at a meeting point of the convergent stream of causes. There is infinite variety of circumstances that can influence the production of an event. Needless to said, there are some fairly predictable regularities of sequence that can be cognized by us in different lines of causation.
To the Buddhists, empirical existence is a state of Bondage comparable to a prison. To the determinist, the Buddha declared that there is freewill, free action but there is also responsibility. As to liberty, there is also retribution based on the laws of causality. The teaching of karma is just one form of causality. Life is a constant movement towards a final deliverance. It is this movement, this life that is subjected to strict causal laws. When final deliverance has being attained in Nirvana, causation is then extinct.
We can distinguish four main shapes of the theory of Causation or Dependent Origination, two from early Buddhism and two others of the Mahayana tradition. The early discourses on the Dependent Origination doctrine are found in the Suttas. It is describe in a series of twelve or less conditioned links with moral bearing where there is bondage and deliverance. The general one is found in the later philosophical treatises where all the elements are explained and the different line of causation concluded. In early Buddhism, the elements exist but are impermanence.
The Mahayana interpretation of the doctrine of Dependent Origination is quite different. In the first period, interdependence means relativity. Relativity means the unreality of the separate elements as each element only arises when the right causes and conditions are present. The elements are nothing by themselves. The twelve conditioned links of Dependent Origination is declared as a reference to phenomenal life only. The general theory of causation is likewise declared as conditional and unreal as well. Thus, there is no plurality, no differentiation, no beginning and no end. The cosmos is only a motionless illusive reality.
In the last period of the idealistic and logical school of Mahayana development, the Dependent Origination doctrine is concluded by Santiraksita as follows: ‘I salute the Buddha who has proclaimed the principle of Dependent Origination, according to which everything is kinetic, there is no God, no matter, no substance, no quality etc., but there is strict conformity between every fact and its result… Dependent Origination here means motion, a Cosmos which is essentially kinetic.  In both these periods, non-duality and emptiness becomes the central theme of the teaching of Causation of the Mahayana tradition.

Copper mining threatens Afghan site of ancient Buddhist past

By LYNNE O'DONNELL, Associated Press, February 6, 2015

MES AYNAK, Afghanistan  -- Treasures from Afghanistan's largely forgotten Buddhist past are buried beneath sandy hills surrounding the ancient Silk Road town of Mes Aynak - along with enough copper to make the land glow green in the morning light.
<< In this Sunday, Jan. 18, 2015 photo, Afghan Archaeologist Jawid Muhsenzada, speaks about the history of a Buddha statue inside a cave in Mes Aynak valley, some 40 kilometers (25 miles) southwest of Kabul, Afghanistan. The hills overlooking this ancient trade-route city, where the buried treasures of Afghanistan’s Buddhist history hide beneath sandy soil, are so rich in copper that they gleam green in the morning sun. Photo: Rahmat Gul, AP
An estimated 5.5 million tons of copper, one of the biggest deposits in the world, could provide a major export for a war-ravaged country desperately in need of jobs and cash. But the hoped-for bonanza also could endanger rare artifacts that survived the rule of the Taliban and offer a window into Afghanistan's rich pre-Islamic history.
"The copper mine and its extraction are very important. But more important is our national culture," said Abdul Qadir Timor, director of archaeology at Afghanistan's Culture Ministry. "Copper is a temporary source of income. Afghanistan might benefit for five or six years after mining begins, and then the resource comes to an end."The government is determined to develop Afghanistan's estimated $3 trillion worth of minerals and petroleum, an untapped source of revenue that could transform the country. The withdrawal of U.S.-led combat forces at the end of 2014 and a parallel drop in foreign aid have left the government strapped for cash. It hopes to attract global firms to exploit oil, natural gas and minerals, ranging from gold and silver to the blue lapis lazuli for which the country has been known since ancient times.
Beijing's state-run China Metallurgical Group struck a $3 billion deal in 2008 to develop a mining town at Mes Aynak with power generators, road and rail links, and smelting facilities. Workers built a residential compound, but were pulled out two years ago because of security concerns. Nazifullah Salarzai, a spokesman for President Ashraf Ghani, said the government is determined to finish that project. Archaeologists are scrambling to uncover a trove of artifacts at the site dating back nearly 2,000 years which shed light on a Buddhist civilization that stretched across India and China, reaching all the way to Japan.
"The more we look, the more we find," archaeologist Aziz Wafa said as he scanned hilltops pock-marked with bowl-shaped hollows where copper powder once was melted down and painted onto ceramics. Excavators have found silver platters, gold jewelry and a human skeleton as they have uncovered the contours of a long-lost town that once hosted elaborate homes, monasteries, workshops and smelters.
Behind Wafa is a cave in which three Buddhas are seated around a dome-shaped shrine known as a stupa. Two are headless; one was decapitated by looters who entered through a tunnel. The other head was removed by archaeologists and placed in storage along with thousands of other items.
Movable objects, including sculptures, coins and ceramics, are stored at the National Museum in Kabul. Larger objects, including stupas measuring eight meters (26 feet) across and statues of robed monks 7 meters (23 feet) tall remain at the sprawling site, which is closed off and protected by a special security force. The roads are lined with armed guards and the archaeologists have no telephone or Internet access.
Experts believe that proselytizing Buddhist monks from India settled here in the 2nd Century A.D. Like today's miners, they were enticed by the copper, which they fashioned into jewelry and other products to trade on the Silk Road linking China to Europe.
The site was discovered in 1942 and first explored in 1963, but the excavations ground to a halt for two decades during the Soviet invasion, the civil war and the brutal rule of the Taliban in the late 1990s. Osama bin Laden ran a training camp at Mes Aynak in the years leading up to the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and the subsequent U.S.-led invasion.
Until the giant Buddhas of Bamiyan were dynamited by the Taliban in 2001, few knew that Afghanistan was once a wealthy, powerful Buddhist empire. It still does not feature on the local education curriculum, which ignores the country's pre-Islamic past. But at Mes Aynak the eroded remains of enormous feet testify to the colossal Buddhas that once towered over the valley.
Low world copper prices and a slowing Chinese economy have bought time for the archaeologists to uncover more artifacts, while the government seeks to find a way to unearth the copper without ruining relics.
The government has asked the U.N. cultural agency to survey mining sites and draw up plans to protect and preserve cultural heritage, said Masanori Nagaoka, UNESCO's head of cultural affairs in Afghanistan.
The request is rooted in hope for better days, when tourists might replace the tense guards scanning the valley.
The archaeological value of the site "will outlast the life cycle of the Aynak mine," an anti-corruption group called Integrity Watch Afghanistan said in a report. "The relics found could be a perpetual tourist attraction and would provide a new symbol of the historical foundation of the region and people."

Monday, February 9, 2015

China's super-rich communist Buddhists

By John Sudworth, BBC, 29 January 2015

Shanghai, China -- Could China be bringing Tibetan Buddhism in from the cold? There are new signs that while a crackdown on Tibetan nationalism continues, the atheist state may be softening its position towards the religion - and even the Dalai Lama.
<< Xiao Wunan, a former senior Communist Party official and Geshe Sonam next to Xiao's shrine in his apartment
That a former senior Communist Party official would invite the BBC into his home might, to most foreign journalists in China, seem an unlikely prospect.
Especially if that official was rumoured to have close links to the Chinese leadership and to have worked closely with the country's security services.
But the idea that such an official would then invite the BBC to witness him praying in front of a portrait of the Dalai Lama, would seem a preposterous one. Laughable - insane even.
That, though, is exactly what Xiao Wunan did.
Inside Xiao's luxury Beijing apartment, in pride of place atop his own private Buddhist shrine, sits a portrait of the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader, a man long reviled by the Chinese government as a dangerous separatist.For Tibetan monks even the possession of the Dalai Lama's photograph is a risky proposition and the displaying of his portrait in monasteries is prohibited.
But there, beneath that same image sat Xiao, with a Tibetan Buddhist guru, Geshe Sonam, sitting beside him.
While the guru made it clear he was unwilling to talk about politics or the Dalai Lama, the 50-year-old Mr Xiao insisted it was really no big deal.
"In regard to the political problems between the Dalai Lama and China… we hardly pay any attention," he says.
"It's really hard for us to judge him from that angle. As Buddhists, we only pay attention to him as part of our Buddhist practice."
Xiao was introduced to the BBC by a Chinese businessman, 36-year-old Sun Kejia - one of an unknown, but reportedly growing number of wealthy Chinese, drawn in recent years to the mysticism of Tibetan Buddhism.
The increasing popularity of religion in general in China has been well documented and is often explained in terms of China's rapid economic expansion.
Millions of Chinese today may now have the kind of wealth that previous generations could only dream of, but economic growth has been accompanied by seismic social upheaval and many of the old certainties have been swept away.
"I was once confronted with great difficulties and problems in my business," Sun says.
"I felt they couldn't be overcome by human effort and that only Buddha, ghosts and God could help me."
So Sun became a follower not of merchant bankers or money managers, but monks - Tibetan monks in particular. And he has indeed since earned his fortune, which he estimates at more than $100m.
He now runs a chain of Buddhist clubs, and pays from his own pocket for Tibetan gurus like Geshe Sonam to come and preach there, giving them badly needed funds for their missions and monasteries back in Tibet.
But while Sun's invited guests - businessmen, party officials and property owners - find comfort and spirituality, he finds something else.
"What I want is influence," he says.
"My friends who come here are attracted to this place. I can use the resources they bring to do my other business. From that angle, it is also my contribution for spreading Buddhism. This brings good karma and so I get what I want."
And it seems to be working.
Sun invites us to meet other well-connected individuals who use his club.
Seated on the floor with Geshe Sonam is a woman who Sun says is connected through family ties to the highest echelons of Chinese politics.
She and a man she introduces as a senior official at China's National Development and Reform Commission, and who appears to be her driver, are placing watches, prayer beads and necklaces into the centre of the circle for Geshe Sonam to bless.
A luxury banquet follows the religious ceremony, and later the monk admits to being a bit uncomfortable with the whole thing.
"No matter how good the food is, it's still just food," he says.
"Sometimes it takes so long and I really feel I'm wasting my time. I become a bit anxious. But this can also be a way to preach. If I don't go here, or don't go there, would it be better for me to just stay in a cave and never come out?"
Buddhist monks need the money and dozens, perhaps hundreds, are now prospecting for funds in China's big cities.
Given that China is still, officially, an atheist country, that may seem odd, especially because of the links between Buddhism and political activism in Tibet.
China however is not only allowing this Buddhist evangelism to take place but may now be actively encouraging it.
There have been reports that President Xi Jinping is - relatively speaking - more tolerant of religion than his predecessors, in the hope that it will help fill China's moral vacuum and stem social unrest.
And there have also long been rumours that members of the Chinese elite have been interested in Buddhism, including Xi Jinping's wife, Peng Liyuan.
The president's father, Xi Zhongxun, a Communist Party revolutionary and leader, is himself reported to have had a good relationship with the Dalai Lama before he fled China in 1959.
And that's perhaps where Xiao Wunan comes in, because another unsubstantiated rumour has it that his father was also close to the president's father.
Much of this is speculation, of course, but the important question is whether Xiao's permission for the BBC to witness him worshipping at a Buddhist altar is meant to send a signal.
Xiao had yet another surprise up his sleeve, handing the BBC some video footage of a meeting he had with the Dalai Lama in India - his place of exile - in 2012.
Formal talks were last held in 2010 but even they were only between representatives of the two sides.
Xiao's footage is rare evidence of face-to-face talks between the Dalai Lama himself and someone close to the Chinese government.
There were at the time a few unconfirmed newspaper reports about it in the Indian press, full of speculation about the significance, but there was never any official confirmation that it took place - until the BBC received the video.
At one point in the conversation the Dalai Lama tells Xiao he is concerned about the activities of fake monks in China.
"I am also concerned about this," Xiao replies. "Therefore, we are really in need of a Buddhist leader and that's why I think your holiness can play such an important role."
Elsewhere, the Dalai Lama complains about China's whole approach to Tibet.
"Let's be honest, the Chinese government has been thinking like a crazy person on their Tibetan policy," he says.
"They haven't been facing up to it. This tough policy is not beneficial to China or to Tibetans and also gives China a very bad international image."
Xiao Wunan's exact role when he was in government is unclear - "just call me a former high official", he says.
He also insists that he was not acting as a Chinese government envoy when he met the Dalai Lama.
He says he was in India in his capacity as the executive vice chairman of an organisation called the Asia Pacific Exchange and Cooperation Foundation (APECF).
APECF is often described as being backed by the Chinese government and is involved in some pretty substantial influence building, including a multi-billion-dollar investment in developing a Buddhist site in Nepal.
Either way, it seems unlikely that any former senior Chinese official would be able to visit the Dalai Lama in India, or for that matter be filmed worshipping in front of his picture, without some pretty powerful backing in Beijing.
So what might it all mean? I put this question to Robbie Barnett, a Tibet specialist at Columbia University in New York.
Barnett advises against reading too much into Xiao Wunan's meeting with the Dalai Lama, but says it is nonetheless symbolic.
"I can detect no politically significant activities in that meeting," he says, "but it is significant as a symbolic indicator, a glimpse of a shift that might be under consideration in, or near, the policy-making heights of the Chinese system."
He suggests that Xiao's confidence in releasing the video does not necessarily mean he has the backing of the whole of the Chinese leadership, but that he probably has the backing of a powerful faction within it, at the very least.
"We know it is meant to symbolise something," Barnett says.
"They want us to see that something might be happening, that a debate may be taking place."
There can be little doubt that the ban on the portrait of the Dalai Lama and the tightening of Chinese control over the past two decades have served to heighten tensions in Tibet.
Throughout that period there have been talks between the two sides, both formal and informal, but little has changed.
In recent months, however, some reports suggest that the unofficial dialogue has become more substantial, even raising the possibility of the Dalai Lama being allowed to return from exile for a historic visit.
So, should the release of the video by Xiao Wunan be seen as evidence that Xi Jinping really is changing China's approach to Tibetan Buddhism, or is it simply a smokescreen, designed to give the appearance of a softening line, while the harsh crackdown in Tibet continues?
If nothing else, Xiao Wunan and his Dalai Lama shrine appear to be proof that well-connected members of the Chinese elite are now taking an active interest in Tibetan Buddhism - and that monks are now being given license to encourage them.
"They may not be able to buy their way into Nirvana," Geshe Sonam says, "but in Buddhism, you can get more karmic reward the more money you spend on rituals."

Mummified monk is ‘not dead’ and in rare meditative state, says expert

By Kate Baklitskaya, The Siberian Times, 2 February 2015

As police say lama found in lotus positon was destined for sale on black market, there are claims it was one step away from becoming a Buddha.
Songinokhairkhan, Mongolia -- A mummified monk found in the lotus position in Mongolia is 'not dead' and is instead one stage away from becoming a real-life Buddha, it has been claimed.
<< The mummified remains, covered in cattle skin, were found on January 27 in the Songinokhairkhan province. Picture: Morning Newspaper
Forensic examinations are under way on the amazing remains, which are believed to be around 200 years old, having been preserved in animal skin. But one expert has insisted the human relic is actually in 'very deep meditation' and in a rare and very special spiritual state known as 'tukdam'.
Over the last 50 years there are said to have been 40 such cases in India involving meditating Tibetan monks.
Dr Barry Kerzin, a famous Buddhist monk and a physician to the Dalai Lama, said: 'I had the privilege to take care of some meditators who were in a tukdam state.'If the person is able to remain in this state for more than three weeks - which rarely happens - his body gradually shrinks, and in the end all that remains from the person is his hair, nails, and clothes. Usually in this case, people who live next to the monk see a rainbow that glows in the sky for several days. This means that he has found a 'rainbow body'. This is the highest state close to the state of Buddha'.
He added: 'If the meditator can continue to stay in this meditative state, he can become a Buddha. Reaching such a high spiritual level the meditator will also help others, and all the people around will feel a deep sense of joy'.
Initial speculation is that the mummy could be a teacher of Lama Dashi-Dorzho Itigilov.
Born in 1852, Dashi-Dorzho Itigilov was a Buryat Buddhist Lama of the Tibetan Buddhist tradition, best known for the lifelike state of his body.
Ganhugiyn Purevbata, who is the founder and professor of the Mongolian Institute of Buddhist Art at Ulaanbaatar Buddhist University, said: 'Lama is sitting in the lotus position vajra, the left hand is opened, and the right hand symbolizes of the preaching Sutra.
'This is a sign that the Lama is not dead, but is in a very deep meditation according to the ancient tradition of Buddhist lamas'.
The mummified remains, which were covered in cattle skin, were found on January 27 in the Songinokhairkhan province of Mongolia.
However, there is more to the story and now police have revealed that the monk had been stolen from another part of the country and was about to be sold off.
An unnamed official said that it was taken from a cave in the Kobdsk region by a man who then hid it in his own home in Ulaanbaatar.
He had then been planning to sell it on the black market at a 'very high price', with local media claiming he wanted to take it over the Mongolian border. Police uncovered the plot and quickly arrested a 45-year-old, named only as Enhtor.
According to Article 18 of the Criminal Code of Mongolia smuggling items of cultural heritage are punishable with either a fine of up to 3million roubles ($43,000) or between five and 12 years in prison. The monk is now being guarded at the National Centre of Forensic Expertise at Ulaanbaatar.

Monday, February 2, 2015

What is Theravada Buddhism?
 Theravada (pronounced — more or less — "terra-VAH-dah"), the "Doctrine of the Elders," is the school of Buddhism that draws its scriptural inspiration from the Tipitaka, or Pali canon, which scholars generally agree contains the earliest surviving record of the Buddha's teachings.[1] For many centuries, Theravada has been the predominant religion of continental Southeast Asia (Thailand, Myanmar/Burma, Cambodia, and Laos) and Sri Lanka. Today Theravada Buddhists number well over 100 million worldwide.[2] In recent decades Theravada has begun to take root in the West........more

Buddhism by country

Russian Buddhist monks to restore giant 19th Century Buddha statue

TASS News Agency, November 26, 2014

The local authorities have allocated more than $1.1 million to sponsor the restoration works
CHITA, Russia -- Monks of the Aginsky Datsan (datsan is a term used for Buddhist university monasteries in the Tibetan tradition of Gelukpa) in Russia’s TransBaikal Territory have begun to restore a giant 19th Century statue of Maitreya Buddha, or Buddha of the Future, Tatiana Zherebtsova, a deputy minister of culture of the TransBaikal Territory, told TASS on Tuesday.
She said the local authorities have allocated more than $1.1 million to sponsor the restoration works. Aginsky Datsan monks will put together all remaining fragments of the 16-meter statue originally made by Chinese craftsmen and will make new elements to substitute for missing fragments.
Along with restoration, the monks will perform a sacred ritual of consecration in order to make the statue suitable for use in religious practices. They will put sacred objects - mantras, different crops, medicinal herbs, juniper leaves and small stupa-shaped clay votive object, which they believe are invested with spiritual power - inside the statue, the press service of the Aginsky Datsan said.
Specific attention will paid to a srog shin (life-stick, or soul-pole), a large cedar stick inscribed with Buddhist prayers in the center of the body. According to canonical texts, the entire consecration ritual is useless without this object.
Buddha Maitreya is the future Buddha to come. At present, Maitreya is a Bodhisattva who resides in the Tushita Heaven /The Garden of Joy/ awaiting the right moment, still in the distant future, to descend to earth and incarnate as the next, and last Buddha of this world with the purpose of bringing deliverance of all sentient beings. Buddha Maitreya is incorporated into all the major Buddhist traditions as a connecting link to the future.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Third Century Buddhist Relics Discovered in India

by Adam Steedman, New Historian, January 10, 2015

Nalgonda, India -- Excavations in India have unearthed items belonging to a third-century Buddhist monk.
Archaeological digs have been taking place for over 70 years at the Phanigiri hillock near Nalgonda, in India’s southern province of Telangana. The recent discovery however, represents one of the most significant yet made at the site.
The findings have led to the location being described as the most important site in the region. During excavations of the Mahastupa – a large, mound-like structure containing Buddhist relics, the archaeological team unearthed a red earthenware pot which held a silver container.Within the silver box was a well-preserved collection of eleven miniature beads, some made of silver. The beads were probably prayer beads and may have belonged to a Buddhist monk who was an important figure in the area.
Alongside the earthenware pot, a Potin Coin made of a copper and lead alloy was discovered. On one side of the coin was a bust of a king and on the reverse a depiction of a ship. Researchers were able to precisely date the coin to the third century CE, as one side was adorned with a particular set of characters prevalent at the time.
The Phanigiri Mahastupa presents a unique glimpse into Buddhist history in the area. “The Buddhist findings are pertaining to third century CE. [This marks the] first time we have a Buddhist cascade with material in it and this puts [the] area as an important Buddhist heritage site,” BP Acharya, principal secretary of tourism for Telangana, told the New Indian Express. For Acharya, the recent discoveries represent the culmination of excavations which began at the site in 1941. It is reasonably rare to discover personal objects in stupas; they typically contain the physical remains of Buddha and his disciples. The archaeologists’ discovery of carefully stored beads allows us to see what Buddhist monks in the third century used in their day-to-day lives.
“Usually we get only bodily remains of Buddha or of any important monks. The fact that gold, silver and beads were preserved here indicates the importance of the personality”, explained J Vijayakumar, Deputy Director of Excavations at the site.
The 16-acre site on the hill of Phanigiri dates to between the third century BCE and the third century CE. It was a major Buddhist learning centre, with numerous Viharas (monasteries) and Chaityas (prayer halls). To date, only about four acres of the site have been excavated.
Within those four acres, however, a wealth of discoveries has already been made. Ruins of congregation halls, Viharas and one particularly impressive structure containing sixteen pillars have been revealed. Future plans for the site involve preserving and conserving it in order to create a heritage tourism attraction.
It is rare to find such well-preserved items from such a long time ago and it is also uncommon to find the physical possessions of Buddhist monks in stupas. The discovery of personal objects in the Phanigiri Mahastupa provides hitherto unknown information about the everyday life of third-century Buddhist monks

Keralamahabodhi mission organised Dhamma classes for Upasakas

Keralamahabodhi mission organised Dhamma classes for Upasakas.Dhammamithra Binojbabu was the keynote speaker.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Buddhism and freedom of speech

by Sanitsuda Ekachai, The Bangkok Post, 14 Jan 2015

Bangkok, Thailand -- How to be truthful in a hostile environment? How to say things that need to be said to avoid coercion and violence from low tolerance of criticism? What should we respect more in an open society where different cultural norms often compete and clash - freedom of expression or cultural sensitivity?
The senseless Paris attacks and the ensuing "Je suis Charlie" phenomenon have brought these questions to the fore. Many feel torn between modern values that liberate their individual self and traditions that give them a precious sense of identity and group belonging.
The dilemma is also real in Thailand. In a war to restore cultural and political identity and dignity, the Muslim insurgency in the deep South has claimed more than 6,000 lives in the past decade.
Meanwhile, serious abuse of the lese majeste law and harsh political persecution have created a chilling climate of fear that silences constructive criticism, and ends up hurting the international standing of the revered institution.
How to reconcile? How to protect what we deeply revere? How to react to what we see as a sacrilege without betraying our faiths? How to be truthful to ourselves?
Since Thailand is predominantly a Buddhist country, let me try answer those questions from a Buddhist approach.
In my view, if Thai Buddhists only truly observed the Buddha’s teachings on Right Speech, they would find that the ancient wisdom still offers answers to modern-day angst.
According to the teachings, lies, half-truths, insults, even gossip are all a no-no. What we say must be the truth only, but being truthful alone is not enough.
Non-exploitation - both of others and ourselves - is a central Buddhist principle. Wrong speech is discouraged not only because it hurts other people, but also ourselves when we taint our souls with anger, hatred, greed and delusion.
How we express those truths are also important. Before we utter a word, we must be certain that it is beneficial, timely, with gentle words and goodwill.
Despite our best intentions, if what we want to say is useless, not going to bring any positive change, spoken at the wrong time and place, then we should wait, then find the right time and right way to speak the truth in order to enable change.
Under this guideline, hurtful words against what others love and revere is unacceptable. Meanwhile, hiding behind the "silence is golden" motto at all times is sheer cowardice.
A hard truth remains that we have no control over what others think, say, or do. But we have complete control over our action, or karma, which is primarily the reaction to external stimulation of our senses.
In Buddhism, dhamma practice is essentially a spiritual training so our reactions are not governed by either negative or positive emotions, but by equanimity that comes from the insight that all things are impermanent and illusory. That all of us — regardless of birth, rank, race, ethnicity, gender and beliefs - are the same in the samsara of suffering, thus all deserving our empathy and compassion.
As Buddhists, inculcating equanimity and tolerance should be what we strive to do when we face what upsets us. That applies to the lese majeste issue.
It is understandable that when our deep reverence makes the monarchy a system of faith, insulting what we hold sacred is considered sacrilege. We feel hurt and we want to hurt them back. The challenge is whether we can rein in our hatred and anger, as Buddhists should.
Since childhood, we are forced to recite the five precepts so that our life will be guided by wholesome deeds.
In the hierarchy of precepts we recite, "don't lie" or unwholesome speech comes after "don't kill", "don't steal", and "don't violate others' wives and daughters".
Based on the non-exploitation principle, the message is clear: Verbal violation is less serious than actual physical attacks and abuses. When Buddhism demands a reaction of tolerance and kindness, what we see from the lese majeste cases is severe physical punishment for words we dislike.
In an open society where competing values are tied with conflicting interests, cultural and religious sensitivities must be respected alongside freedom of expression to stem violent outbursts.
What if the sacrilege continues?
When the Buddha was faced with a storm of insults and lies to discredit him, he remained calm and returned them with kind words.
Admit this. The way our society handles the lese majeste sacrilege is not only un-Buddhist, or disproportional. It is plain cruel.
Sanitsuda Ekachai is editorial pages editor, Bangkok Post.

Friday, January 2, 2015

Reflections on Buddhist practice, human rights

by K V Soon, The Malaysian Insider, 11 December 2014

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia -- The Buddhists have a practice known as the undertaking of Precepts. Specifically, there is a set of Five Precepts or Panca-sila.
As a Buddhist, the undertaking of the precepts is the most basic practice that cuts across all major Buddhist traditions.  As a ritual, Buddhists often recite the Five Precepts on a daily basis to remind themselves of their duties to self and society.
The Five Precepts constitute the basic spiritual training practice in the following aspects of life. They are the training to abstain from harming living beings, taking what is not given, indulging in sensual misconduct, speaking the untruth and substance abuse and intoxication.
The precepts and human rights
The first of the Five Precepts translates “I undertake the training rule to abstain from destroying lives”.
This recitation is so basic that children in temple Sunday schools can recite and memorise it. The precept tells us we should avoid harming one another – not just human beings – but also animals and all living beings.The destruction of lives can come in many forms. The worst form is the deliberate act to end a life – killing.
There are other forms of destruction – such as physical and emotional abuse that has no place in our spiritual practice.
As Buddhists, we cannot condone such acts as, the abuse of women and children from the homes to places of work. We cannot accept the fact that harm and pain can be inflicted upon others, no one has the right to physically harm another – whatever the reason.
We cannot condone the acts such as racism, discrimination based on class, ethnicity, gender and sexuality.  Some abuses go so deep that the victim suffers physical and emotional damage.
The Third Precept provides us with a strong reminder to respect the will of others, especially those different from us. It is about appreciating others for who they are.
As we recite the precepts and reflect on the value of life, we are deeply aware that the destruction of lives happens on various levels, including political persecution, torture and death in custody.
Laws that allow the opportunity for bodily hurt, mental and emotional trauma and that remove justice and freedom must be abrogated.
I am reminded of the Fourth Precept that the value of truth. It is imperative to speak our minds to prevent the further damage and destruction to lives. Recitation of the precepts in ancient language words without the action is an empty practice.
Appreciating the value of life
The sole purpose of the precepts, beginning with the First Precept is to value life. We need to value life and all that support life. We cannot take away the right to education, cultural and religious practices of individuals.
More importantly, we must also support and sustain our ecological environment. Acknowledging and positively responding to climate change is a necessary part of our practice.
The Second Precept is a reminder that we must not take away what rightfully belongs to others. It also reminds us to of the need to develop generosity and to give without expectation of returns. True generosity is about being selfless in our generosity.
Selflessness can be achieved with a state of mind that is calm and peaceful.
The Fifth Precept reminds us of the need to have a calm mind, not quickly reacting to others is indeed a virtue.
With a calm and composed state of mind, meaningful discussions and dialogues will be able to be carried out. Truthful communication and right speech aids in the development of friendship. Healthy and positive relationships are foundations for a peaceful society.
As such it is not difficult for Buddhists to associate our practice of the precepts with the Declaration of Human Rights.
The precepts are indeed the basic building blocks of a peaceful society where human dignity, freedom and personal rights are preserved, we call this practice sila.
To practise sila is thus to train oneself in preserving one's true nature, not allowing it to be modified or overpowered by negative forces.
Acts of destruction are blinded by greed, rage or hatred. Such negative qualities as anger, hatred, greed, ill will, and jealousy are factors that alter people's nature and make them into something other than their true self. 
The practice of precepts is about returning to one's own basic goodness, the original state of normalcy, unperturbed and unmodified.
Our teacher, the Buddha, reminded us that even though we shut our eyes in meditation we cannot shut our eyes and hearts from the suffering of others.
We must strive to build a just society for our families and friends – present and future. Indeed, having a peaceful and just society to live is indeed a very high blessing. (Patirûpa dêsa vâso .... êtam mangala muttamam.)
Our spiritual and social duties are to cultivate our minds and at the same time work for the happiness and welfare of others. (Bahujana hitaya bahujana sukhaya.)
Let me conclude with a Buddhist Prayer of Loving Kindness:
May all beings be happy.
May all beings be free from enmity.
May all beings be free from malice.
May all beings be free from worry.
May all beings preserve their wellbeing.
K.V. Soon (aka Vidyananda) is an executive committee member of International Network of (Socially) Engaged Buddhists.

Non-religious essence of Buddhism and Ethics

By Rohana R. Wasala, Lankaweb, December 24th, 2014

Colombo, Sri Lanka -- If one understands what the Buddha dhamma is saying, and if one is convinced that the spiritual path explained therein is the right one to follow, and commits oneself to do so, then one is a Buddhist.
As Rev W. Rahula points out, though the label ‘Buddhist’ is of little significance from a Buddhist’s unique point of view, there is a long established tradition in this regard in Buddhist countries, which is that for a person to be considered a Buddhist they must ‘take refuge’ in the Triple Gem (Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha) and undertake to observe the Five Precepts (the Pancasila – the five minimum moral obligations of a Buddhist: not to kill, steal, commit adultery, utter falsehoods, or take intoxicating drinks).
These are rules of moral conduct that a Buddhist voluntarily undertakes to follow. The average Buddhists may, more often than not, be remiss in the strict observance of these rules in the daily struggle of normal living; but it does impart a sense of self-discipline to them and encourages them on the path to morality. The ritual of ‘taking refuge’ in the Triple Gem is both reassuring and restorative for the practitioner, like prayer in other systems of faith.
However, taking refuge in the Triple Gem  is only a mental tonic for the person embarked on the path leading to the ultimate goal, which is the realization of final release from suffering.
The Buddhist teaching is about realizing that the world is suffering, that this suffering has an arising, that there is a cessation of suffering, and that there is a way to bring about an end to suffering.
These are termed the Four Noble Truths. The fourth one is called the Noble Eightfold Path (right understanding, right thought, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, and right concentration).
The eight factors of the Noble Eightfold Path can be categorized into three groups which are sila (ethical conduct), samadhi (mental discipline) and panna (wisdom). Ethical conduct consists in right speech, right action, and right livelihood; mental discipline is to be achieved through right effort, right mindfulness, and right concentration; wisdom comes from right understanding and right thought.
The student of Buddhism needs to learn what all these terms actually mean. This can be done in various ways such as by consulting a teacher, reading Buddhist literature, listening to lectures, but all these must be accompanied by independent inquisitive thinking.
‘(A) perfect understanding of the nature and structure of reality’ is what the Buddha claimed to have achieved, in the words of Robert A.F. Thurman, a Western Buddhist scholar. Having declared that the universe is unknowable (a fact that even scientific common sense convinces us of), the Buddha narrowed his area of search for truth to the psychological spiritual sphere, which is what really matters in human existence. He stated: Within this fathom-long sentient body itself, I postulate the world, the arising of the world, the cessation of the world, and the path leading to the cessation of the world”. The ‘world’ here is ‘suffering’ (dukkha) according to Rev. Walpola Rahula, author of ‘What the Buddha Taught’ from which I have quoted the Buddha’s statement. Rev. Rahula further explains that the Buddha’s words imply that the Four Noble Truths are  within the Five Aggregates, i.e., within ourselves and that there is no external power that produces the arising and the cessation of dukkha.
The truth that Buddhism teaches is not presented as divine revelation, but as truth to be experienced or realized by the individual through their own effort. The Four Noble Truths that constitute the central essence of the Buddha Dhamma are so called because they are cardinal truths realized by the great savants who have followed the Buddha’s teaching and have attained to the highest spiritual state. They have been called ‘Aryans’ in the Buddhist teaching.
The practicality of the Buddha Dhamma which is focused on mental training and self-discipline is revealed in its structure. The Dhamma is divided into two branches: textual and experiential (the teaching and its practice, respectively). The textual is further divided into three types of verbal teaching: discipline (vinaya), discourses (sutta), and philosophy and psychology (abhidhamma). The experiential is subdivided into three types of mental training: ethical (sila), meditational (Samadhi), and wisdom (panna) as we have already seen above.
It is true that Buddhism teaches the reality of suffering, its arising, its cessation, and the way leading to the end of suffering. But its concern with the truth of suffering does not make it a pessimistic doctrine, because it, with equal zest, teaches the possibility of total release from suffering. Realizing that life is suffering is actually seeing the truth, which leads one to try to put an end to suffering. It is like diagnosing a state of ill health and finding an appropriate cure, all of which is something positive. Buddha’s core discovery was the immediacy of perfect freedom from this suffering (dukkha), from enslavement to craving  or ‘thirst’ (tanha), from ignorance (avidya).
To the ordinary householders the Buddha’s ethical system recommends four Sublime States (brahma-vihara): 1) extending loving-kindness (metta) towards all living beings, 2) compassion (karuna) for all living beings who are suffering, who are in distress, 3) sympathetic joy (muditha) in others’ success, welfare, and happiness, and 4) equanimity (upekkha) in all vicissitudes of life. Preoccupation with self makes it difficult to practice these cardinal virtues taught in Buddhism. Therefore selfishness is to be avoided.
Free from self, and full of compassion for all beings, and disdainful of all forms of attachment, those who truly follow the Buddha’s teaching cannot be a threat to others who hold different views. The parable of the raft suggests that at a certain stage of spiritual development, even the Dhamma has to be abandoned as a used aid. Here, the Dhamma is likened to a raft. Once the wayfarer has crossed a stream in flood using a raft hastily fashioned in the absence of a bridge or a serviceable ferry, it is clearly wrong for them to carry it on their back saying that it helped them to cross a dangerous stream safely.
Buddha’s compassionate disposition towards other belief systems is unequivocal. He advised his disciples thus: ‘ It is not proper for a wise man who maintains (lit. protects) truth to come to the conclusion: This alone is Truth, and everything else is false”……… To be attached to one thing (to a certain view) and to look upon other things (views) as inferior – this the wise men call a fetter” ’ (a hindrance to realizing Nibbana, the Ultimate Reality, the end of all suffering. This state is human mind’s deepest, and most true condition).
Rock Edict XII of the great Buddhist Emperor Asoka of India of the third century BCE was inspired by this tolerant, accommodative attitude of the Buddha Dhamma towards other religions. It declares:
‘One should not honour only one’s own religion and condemn the religions of others, but one should honour others’ religions for this or that reason. So doing, one helps one’s own religion to grow and renders service to the religions of others too. In acting otherwise one digs the grave of one’s own religion and also does harm to other religions. Whosoever honours his own religion and condemns other religions, does so indeed through devotion to his own religion, thinking I will glorify my own religion”. But on the contrary, in so doing he injures his own religion more gravely. So concord is good: Let all listen, and be willing to listen to the doctrines professed by others’.
Followers of Buddhism are expected to extend the same tolerant attitude of sympathetic understanding not only in the moral spiritual sphere, but elsewhere as well.


Monday, December 15, 2014

Mindfulness: Stealth Buddhist Strategy for Mainstreaming Meditation?

by Dr. Candy Gunther Brown, The Huffington Post, Dec 2, 2014
San Francisco, CA (USA) -- Mindfulness has become mainstream. Hospitals and prisons offer "Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction," public schools teach students to put their "MindUP," and Google trains employees to "Search Inside Yourself."
Right mindfulness is the seventh aspect of the eightfold path of Buddhist awakening. Implicit in "secularized" mindfulness is the assumption that meditating on one's breath or present-moment bodily sensations, while cultivating non-judgmental awareness of passing thoughts and emotions, trains the mind to perceive experiences -- and even the notion of a "self" -- as transient. This alleviates suffering by detaching the mind from pursuing desires or avoiding displeasures. Recognizing that every apparently unique "self" is really part of the same universal process of becoming develops moral and ethical virtues such as compassion and generosity. Ultimately, this process leads to freedom from the effects of karma and the cycle of death and rebirth, and entrance into a transcendent state of enlightenment or nirvana.Promoters of "secular" mindfulness avoid using the loaded words "Buddhism" or "religion," and may even steer clear of mentioning "spirituality" or "meditation." But the practice is essentially similar to that taught in many Buddhist basics classes. And the hope, expressed by certain key leaders in the secular mindfulness movement, is that introductory classes alleviate suffering for all practitioners, while providing at least some of them with a doorway into deeper, explicitly Buddhist meditation.The most influential advocate for mindfulness in America is Jon Kabat-Zinn, a professor of medicine who learned mindfulness from Vietnamese Zen Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh. While on a spiritual retreat at the Insight Meditation Society in 1979, Kabat-Zinn had a flash of insight to "take the heart of something as meaningful, as sacred if you will, as Buddha-dharma and bring it into the world in a way that doesn't dilute, profane or distort it, but at the same time is not locked into a culturally and tradition-bound framework that would make it absolutely impenetrable to the vast majority of people." During a 1990 meeting, the Dalai Lama himself approved Kabat-Zinn's strategy of modifying vocabulary in order to make mindfulness acceptable to non-Buddhists.
Kabat-Zinn developed Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction, or MBSR, classes, at his Stress Reduction Clinic and Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care, and Society at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center. Kabat-Zinn's goal, as described in his 1990 book Full Catastrophe Living: Using the Wisdom of Your Body and Mind to Face Stress, Pain, and Illness, was to make the "path of mindfulness accessible to mainstream Americans so that it would not feel Buddhist or mystical so much as sensible." Insisting that "you don't have to be a Buddhist to practice" mindfulness, Kabat-Zinn nevertheless urges MBSR graduates to find an ongoing meditation group such as an Insight Meditation Society, an organization that Kabat-Zinn describes as having "a slightly Buddhist orientation."
Jenny Wilks, a teacher of both explicitly Buddhist and secular mindfulness who received training from Kabat-Zinn, explains in a 2014 article for Insight Journal that "key Dharma teachings and practices are implicit" in secular mindfulness classes. Rather than "diluting the Dharma," Wilks sees "secular mindfulness" as "highly accessible Dharma," a "distillation" of the "essence" of the Buddha's key teachings, repackaged to "make strong medicine palatable." Wilks notes that some participants in secular classes "do later go on to access Buddhist classes," and reports that Buddhist retreat centers have "seen an increase in the numbers of people coming on retreats and many of them have started with a secular eight-week course."
Like Wilks, Trudy Goodman, founder of Insight LA, in California, received training in secular mindfulness from Kabat-Zinn. Goodman describes her understanding of secular mindfulness as "Stealth Buddhism" in a 2014 podcast interview with Vincent Horn of Buddhist
Goodman: I really wanted us to be able to work in this community to go into hospitals, and universities, and schools, and places where as Buddhists we might not be so welcome, especially state places, which is appropriate since we have the separation of church and state ... The really interesting question is what do they do after they take that class ... And you know the reality is they aren't that different from our Buddhist classes. They just use a different vocabulary ... And the question of will people then sort of migrate into Buddhism. Some will, some won't .... anyone who practices sincerely, whether they want it or not, they are going to discover more deeply other dimensions of their being, I think it's inevitable if they keep practicing, don't you?
Horn: That seems to be somewhat independent of whether one is trained in a Buddhist context, or in a new, non-Buddhist Buddhist context. [laughter]
Goodman: My former husband George, he used to call it crypto-Buddhism, stealth Buddhism we now might say. [more laughter]
Horn: Absolutely.
Some Buddhists affirm a "stealth Buddhist" approach to mainstreaming mindfulness as exemplifying the Buddhist virtue of "skillful" speech. Other Buddhists caution that skillful speech should always be truthful -- that if even silence may deceive, then one must speak the whole truth; exceptions apply only to those who have already reached such a degree of awakening that they are free of self-interest and seek only to alleviate suffering. Yet, proprietary, trademarked mindfulness programs hint that secular mindfulness may be implicated in the self-interested American commercial, self-help market.
Sourse: Buddhist channel

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Conducted Buddhist family meet at Palakkad

Kerala mahabodhi Mission Conducted Buddhist family meet at Palakkad on 23rd November-2014.It includes Meditation,Naming ceremony,Interaction with Upasakas,Discuss about Buddha Dhammam in family life.