Friday, February 5, 2016

Historical Sites Recall When Kazakhstan Was Buddhist

By Michelle Witte, Astana Times, 9 February, 2015

ASTANA, Kazakhstan -- Kazakhstan today is a mostly Muslim country, but the Silk Road that crossed it was an important conduit for religions, including Buddhism, and some of Kazakhstan’s historic carvings and monuments are neither Muslim nor animist, but homages to Buddhas, bodhisattvas and the monks who carried their teachings from India and China across the Eurasian landmass.
Buddhism gained a large following in Central Asia between the second century B.C. up to the coming of Islam to the region around the eighth century, and many of the Turkic peoples living in Kazakhstan adopted it. Though now the Buddhist population of Kazakhstan is small – only about 0.5 percent of the population as of 2007 – the country has the largest number of Buddhists in Central Asia. It is also dotted with remnants of its Buddhist past, particularly in the Zhetysu (“seven rivers”) area of modern-day southeastern Kazakhstan, which includes today’s Almaty oblast and historically extended into Kyrgyzstan.
Within that area are the Tamgaly-Tas (“Stones with Signs”), one of Kazakhstan’s most popular tourist destinations and a UNESCO World Heritage site. The cliffs, about 120 kilometres from Almaty, are marked with thousands of rock paintings and carvings dating from the Bronze Age onward. Among the hunting scenes and animal figures are carvings of the Buddha, Buddhist mantras in Sanskrit and pictures of important Buddhist teachers.
Local legend has it that a Buddhist mission had stopped by the banks of the Ili River under some rock cliffs when a sudden earthquake caused a hunk of rock to fall from the cliffs near them. In gratitude at their deliverance, they created the largest Buddha image there, facing the sky from a large, sunblasted rock, before they continued.Elsewhere in Almaty oblast, the Kora River bursts through the mountains near the town of Tekeli. In the nearby river valley is a large, pyramid-shaped rock with Buddhist images carved into it. Surrounded by a well-beaten path, the rock’s images are complex and reflect many aspects of Tibetan Buddhism. There is a stupa, a snow lion holding a stupa (the snow lion often represents cheerfulness, clear-mindedness and fearlessness in Tibetan Buddhist traditions), and symbols representing a Buddhist concept of cycles of time. The path around the stone may indicate that passing Buddhists have practised walking meditation around it, venerating the object. This practice may also be an example of cultural borrowing between Buddhism and Islam in Kazakhstan: Kazakh sufis also walk around shrines and graves. They may meditate using mantras and breath cycles, often practice in small communities centred around a master and believe in rebirth and some other concepts associated with Buddhism. One visitor, the mountain climber and tour leader Andrey Gundarev, pointed out that the word “kora” – also the name of the river – means “circumnabulation” or “revolution” in Tibetan and refers to a walking meditation practice.
Not far from the monument is the Kayalyk settlement, the remains of an 8th – 13th century Silk Road city, and a World Heritage site since 2014. Now mostly earth and stone foundations, there are the remnants of several religious buildings, including a Buddhist temple, at the site, roughly 200 km from the regional centre of Taldykorgan.
It is possible that many Buddhist and other artefacts remain to be found across Kazakhstan’s huge territory. Near Sairam, in the South Kazakhstan oblast, an underground structure has been discovered that scientists believe may be a sixth century Buddhist temple.
Two sets of less ancient ruins, dating from the 17th century, may have been built at the behest of two
brothers: the Kalmyk leaders Ablai-taisha and Ochirtu-taisha. (The Kalmyks, also called Dzungars, were a tribe that left Dzungaria in northwest China in 1607 and took control of portions of what is now Kazakhstan.)
In Karakuly National Park in Karaganda oblast are the ruins of a Buddhist monastery now called Kyzyl Kensh Palace – “Red City” or “Red Ore” in Kazakh, named for its painted red walls. The ruin’s origins are still unclear: one theory says they’re the remains of an ancient Buddhist temple; another says they’re what is left of a 17th century monastery founded by Ochirtu-taisha, who lived there. Another theory posits an 18th century origin as a fort built by Buddhist Kalmyks trying to hold their territory.
The ruins remain a dark place for local residents – touching them has been thought to bring death or bad luck, according to a report on the website. Into the 20th century, some walls remained standing, but today only the foundations remain, though some restoration work has been done.
Not far from Ust-Kamenogorsk city is another set of 17th century ruins: the Ablaykyt Monastery, built between 1654 and 1656 by Ablai-taisha but demolished in 1670. Only the stone wall ringing the old fortress and religious site remains.
A related temple is now gone, but lives on in the name of Semey, formerly Semipalatinsk (“seven palaces”) – named for the seven-halled Buddhist temple on the old settlement of Dorzhinkit, where today’s Semey is now. The temples were destroyed in the latter part of the 17th century.
Kalmyk monasteries were once widespread in eastern Kazakhstan and the Zhetysu region, but as many monastery complexes were collections of yurts, little remains of them. The Kalmyks, however, took their religion with them when they left Kazakhstan: today, the Republic of Kalmykia, a semi-autonomous region of Russia, is the only European nation where Buddhism is a plurality religion.
sourse: Buddhist channel

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

How Buddhism gets localized

by Ven. Suduhumpola Wimalasara Thera, The Buddhist Channel,

Ven. Suduhumpola Wimalasara Thera highlights three countries - Sri Lanka, Japan and China - where Buddhism became a localized religion
Colombo, Sri Lanka -- The spread of Buddhism was due to two reasons. First was the royal patronage it received from Emperors Ashoka and Harsha later the Pala kings. The second was the popular support it received due to its essentially non intrusive nature of its dictates and practices. The countries that have the largest Buddhist populations are China, Japan, Thailand, Vietnam, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, South Korea, Taiwan, Cambodia, and India.
The spread of Buddhism far and wide also made its traditional teachings and philosophy subject to an assimilative process that made it indigenous to the host society and culture. The spread of Buddhism was always through missionaries and pilgrims who followed established trade routes. While it had to compete with established religions it was always amenable to the osmotic absorption of local beliefs and traditions. This paper examines how Buddhism is localized in Sri Lanka, Japan and India.
Sri Lanka
Buddhism arrived in Sri Lanka under royal patronage and became the state religion and a national identity. From its inception it became the sole religion of the state and the Buddhist monastic order was so fashioned that the Buddhist monk was royal advisor, educator and spiritual guide. To a great extent the same socio political order took root in Myanmar and Thailand. Sri Lanka is regarded as the cradle of pure Theravada Buddhism. While this school of Buddhism is soundly based on the Four Noble Truths which eventually leads to Nibbana and the end of suffering the localized Buddhism that is popularly practiced has more mundane objectives such as success in business, social mobility, political recognition etc. These worldly pursuits are far removed from the austere Buddhists teachings found in canonical texts.The Buddhists of Sri Lanka practice a form of devotional and ritualistic Buddhism that has a marginal relation to the Buddhist doctrine of suffering and Nibbana.
In day to day practice of localized Buddhism the ordinary Buddhist life is a series of rituals, ceremonies and traditions which serve to produce a society that is homogenous in terms of religious observances and the acceptance of the authority of the Buddhist clergy.
The rituals performed by Buddhists of Sri Lanka are in essence intended to gain worldly rewards and to prevent misfortune. In order to reach these objectives the Buddha and the monks are invested with supernatural powers.
The purpose of these practices is to gain as much merit as possible and the act of giving ‘Dana’ is central to this form of Buddhist living.
Max Weber when describing Buddhism in Sri Lanka as ‘Monastic Landlordism’ comes close to the localized Buddhism of Sri Lanka where the Temples held large tracts of land not so much as exploitative feudal land lords but benevolent custodians of the belief system that held the nation together.
Buddhism reached the shores of Japan as the religion of the elite society. It was established in the Nara imperial court. Gradually it spread among the general population simultaneous to its synthesis with Shinto. The adoption of Buddhism as the official religion of the court was an accident that owes its occurrence to the ascendancy of the Soga family. During the Taikareforms , Buddhism became the instrument of power of the emperor paving way for the creation of a state sponsored and state administered Buddhism where the monks were recognized officials. Yet Buddhism remained confined to the aristocracy with ordinary people rarely involved in the practice of the religion. This court monopoly of Buddhism in Nara was the cause of the removal of the seat of government from Nara and the shift to Kyoto.
The shift of the imperial capital to Kyoto by Emperor Kammu at the close of the 8th century marked the beginning of the Heian period and the golden years of imperial patronage of Buddhism. The new emperor removed himself from the Nara temples and founded a long line of temples in the environs of Kyoto. The end of the Heian period marked the rise of the warrior class which in turn had a major impact on Buddhism and its role in Japans political order. Increasingly people turned to religion with Buddhist priests who were used to lavish lifestyles were ignored or marginalized with new sects coming to fill the void and meet the needs of the people.
In this backdrop of political upheaval and religious transformations three distinct sects of Buddhism, True Pure Land, Nichiren, and Zen, gained tremendous popularity. While the old established and powerful monasteries were busy pursuing their economic and political ambitions, the new orders spread their teaching that helped spread Buddhism throughout Japan.
For centuries thereafter, Buddhism was more a political instrument than a belief system. The systems of government under imperial rule or the Shoguns influenced the practice of Buddhism.
Buddhism morphed in to a definite Chinese mold that was compatible with the Chinese way of life or the Chinese world view. Thus Buddhism adopted ancestral worship and obscure texts brought from India on filial piety became core belief systems. Buddhism spread faster in northern China where social dynamics helped demolish cultural barriers between the elite ruling families and the general population; In contrast the southern aristocracy and royal families retained their monopoly on power. Daoist and Confucian political ideology helped sustain the political status of elite clans in the south. Finally Buddhism gained official support during the reign of Emperor Wu of the Liang Dynasty. However Buddhism spread fast among the peasantry both in the north and the south.
The immense popularity of Buddhism during the Tang Dynasty is evident from the many caves and structures that survive to date.
As the first religion to come in to China from outside Buddhism has had a major impact on Chinese culture, politics, literature and philosophy for nearly two millennia during which Buddhism was totally and irrevocably localized.
Buddhism is a belief system that evolved in a society that was already under the influence of Hindu Brahamin teaching. The Buddha in seeking the truth to his satisfaction was a social reformer who questioned many of the traditions, surmises and even the dogma that was contemporary to his time. Therefore it was inevitable that his teachings were founded on strong moral assumptions that determined whether a specific act under defined conditions was right [moral] ,wrong [immoral] or neutral [neither right or wrong and hence no moral implication].
Thus Buddhism when transplanted in any society had the advantage of immediately triggering a discussion or debate on ‘Morality? This usually happened according to the composition, structure and genius of that particular society, group or country. It is this unique character of Buddhism that makes it even today a `Science of Morality’. This allows Buddhism as practiced in any country to seek the ‘Moral Truth’ in the context within which it is engaged. The French anthropologist Claude Levi-Strauss of the Sorbonne in Paris wrote on Buddhism "Between this form of religion and myself, there was no likelihood of misunderstanding. It was not a question of bowing down in front of idols or of adoring a supposed supernatural order, but only of paying homage to the decisive wisdom that a thinker, or the society which created his legend, had evolved twenty-five centuries before and to which my civilization could contribute only by confirming it".
This examines Buddhism through an anthropological lens. Hence it does not follow the familiar path of the textual, historical and philosophical analysis. It is necessary to see Buddhism in these different landscapes of Sri Lanka, Japan and China though local practices and traditions instead of the pure textual scripture. It is of course easy to dismiss these traditions and rituals as aberrations or corruptions of the pristine text. However that would be a myopic construction of a far deeper reality of Buddhism as a living experience in the countries that are examined in this paper. Most western scholars associate the practiced Buddhism with notions of political influences such as power, tribe and ethnicity. The anthropology of Buddhism in almost every Asian country contains a wide array of local religious rituals which can only be explained as local compulsions through the millennia since the first sermon at the Deer park at Isipathana.
Ven. Suduhumpola Wimalasara Thera is the Chief incumbent of Japan Naritasan Joso Temple. He is also founder of Daham Sevane Singiththo,The International Development Foundation. Visit the site for more info:

Protection of Buddhism - Sine qua non in any Constitutional reform

by Senaka Weeraratna, The Buddhist Channel, Jan 12, 2016

Colombo, Sri Lanka -- In the light of the proposed changes to the Constitution of Sri Lanka now under consideration and growing accusations of contrived attempts to neutralise the applicability of Article 9 in the Constitution that imposes a mandatory duty on the State to give to Buddhism the foremost place and protect and foster the Buddha Sasana, while assuring to all religions the rights granted by Articles 10 and 14(1)(e), an important question has arisen “ What is the relationship that should exist in the present day between the State and Buddhism?

It is an incontrovertible fact that Buddhism, more than other ideology or religion, has played a singular role in creating an unique civilization and shaping the destinies of this country. Sri Lanka is the oldest Buddhist nation in the world. If not for the continuance of the Dhamma, through the study and practice of it in this country, it is unlikely that there would even be a semblance of pure Sasana in Thailand, Myanmar, Laos, or Cambodia.
It is in Sri Lanka that the Wheel of the Buddha’s law was truly set in motion with the arrival of Arahant Mahinda with the blessings of that great universal monarch, Emperor Asoka. If this event did not take place in Sri Lanka, the Pali Canon may not have got recorded and the noble doctrine of the Buddha, recited and accepted by the Arahats, at Rajagaha, Vesali and Pataliputta, i.e. three Great Councils of the Arya Sangha, would have vanished into thin air long ago.
Arahant Mahinda not only introduced the Dhamma but he also taught it in such a manner that it soon became the overriding element in all the activities of our people in the past, enthused them to develop an altogether new culture, which has become the basis of the social  outlook of the vast majority of our people even to this day. Such is the hold of the Dhamma so ingrained in almost every facet of this country that the Buddhist public very rightly feel that it is something they cannot do without as it is now representative of their life blood, more or less. The day the Buddha Dhamma is abandoned or allowed to fade or wither away with the removal of patronage of our rulers and the protection afforded by the Constitution which was also explicitly set out in Article 5 of the Kandyan Convention of 1815,  that is the day this country would have truly lost its very soul.  
In the pre-colonial period the Sinhalese Monarch protected the Buddha Sasana and maintained its purity as one of his primary duties. He exercised his power and authority over the religion to prevent schisms and heretical interpretations of the Dhamma.   He invoked the “dasa raja dhamma” as a basis of governance. He developed an Animal Friendly Cultural Heritage which is unique to Sri Lanka. The tenet ‘compassion to all living beings’  based on the Buddha’s words in the Karaniya Metta Sutra was heavily influential in the choice of both vocation and diet.  When foreigners came to this country beginning in 1505 they found the Buddhists united and strong. To weaken this unity they adopted every means to divide them. The post – independent Sri Lanka has a fundamental obligation to strengthen the status of Buddhism.
It is our historical track record of service to the cause of Buddhism that has shaped our national identity and brought universal recognition to this country and still continues to do so.
It therefore falls on the current and future generations to ensure that Buddhism continues to flourish in Sri Lanka and that the State performs its historic public duty, as enshrined in the National Constitution, to extend patronage, protection and foster Buddhism both within and outside the country. Any attempt directly or indirectly through tampering with the Constitution to stalemate the applicability of Article 9 which gives foremost place to Buddhism is fraught with grave danger to peaceful co – existence among various communities in Sri Lanka. 

Senaka Weeraratna is an Attorney at Law. Holds a Bachelor of Laws degree (University of Sri Lanka), and Master of Laws (Monash University, Australia). Holds a Diploma (Buddhist Studies) and Master of Arts (Buddhist Studies) obtained from the Post – Graduate Institute of Pali and Buddhist Studies, University of Kelaniya.

Patna University (PU) to tie up with Buddhist nations

  by Pranava K Chaudhary, TNN, Jan 10, 2016

Patna, India -- Patna University will soon collaborate with Buddhist countries to promote Buddhist studies, which will bring the university on international radar. For this purpose, an international meet will be held here later this year, in which several Asian delegates are expected to be present.Chairman of Buddhist Monuments Development Council (BMDC) Arvind Alok on Saturday met Patna University VC Y C Simhadri to chalk out details of this plan. Alok told TOI that Mongolian ambassador has agreed to support Patna University in this regard.
Alok met the PU VC at his residential office, during which he appreciated the interest of latter's wife, who is of Japanese origin, in the proposed collaboration. Mongolian ambassador G Gonbold confirmed his participation in the proposed meet during his talks with the PU VC and Alok over phone from New Delhi.
"Such activities will also play a vital role in promotion of educational environment in the university. Since ancient Patliputra had a rich legacy of Buddhist tradition, there will be peace and right educational atmosphere on the campus," Alok told TOI. The international meet in the university would be attended by ambassadors of Buddhist countries and eminent scholars. Patna University VC Simhadri is also very keen on promoting the university in the international arena. BMDC will facilitate the university in establishing academic collaborations with various Buddhist countries. Buddhist countries have a natural interest in ancient Patliputra and their governments are willing to support Patna University, Alok said.
To encourage Buddhists from across the country, Patna University VC was also advised to establish an international Buddhist studies chair in the university. The chair will include study of Buddhist issues related to Japan, China, Sri Lanka, Korea and Mongolia.

Friday, January 1, 2016

Friday, December 25, 2015

Buddhist family meet

Buddhist family meet on 25th Palakkad.Ven.Sugathapala Banteji Jethavan Buddha vihara, Bangalore)lead the Spiritual program(Chanting, Meditation,Dheeksha).Dhmma mithra Binoj Babu(Thrirathna Bouddha maha Sang- Kerala,Dhammachari Aravind Bodh(Prsident, Neo Buddhist society T.N) took classes on 'What is Buddhism and for what is Buddhism', 'Prabuddha Barath in the view of Babasaheb Ambedker'.Welcome address by N.Haridas Bodh ( Kerala mahabodhi mission)

Monday, December 21, 2015

7 minutes of this Loving Kindness Meditation can reduce racism

Agencies, Nov 23, 2015

New Delhi, India -- All you need is just 7 minutes of meditation to fight racism a new study has revealed.
This technique, that's intended to create feelings of kindness can also reduce prejudice.The study found that just seven minutes of Loving-kindness meditation (LKM), a Buddhist practise that promotes unconditional kindness towards oneself and others, is effective at reducing racial bias.
Lead researcher Alexander Stell said that this indicates that some meditation techniques are about much more than feeling good, and might be an important tool for enhancing inter-group harmony.
LKM is known to engender happiness and kindness to oneself and others through repeating phrases such as `may you be happy and healthy' while visualising a particular person.
The researchers found that just seven minutes of LKM directed to a member of a specific racial group (in this case, a black person) was sufficient to reduce racial bias towards that group. However, there was no marked reduction in racial bias towards other groups.
Additionally the researchers meas ured levels of positive emotions that were either `other-regarding' (e.g. love, gratitude, awe, elevation) and those that were more selfdirected (e.g. contentment, joy , pride) and found that people doing LKM showed large increases specifically in other-regarding emotions.
These other-regarding emotions were found to be what drives the reduction of bias.

World-Famous Buddhas of Bamiyan Resurrected in Afghanistan

Press Trust of India, June 15, 2015

Kabul, Afghanistan -- Fourteen years after the Taliban dynamited the world-famous Buddhas of Bamiyan, the giant statues were resurrected with 3D light projection technology in the empty cavities where they once stood in Afghanistan.
<< The projected image of a Buddha statue in Bamiyan that had been destroyed by the Taliban in 2001. (AFP Photo)
The project was undertaken by a Chinese couple who used 3D laser light projection technology to fill the empty cavities in the cliff in the Bamiyan Valley in Hazarajat with Buddha's virtual images, 230 km northwest of Kabul.
The couple - Janson Yu and Liyan Hu - were saddened by the destruction of the two statues which were carved during the 6th century and decided to undertake the project.
They took permission both from the Afghan government and UNESCO to bring the statues back for one night only in the empty cavities in the cliff.
The event on June 7 saw projectors displaying huge holographic statues of the exact size of the precious cultural monuments that were lost, accompanied by music.
"The projections were not widely publicised, but over 150 people came to see the spectacle. Crowds remained well into the night and some people played music while others looked on," a journalist, who witnessed the show, was quoted as saying by The Atlanic.
Both Standing Buddhas - 115 ft and 174 ft tall - were carved out of sandstone cliffs and stood at one point painted and gilded. They managed to survive for more than 1500 years.
But the Taliban dynamited and destroyed them in March 2001 as part of a campaign to remove all non-Islamic art from Afghanistan.
The statues were among the most famous cultural landmarks of the region, and the site was listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site along with the surrounding cultural landscape and archaeological remains of the Bamiyan Valley.
Japan and Switzerland, among others, have pledged support for the rebuilding of the statues.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Buddhism and the Climate-Energy Emergency

Statue of Buddha Sakyamuni, Bodh Gaya, India

It is in this way that we must train ourselves: by liberation of the self through love. We will develop love, we will practice it, we will make it both a way and a basis, take our stand upon it, store it up, and thoroughly set it going.
The Buddha, Samyutta Nikaya
Environmental and social breakdown is now vast and global in scale.   Technological advances have provided the basis for a new kind of social evolution, beyond cultural, religious or spiritual boundaries.  Technology, however, is not ultimately directed by reason, but by internal forces of sociobiology and psychology. Human instincts have destructive as well as benign aspects. As much as we may celebrate our art, scientific knowledge or altruism, we can no longer ignore the truth that we are also ‘the most dangerous animal’. [1]
Humans are opportunistic, as are all higher animals, and characteristically greedy. Our high intelligence confers the capacity to manipulate others to accumulate power or resources. We are quite easily trained into violent forms of aggression. Now that we have ‘accidentally’ acquired the capacity to destroy the climate of this planet, what will we call upon to restrain ourselves in time?
Technological prowess alone cannot confer contentment or happiness on us: in ‘advanced’ societies, the rates of anxiety, stress and mental illness are greater than ever previously recorded. [2] On a physical level too, cancer, cardiovascular disease, inflammatory and auto-immune disease as well as diverse ‘functional illnesses’ have become epidemic. [3] What will our governments, corporations and politicians now do with the power of life or death over the biosphere from which our species evolved?
Do politicians even understand the scientific facts? Are they as attentive to their citizens and future human generations as they are to the most profitable corporate special interest in commercial history, the fossil fuel industry?  The answer to these questions will determine the course of the Sixth Great Extinction in Earth history, which is now unfolding. It could even provoke the end of an era of geological time [4]—or as Buddhists would say, the end of an aeon:
The poison of global warming due to the harnessing of machines in all places and times,
Is causing the existing snow mountains to melt,
And the oceans will consequently bring the world within reach of the aeon’s end.
Grant your blessings that the world may be protected from these conditions!
Kyabje Sakya Trizin Rinpoche

For a Future to Be Possible

Sustainable development meets the requirements of the present, without damaging the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. A long-term view is essential, in the words of Thich Nhat Hanh, for a future to be possible [5]. Human beings are very much more than economic units.  The assumption that progress is the creation of ever more wealth and possessions is a documented cause of anxiety and mental illness. [2]
For a consumer society, having rather than well-being is the raison d’etre. It is powered by polluting energy sources and guided by a pseudo-scientific principle of limitless economic growth.  Both these factors are antipathetic to basic laws of biology.  We imagine our society as an environment above and beyond the rest of the living world. The truth, as former senior economist at the World Bank, Professor Herman Daly states, is otherwise:
The larger system is the biosphere and the subsystem is the economy. The economy is geared for growth, whereas the parent system doesn’t grow. It remains the same size. So as the economy grows, it encroaches upon the biosphere, and this is its fundamental cost.
Scientists consider that a ‘top predator’ like Homo sapiens relies on the whole pyramid of biological life beneath it. Therefore the destruction of whole ecosystems is suicidal for our species. For Mahayana Buddhism, which sees all life as interdependent, driving other species to extinction is unmistakably harming ourselves and our own destiny.
If we ask why our social evolution has become so maladaptive, we come immediately upon the key influence of mass advertising.  From an early age, we are bombarded by powerful imagery, deployed through a hypnotic medium, television, that bypasses conscious filters to directly influence our subconscious mind. The vivid imagery of television and movies create a seamless virtual reality that programs our collective nervous system. From America to China, consumerism has become an organizing principle for billions of peoples’ lives. Zen Buddhist philosopher David R. Loy states:
Consumerism requires and develops a sense of our own impoverishment. By manipulating the gnawing sense of lack that haunts our insecure sense of self, the attention economy insinuates its basic message deep into our awareness: the solution to any discomfort we might have is consumption.  Needless to say, this all-pervasive conditioning is incompatible with the liberative path of Buddhism. [6]
Consumption has replaced religion and citizenship as the way we participate in society.  It is one of 4 Megaphenomena that have ‘spiked’ in intensity over the last century, combining to create unprecedented danger for the biosphere. Population growth, carbon gas emissions and species extinctions are the other three megaphenomena.
Fossil fuels will be exhausted within this century. The production of oil, the most valuable and versatile fossil fuel, seems already to have peaked.  This is happening just as increased summer melting of the Arctic pack-ice moves us towards the first predicted 'tipping point' in a climate crisis. We have entered upon the period of climate-energy emergency.

How can Buddhism help?

One day during meditation, I was contemplating global warming….
With some anguish, I asked Nature this question: ‘Nature, do you think we can rely on you?’  I asked the question because I know that Nature is intelligent, she knows how to react, sometimes violently, to re-establish balance.  And I heard the answer in the form of another question: ‘Can I rely on you?’  The question was being put back to me: can Nature rely on humans? And after long, deep breathing, I said ‘Yes, you can mostly rely on me.’  And then I heard Nature’s answer, ‘Yes, you can also mostly rely on me.’  That was a very deep conversation I had with Nature.
This should not be a mere verbal declaration. It should be a deep commitment from everyone, so that Nature can respond in kind.  With collective insight we can reconcile with and heal our planet.  Each of us can do something in our own daily lives to contribute, to ensure that a future is possible for the next generation.
Thich Nhat Hanh [5]
Buddhism has powerful cultural assets. It has long-established contemplative methods and ethical teachings, the weight of traditional religious communities, moral authority and the potential political power of millions of adherents. Altogether, the world’s 376 million Buddhists comprise 6% of religious adherents.  Above all, Buddhism is based on the recognition of interdependence.
Interdependence is the spiritual truth that biologists have have independently discovered through the scientific discipline of ecology. Whether we like it or not, we have entered the century of the environment, of ecological reality. In this century, then, Buddhism has a special destiny.  
In the 10 countries where Buddhists are a majority, they can exert a major influence on government policy. In Bhutan, for example, Buddhist principles have replaced the limiting economic concept of GDP by that of ‘gross national happiness’. Exemplary forest protection laws have been put in place. In the ‘advanced’ societies of Europe and the U.S., Buddhism has been embraced by many people searching for effective spiritual practice in an environment of consumerism and nihilism. Nobel Peace Awards to the Dalai Lama (1989) and Aung San Suu Kyi (1991) have brought about widespread recognition of Buddhist leadership in non-violent progressive values.
There has never been a more important time in history to organize all Buddhist resources systematically, on behalf of sentient beings. There has never been a time when communication systems make this as possible as they do now. Buddhist spiritual power could create examples of change that influence the whole world. 
Unleashing that power, however, requires religious people to bring their values to the public square… to leave one’s values at home is to assent to the status quo of excessive individualism, consumerism, commodification of myriad aspects of life, environmental decline, and the absence of strong communities. The religious community’s gift—to articulate the ethical and spiritual dimensions of modern issues—is indispensable to full public discussion of the pressing challenges of our day, and to developing a new understanding of human progress in the 21st century. [7]
Many Buddhist public events, rituals and projects are dedicated to world peace.  However, environmental catastrophes, climate destruction, and struggles over fossil fuels are making world peace impossible. According to the U.N., 60 nations, mainly in the Third World, will see tensions amplified by ever-scarcer resources. Global warming could flood the great rice-growing deltas of Asia through rising sea levels, and bring about the disappearance of Himalayan glaciers in Tibet, abolishing the water supply of hundreds of millions of people. Even countries not directly affected by environmental disasters could be flooded by millions of refugees.  These are very practical matters for the survival of Buddhism in Asia, as well as for world peace.
In summary, the climate-energy emergency is so consequential as to be a moral and ethical matter of the first order. The case can be made that a pan-Buddhist Council should be convened to address it.  One aim would be to discuss the full facts with scientists and consider the multi-dimensional implications of the crisis. We should arrive at an unambiguous common position on protection of the climate and the living world, an inspiration to all people of good heart.
If it is reasonable action which is by nature beneficial to truth and justice, then by abandoning procrastination and discouragement, the more you encounter obstruction, the more you should strengthen your courage and make effort. That is the conduct of a wise and good person.
Dalai Lama XIV [8]
By the end of this century, the Earth could lose up to half its species. These extinctions will alter not only biological diversity but also the evolutionary process itself. General ignorance, indifference or deceit about this mass extinction endangers our own species too.  Modern man emerged from archaic human species about 200,000 years ago. We were initially one of three human species on Earth—the others, Homo erectus and Homo neanderthalensis became extinct. We have survived and come to dominate the whole planet. Ninety nine percent of all the species that have ever lived have become extinct, and we too could make ourselves extinct through runaway global warming.
You see, one day we might find all living things on this planet—including human beings—are doomed.
Dalai Lama XIV [9]
We still have a brief window of opportunity to ensure the continuity of many varied and beautiful forms of life on Earth, including our own. So we find ourselves living through the most momentous of times. In this section you can find the views, advice and aspirations of noted and authentic Buddhist teachers—A Buddhist Response to Global Warming.  The many species that constitute the living world have no voice to ask for our compassion, wisdom and leadership. Please participate in ‘breaking the silence’:
There comes a time in all of our lives when silence is a betrayal. [10]

[1]  D. Livingstone Smith [2007] The Most Dangerous Animal
[2]  O. James [2008] The Selfish Capitalist
[3]  W. Meggs [2003] The Inflammation Cure
[4]  M. Lynas [2007] Six Degrees—Our Future on a Hotter Planet
[5]  Thich Nhat Hanh [2007] The Art of Power
[6]  D. R. Loy [2008] Consciousness Commodified: The Attention-Deficit Society (Tikkun)
[7]  G. Gardner [2006] Inspiring Progress
[8]  T. Laird [2006] The Story of Tibet – Conversations with the Dalai Lama
[9]  Dalai Lama XIV [1992] Address at the Rio Earth Summit
[10]Statement by Martin Luther King

Monday, November 23, 2015





Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Early Buddhist Paths that Lead to Liberation

by Josh Korda, The Huffington Post, Oct 20, 2015

San Francisco, CA (USA) -- In the Buddhist practice awakening, or sambodhi (in pali), is the achievement of inner peace that sustains itself regardless of conditions beyond our control. In verse 154 of the great dhammapada, when the Buddha announces his awakening, he refers to lasting happiness as 'the unconditioned.'
Transcendence is a a state of witnessing as experiences unfold in a state of constant flux and upheaval without taking the universal events of life personally; we are all subject to the ravages of aging and sickness, the grief of separation from loved ones, financial instability, frustrations, loss.
Additionally, our peace of mind is sabotaged by our default settings: remaining constantly vigilant for threats even while we are perfectly safe, dwelling obsessively on negative experiences while overlooking the positive,, our predilection for addictive, short-term sensual pleasures (consumerism, escapist entertainment, meaningless hook ups and on). Alas, no matter how much we accumulate, we feel that underlying awareness that the sugary sweetness of sensory pleasures will end and we'll once again realize how exposed we are to inevitable losses and separation.
While the lures of money, objects, sex and privilege lose their luster, liberation through spiritual practice provides a complete form of happiness; awakening means becoming aware of a calmness and ease that doesn't require chasing fleeting sensual pleasures, all of which are too quickly found wanting. The lasting contentments of awakening can be maintained, as they are produced by that resources entirely within our control: the skill of focusing the mind, relinquishing unskillful thoughts and sustaining the proper attitudes of kindness, appreciation, equanimity, focus. In short, spiritual practice aims for a liberation from imprisonment, a freedom from seeking happiness in all the wrong places, a true peace in the sustainable and endlessly renewable.
Liberation: A cooler head
The etymology of the word nibbana (pali) is derived from the verb to extinguish or snuff out, for example using our breath to blow out a candle. Just as extinguishing a fire results in a cooling down, siitibhuuta in pali, the tranquil state achieved after quenching the devouring heat of greed, hatred, and self-righteousness, results in a 'cool head.' In using common words--such as nibbana and siitibhhutta-- the Buddha was purposely expressing to his followers that the liberating goal of spiritual practice is attainable, a real possibility not reserved solely for people in robes sitting in solitude in jungles or remote mountains. Hatred, greed, self-centered obsession are uncomfortable states in which to reside, we can be relieved of these conditions.
When we drop the idea of liberation being a place or lasting state, we can open to the possibility of incremental liberation. Rather than being trapped in comparing our states of ease to "complete liberation from all suffering" we can rest in states of ease as they arise, enjoying release without judging or criticizing it in absolute terms. In other words, liberation is available; it's an active state, a verb that requires a degree of effort, not a noun suggesting a place one arrives at; being freed from needless suffering requires continuous mental awareness; it requires discipline and practice to cultivate and maintain a state of contentment throughout the inevitable pains and frustrations of life. What follows is a list of some early Buddhist paths that lead to real and reliable serenity. Awakening through ConcentrationThe oldest paths to liberation, such as those described in the Anapanasati sutta, arrive via the meditative practices of concentration (samadhi in pali). The ease born of focusing awareness on a single meditative object--perhaps the breath, the phrases of metta, body awareness, consciousness itself--allows a state of relaxed ease to suffuse the body; we're no longer armored, muscles in a habitual state of contraction. The ease derives from releasing our attention from that which we have no real control. In letting go of attending to all that is arising and passing in the background, we're freed to attend to that which we can influence: for example, we work with the breath, extending the exhalations to calm the mind, exploring the sensations of respiration to center awareness. From a present-time perspective of a relaxed body and mind, the thoughts that disturb us--invariably based on past memories or future projections--lose their appeal. Instead the mind floats in awareness of a sensations, eventually dropping into the profound absorption states (jhanas).
Awakening via Atammayata
Another practice that leads to liberation can described as 'resting in a mind like a vast sky,' a practice that stands in some ways as an opposite to concentration. Instead of following any specific thoughts, moods, perceptions or sensations flowing through awareness, we keep the mind open and spacious, floating in the fullness of the present moment that is singular and never repeating. This results in a state known as atammayata (pali): in contrast to the mind's tendency to contract around possible threats or opportunities, resulting in a rollercoaster ride of perceptions that leave us rattled, shaken and stirred, we keep the mind aware of our complete present experience allows us to remain unattached, releasing our fixation on worries that can quickly darken the mind. A spacious awareness always has a wide enough array of sensations to balance out the disturbances; a narrow mind becomes poisoned by fleeting fears and insecurities.
Awakening Through InsightThere are many that seek a path to liberation via insight (vipassana in pali) practice of noting the impermanence and impersonality of conditioned experience. This practice found its greatest expression in the path elucidated by the Venerable Mahasi Sayadaw. The process involves freeing awareness from adherence to the constant narratives and ideas that run through the mind, paying attention instead to the actual experiences themselves, which are comprised of a series of sensations. In bare attention--awareness free of ideas or concepts--we experience only a flow of body sensations, feeling states, ephemeral moods and on. As we attend to this ceaseless parade, we arrive at a profound state wherein we become keenly aware of existing in a state that's constantly in flux, situations breaking apart, known as the dissolution awareness (bhanganupassana-nana pali). Even the sensations and perceptions we associate with our core identity or self are observed to be impermanent and unreliable.
Many practitioners will find this experience to be pleasant, while some will experience dissolution awareness as profoundly unsettling, a kind of dark night of the soul so to speak. For direct knowledge of the constant dissolution of life's moments leaves us without any familiar sense of stability; this is a path that commonly leads through states of terror, disgust, and eventually a desperate yearning for deliverance. Only when a profound equanimity towards all phenomena is arrived at, a perception of identity-less awareness. This path requires seeing non-self in all experience, abandoning the clinging to the mind and body processes is the requirement for any relief. Not a path for the faint hearted or the easily deterred.
Finally, Don't claim enlightenmentIt is worth noting that the Buddha did not announce himself to be enlightened; but rather he said "I am awake." (Buddha is a title that means 'he who has awakened.) The Buddha spent his time answering questions, not proselytizing the disenclined or practitioners of other faiths. When asked what to believe he encouraged practitioners to investigate the mind for themselves, seeing which kind of mental and physical activities lead to peace and which to suffering. Whatever degree of liberation we seek or attain, seeking a soap box and bullhorn to persuade others is the surest sign we're nowhere near any liberation, and that's truly a shame if ever there was one.


Friday, November 13, 2015

Why the Buddha Touched the Earth

by John Stanley & David Loy

The entire cosmos is a cooperative. The sun, the moon, and the stars live together as a cooperative. The same is true for humans and animals, trees, and the Earth. When we realize that the world is a mutual, interdependent, cooperative enterprise -- then we can build a noble environment. If our lives are not based on this truth, then we shall perish. --Buddhadasa Bhikkhu

The term 'engaged Buddhism' was created to restore the true meaning of Buddhism. Engaged Buddhism is simply Buddhism applied in our daily lives. If it's not engaged, it can't be called Buddhism. Buddhist practice takes place not only in monasteries, meditation halls and Buddhist institutes, but in whatever situation we find ourselves. Engaged Buddhism means the activities of daily life combined with the practice of mindfulness. --Thich Nhat Hanh

In one of Buddhism's iconic images, Gautama Buddha sits in meditation with his left palm upright on his lap, while his right hand touches the earth. Demonic forces have tried to unseat him, because their king, Mara, claims that place under the bodhi tree. As they proclaim their leader's powers, Mara demands that Gautama produce a witness to confirm his spiritual awakening. The Buddha simply touches the earth with his right hand, and the Earth itself immediately responds: "I am your witness." Mara and his minions vanish. The morning star appears in the sky. This moment of supreme enlightenment is the central experience from which the whole of the Buddhist tradition unfolds.

The great 20th-century Vedantin sage, Ramana Maharshi said that the Earth is in a constant state of dhyana (meditative absorption). The Buddha's earth-witness mudra (hand position) is a beautiful example of "embodied cognition." His posture and gesture embody unshakeable self-realization. He does not ask heavenly beings for assistance. Instead, without using any words, the Buddha calls on the Earth to bear witness.

The Earth has observed much more than the Buddha's awakening. For the last 3 billion years the Earth has borne witness to the evolution of its innumerable life-forms, from unicellular creatures to the extraordinary diversity and complexity of plant and animal life that flourishes today. We not only observe this multiplicity, we are part of it -- even as our species continues to damage it. Many biologists predict that half the Earth's plant and animal species could disappear by the end of this century, on the current growth trajectories of human population, economy and pollution. This sobering fact reminds us that global warming is the primary, but not the only, extraordinary ecological crisis confronting us today.

Has Mara taken a new form today -- as our own species? Just as Mara claimed the Buddha's sitting-place as his own, Homo sapiens today claims, in effect, that the only really important species is itself. All other species have meaning and value only insofar as they serve our purposes. Indeed, powerful elements of our economic system (notably Big Oil and its enablers) seem to have relocated to the state of "zero empathy," a characteristic of psychopathic or narcissistic personalities.

The Earth community has a self-emergent, interdependent, cooperative nature. We humans have no substance or reality that is separate from this community. Thich Nhat Hanh refers to this as our "inter-being": we and other species "inter-are." If we base our life and conduct on this truth, we transcend the notion that Buddhist practice takes place within a religious framework that promotes only our own individual awakening. We realize the importance of integrating the practice of mindfulness into the activities of daily life. And if we really consider Mother Earth as an integral community and a witness of enlightenment, don't we have a responsibility to protect her through mindful "sacred activism"?

This year the U.S. president will determine whether or not to approve a proposed pipeline, which will extend from the "great American carbon bomb" of the Alberta Tar Sands to the Texas oil refineries. The implications are enormous. The devastation that would result from processing and burning even half the Tar Sands oil is literally incalculable: the resulting increase in atmospheric carbon would trigger "tipping points" for runaway global warming. Our most insightful climate scientist, NASA's James Hansen, states that if this project alone goes ahead, it will be "game over" for the Earth's climate. This is a challenge we cannot evade. It is crucial for Buddhists to join forces with other concerned people in creative and resolute opposition to this potentially fatal new folly.

As the Buddha's enlightenment reminds us, our awakening too is linked to the Earth. The Earth bore witness to the Buddha, and now the Earth needs us to bear witness -- to its dhyana, its steadfastness, the matrix of support it continually provides for living beings. New types of bodhisattvas -- "ecosattvas" -- are needed, who combine the practice of self-transformation with devotion to social and ecological transformation. Yes, we need to write letters and emails to the President, hopefully to influence his decision. But we may also need to consider other strategies if such appeals are ignored, such as nonviolent civil disobedience. That's because this decision isn't just about a financial debt ceiling. This is about the Earth's carbon ceiling. This is about humanity's survival ceiling. As the Earth is our witness.

John Stanley & David Loy direct & advise the Ecobuddhism Project.


Air India flights from Varanasi to boost Buddhist tourism

BHUBANESWAR: In a boost to Buddhist tourism in the state, Air India on Sunday started operations between Varanasi and Bhubaneswar. The flight will be available on Tuesdays, Thursdays, Fridays and Sundays.

With 32 passengers, including two foreign tourists onboard, the AI-419 landed at Biju Patnaik International Airport at 2 pm. The flight has 180 seats.

Tourism minister Ashok Panda and secretary L N Gupta gave a warm welcome to the passengers upon their arrival at the airport. The duration of the flight will be 90 minutes. The flight will take off from Varanasi at 12.30 pm and land here at 2 pm. The return flight will leave Bhubaneswar at 2.45 pm and reach Varanasi at 4.15 pm. Fares start from Rs 2,500."A large number of Buddhist tourists from south-east Asian countries visit Varanasi every year. The air connectivity between Varanasi and Bhubaneswar will bring in more tourists from Varanasi to Odisha, which is home to Buddhist destinations such as Ratnagiri-Udaygiri-Lalitgiri, Dhauli Peace Pagoda and Langudi," said Gupta. "We will shortly organize road shows in Varanasi to promote our Buddhist sites. Tour operators in Varanasi will be sensitized about our tourism potential," Gupta said.

Biju Patnaik International Airport director Sharad Kumar said the state government should launch vibrant marketing of the air connectivity between the two cities. "November is peak tourist season in Odisha. Launch of the flight operation at this time is the right moment to promote the state's tourism. Both Air India and the state government advertise the flight schedules," Kumar told TOI.

The question remains whether or not the state government will be able to woo tourists from Varanasi, as it squarely failed to promote the state's Buddhist circuit during the extension of Mahaparinirvan Express, aka Buddhist train in 2013. The interstate special train, which promotes Buddhist tourism and runs through famous Buddhist destinations in Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and Delhi, was extended till Odisha in January 2013. The train, jointly promoted by the Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC) and Odisha tourism department, had come to Odisha only once on January 22. The service was discontinued due to poor response from tourists.

"The state government lacks marketing strategies. The Mahaparinirvan Express stopped coming to Odisha as the department failed to promote its potential. We apprehend that the Varanasi-Bhubaneswar flight will also go the same way," said a tour operator.

Nip unholy hate speech in the bud

by Sanitsuda Ekachai, The Bangkok Post, Nov 4, 2015

Bangkok, Thailand -- For a Buddhist monk killed in the deep South, a mosque should be burned down in retaliation. This violent proposal from a Buddhist monk stirred a heated debate on social media last week. Is it merely a storm in a tea cup? The answer is no.
<< Phra Apichart Punnajanto, an instructor at Wat Benchamabophit in Bangkok, started the controversy when he demanded a mosque be razed every time a Buddhist monk is killed
Rather, his call for violence is just the tip of the iceberg. If not nipped in the bud, Thailand may soon follow the bloody paths of religious violence in Myanmar and Sri Lanka.
The monk at the centre of the controversy is Phra Apichart Punnajanto, head of monk preachers at the prestigious Wat Benchamabopit (the Marble Temple).

We learned about his fierce hatred for Muslims last week through his Facebook post, but he must have long shared his violent views with other monk preachers.
When I read his Facebook post, I felt the same way many did. Appalled. Everything he said is against Buddhism. But to my dismay, his violence was welcomed by many like minds.
 How should we respond to this monk's unmonkly violent extremism? Many believe we should not give him the attention he seeks. It is also just one monk's view. Furthermore, more discussions will most likely trigger resentment and anger from Muslims, many of whom - like this monk - operate with ethnic and racial chauvinism, not their prophet's peaceful teachings. So why let ourselves be this monk's tool to intensify religious division? Just ignore him and let his ugly proposal die a natural death in social media.
I disagree.
Phra Apichart's mosque-burning idea may be just his personal one. But fear and prejudice against Islam and Muslims in the Buddhist clergy are certainly not.
The clergy is now campaigning to make Buddhism the national religion in the new constitution.
The attempt is not new. It comes up every time the country is writing a new constitution, which is quite often. And every time, the reason is to give Thai Buddhism better protection from external threats, read other religions.
When I was covering the clergy's previous national religion attempts, pamphlets about threats from Islam and Christianity were distributed openly. This could not be possible without support from higher-ups.
There was once an attempt to create an inter-faith commission to set policies on religious matters. Again, the clergy attacked it as a ploy which would allow other faiths to have a say on policies governing Thai Buddhism. The plan was eventually aborted.
During the past decade, fear of Islam has been fanned up by the southern insurgency. While Buddhism encourages attempts to transcend all layers of prejudice - religious, racial, ideological, or gender-based -  to generate compassion from an understanding that all is one and the same, most Thai Buddhist monks are locked into ultra-nationalism.
For them, southern Muslims are outsiders because they are not ethnic Thais. As outsiders, they should not ask too much from the host country. And should they turn to violence to get what they want, they should get violence in return.
"It's time to arm Thai Buddhists," urged Phra Apichart. "Time for compassion has run out. If a monk is killed in the deep South, a mosque must be burned down in exchange.
"Starting from the North, we must chase away this cult from every area until there is no one in that cult left. We will oppose its attempt to enter our area through all means," he said in his post.
This thinking, which echoes other right-wing monks, makes me think they should leave the monkhood right away. 
But if we find the ultra-nationalistic views from the likes of Phra Apichart appalling, what should concern us more is the total silence from the elders to his call to arms. Such silence can only be interpreted as tacit support.
In August this year, the Sangha Council issued an order prohibiting monks from posting on social media anything that is damaging to Buddhism. The elders are obviously unhappy about the widely shared pictures of monks drinking or engaging in sexual or other unmonkly acts and want to protect the clergy's image.
Those monks who wrongly use social media will be punished, threatened the elders.
Phra Apichart's Facebook post is hate speech pure and simple. It incites hate, violence, leading to killings. It betrays Buddhist teachings on every count. Yet the cleric elders did not say a word.
The threat to Thai Buddhism is not external. The monks are their own enemies. When they are taken over by racist nationalism and become cheerleaders for violence, they cannot expect to retain public trust and respect.
Sanitsuda Ekachai is editorial pages editor, Bangkok Post.
sourse: Buddhist Channel

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Buddhist Circuit Special Train begins season's first trip

One India, October 31, 2015

New Delhi, India -- With eight Indians and 44 foreigners on board, the Buddhist Circuit Special Train, operated by Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC), embarked on its first journey of the season on Saturday.
<< Buddhist Circuit special train begins
The train steamed out from Safdarjung station here and it would take the travellers on a spiritual trail of some of the most famous landmarks associated with Lord Buddha.
The eight-day itinerary would cover places like Bodh Gaya, Rajgir, Nalanda, Sarnath, Kushinagar, Lumbini and Shravasti. Agra has also been included in the final leg of the journey to facilitate a visit to the Taj Mahal.
"The package allows the travellers from abroad to explore, experience and rekindle their civilisational linkages with India. The itinerary has been hammered out in a way that makes it all-inclusive and extremely convenient for our patrons," said A.K. Manocha, chairman and managing director, IRCTC.
"The travellers can visit most of the landmarks associated with Lord Buddha in a single journey," he added. The other departure dates of the train are December 26, 2015 and January 9, February 13 and March 12 next year.
"The Buddhist Circuit Train has been gaining popularity in international markets and it attracts clientele from China, Taiwan, Japan, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia and Sri Lanka, among others.
The train fits into the scheme of those who are looking to undertake a Buddhist pilgrimage in India," said Manocha. IRCTC had launched the Buddhist Circuit Special Train in 2007.
The all-inclusive tour package includes confirmed rail ticket, hotel accommodation, road transport, tour guide services, tour manager services, all meals, Wi-Fi, CCTV surveillance, travel insurance, security and monument admission fees. The train has attracted pilgrims, tourists, travel agents and tour operators from more than 35 countries during the last eight seasons, said officials.
sourse: Buddhist channel

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Mindfulness in the mainstream: an old solution to modern problems

by Robert Booth, The Guardian, 20 October 2015

Leading mindfulness expert Mark Williams will brief MPs on how meditation could drastically improve the UK’s wellbeing and productivity
London, UK - The Attlee Room in parliament will fall quiet on Tuesday to hear one of the country’s leading meditation teachers explain the basics of the 2,400-year-old tradition of mindfulness.
Prof Mark Williams’ explanation of how to control and measure your breath, thoughts and feelings will precede a call by a cross-party group of MPs and peers to roll out mindfulness-based meditation across the public sector in a bid to improve the nation’s mental health, education and criminal justice system.
After a year-long inquiry, the all party parliamentary group (APPG) on mindfulness has concluded that secular meditation courses should be made available to 580,000 people who suffer recurrent relapses into depression, at an initial cost of £10m; the state should train 1,200 new meditation teachers and there should be more mindfulness taught in schools following evidence that it reduces misbehaviour and can improve GCSE results. They also want prisons and probation services to test run programmes to reduce re-offending.The legislators’ conclusions represent a new peak in public interest in the practice which was derived 40 years ago from Buddhism by professor of medicine emeritus at the University of Massachusetts medical school, Jon Kabat-Zinn. Amid claims the practice can help beat anxiety and depressive relapses, about 2,200 people have trained as mindfulness teachers in the UK, enough to teach 200,000 people a year. There are over 700,000 subscribers to the Headspace smartphone app which helps people meditate. Major employers such as Google, the BBC and Tata are hiring teachers to help staff while 115 MPs and peers have undergone eight-week courses in mindfulness-based cognitive therapy.
But as enthusiasm grows, so do the calls for caution. There are fears that a boom in corporate enthusiasm for the practice could see mindfulness misused to boost profits while research remains ongoing into possible “unusual, unpleasant or unexpected effects” of the meditations.
The best evidence for the impact of mindfulness is in its prevention of depression. People who have suffered three or more depressive episodes see the risk of relapse reduced by almost half after MBCT, an analysis of six randomised controlled trials showed. According to a review of 114 different studies, cited by the parliamentarians, consistent improvements in cancer patients’ mental health were found following mindfulness practice.
While MBCT is already approved by the government’s National Institute of Clinical Excellence and the large majority of GPs (72%) want to refer patients to courses, the APPG found only 20% have access to courses. MBCT should be available to 87,000 people a year who suffer recurrent depression by 2020 – 15% of the total, the parliamentarians said.
The group also want the education department to designate three schools to pioneer mindfulness teaching and establish a £1m fund to cover training costs for teachers. They have estimated that around one in 10 children aged five to 16 experience mental health problems and said adolescents with the most severe mental health problems – those being treated as psychiatric outpatients – have most to gain from courses of mindfulness-based stress reduction in terms of reduced depression and anxiety, better sleep and self-esteem.
Kabat-Zinn said: “The ramifications of this report in the UK will be profoundly beneficial. They will be addressing some of the most pressing problems of society at their very root – at the level of the human heart and mind.”
Britain's most dangerous prisoners to get meditation lessons
One company, Mindfulness at Work, taught 10,000 people last year, a four-fold annual increase. It has 25 trainers and its clients include Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan, Pfizer and American Express. Louise Chester, the company’s founder, said her organisation would not serve a client whose motive was bigger profits. “If we ever got a whiff of them wanting to squeeze more out of their employees we wouldn’t work there,” she said. “We have never had that. Our clients are coming from a place of compassion.”
But the APPG and other worker’s groups remain concerned about possible abuse of mindfulness in the private sector. “A large number of companies and consultancies have sprung up to offer mindfulness training, some with little experience or qualification to do so,” the report warned. “There has been criticism that mindfulness is being used to prop up dysfunctional organisations and unsuitable workloads.”
Hugh Robertson, senior policy officer at the Trades Union Congress, said: “Wellbeing programmes should not be used as an excuse to avoid addressing stressors in the workplace.” He added that research was going on into “unusual, unpleasant or unexpected effects” of mindfulness therapies, including whether it might trigger psychotic episodes in rare cases in predisposed patients. Florian Ruths, consultant psychiatrist at the South London and Maudsley NHS foundation trust, has been gathering evidence from patients, mostly with mental health problems, who have been prescribed MBCT. Negative effects are rare, he said.
“Most of [the side effects] are largely harmless, but they can disturb the patient in that they think there is something unusual happening,” he said. “People might experience in the eye of their minds that their body is taking an unusual shape or is suddenly very small. There can be an increase in intensity in emotions.
“We know that people can feel a bit lower when they start focusing on their thoughts. These are generally not very frequent and usually subside after a few minutes. We would like to make those effects accessible to science, investigate them and train people up to deal with them.”
sourse:Buddhist channel

Friday, October 16, 2015

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Maharashtra government to prepare Buddhist draft law in a month

DNA India, 5 October 2015

New Delhi, India -- Hopes for the state enacting a separate Budhhist Law, which is pending for last 59 years, have been revived for the Budhhist community as the government has asked an experts' committee to submit its best possible final draft for the same in a month.
The Buddhist community is demanding separate laws for marriages and inheritance since the rituals are far different from existing provisions of Hindu marriage law.
Minister for social justice Rajkumar Badole after the meeting of the expert's committee said that while the committee would add to the existing draft prepared by the government, it would also seek public opinion as well as suggestions. He said that the Buddhist Law drafting committee has prepared a draft legislation. Also, various NGOs working in this field have prepared a draft too.
Badole said that since the committee has experts from NGOs as well as legal experts, it would prepare a final draft within a month that would pave way for enacting legislation which would facilitate Buddhist marriages and inheritance law in the state. He pointed out that this demand was being made since Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar, the Father of Indian Constitution embraced Budhhism way back in 1956. He informed that the prevailing Hindu Marriage act can't be followed while performing a Budhhist wedding since the rituals are different. Badole said that the meeting of the committee was held on Thursday and was attended by minister of state Dilip Kamble, Bhadant Rahul Bodhi Mahathero, legislator Dr Milind Mane, former justice Anil Vaidya, advocate Dilip Kakade, Madhkar Kamble, Baban Kamble. Badole added that almost all members have agreed to include a few points in the existing draft for the separate act and the committee would finalise its draft in the next one month.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

2,000-yr-old stupa marks revival of India-China Buddhist links

Press Trust of India, September 20, 2015

Nangchen, China -- The restoration of the 2,000-year-old Ashoka Stupa in this quintessential Tibetan town by an Indian Buddhist monk marks a new beginning in the revival of Buddhism links between India and China.Hundreds of men and women accompanied by their children in best attires attended the ceremony, which locals say is the biggest such religious gathering in recent years just to have glimpse of the Stupa containing the relics of Buddha.

Buddhist monks said the credit to preserve the Stupa in this town located in China's Qinghai province adjacent to Tibet, through the invasions of Mongols and in recent decades, the Cultural Revolution headed by Mao Zedong goes to the local people.

The parts of the original Stupa were preserved by the people by making them into hundreds of small Stupas which were preserved in the new temple, a monk said. Over 300 tiny Stupas were displayed around the main Stupa of the temple.It was restored on September 15 signifying the revival of the Buddhist religious links between India and China in the Himalayan region strained by the departure of the Dalai Lama to India in 1959.

A massive gold-coloured statue of Buddha along with the Stupa and Ashoka Pillar was consecrated with Gyalwang Drukpa, the Himachal Pradesh-born Buddhist monk and the spiritual head of over 1,000 monasteries across Himalayas.

According to Buddhist records, Emperor Ashoka collected all parts of the body of Lord Buddha after his Nirvana, stored them in pagoda-shaped shrines before sending them to different parts of the world.

China is believed to have received 19 of them including the one in Nangchen but most of them have collapsed due to natural wear and tear as well as negligence.

Three more such Stupas were discovered in Chinese cities, Xian, Nanjing and near Ayuwang (Ashoka) Temple in Zhejiang Province. The Nangchen Stupa is the first to be discovered in Tibetan region. The fate of the rest of 15 Stupas sent by Ashoka to China is not known.

Buddhism Becoming Increasingly Popular Among City Youth

 By Jeevan Kumar Durgam

HYDERABAD : Buddhism, the globally-spread religion, is now slowly gaining popularity among the youth of Hyderabad. Young students and employees, especially those in the information technology sector, are showing greater interest in the teachings of the Buddha.
“I do not call Buddhism a religion. It is the greatest philosophy of life which helps us achieve enlightenment through Vipassana (meditation),” says Devendar, who works for a multinational company in the city. He is a frequent visitor to the two major Buddha Viharas in the city.
Many young employees like Devendar started practising Buddhism and became active members of Yuva Buddhist Group (YBG)of Hyderabad which was founded by a city youth, Rajesh Suthari, to promote Buddhism in the city. 
YBG organises various activities to reach out to the local youth and teach them Buddhism. Its members also guide those who want to learn more about Buddhism. Two major Buddhist temples in the city, Ananda Buddha Vihara Trust at Mahendra Hills and Siddhartha Buddha Vihara Trust at New Bowenpally, both in Secunderabad, are now the new weekend destinations for many young students and employees.
The monks there teach the basic tenets of Buddhism to visitors who are not only interested in learning about the religion but also want to convert themselves to Buddhism. Both the Viharas have been witnessing a consistent growth in the number of visitors for the past few years.
However, there are very few Telugu people among the followers. Though the YBG has many active Telugu members, their number is far less when it comes to the activities at Viharas. 
Citing the reason, Pragya Chouhan, a member of YBG, said, “Often their parents do not accept it. And some don’t understand the language of the monks here.” These factors are keeping them away from direct participation in our activities at Viharas, but they are very much interested in Buddha’s teachings despite their absence, she added.
Not surprisingly, a majority of the visitors to Viharas are from the north-eastern states and the western state of Maharashtra where Buddhism has a strong base. The Marathi population in the city, which is the hardcore follower of Ambedkarite Buddhism, is the major stakeholder in any activity at the two Viharas in Secunderabad.
Existing for more than two decades in the city, the Viharas are attracting even  foreign visitors. Many students from countries like Burma, Nepal and Thailand, who are based in the city, visit the Viharas frequently. 
“Meeting hundreds of Buddhists here is a great experience for me as I have not met a single person at my university who talked about Buddhism so far,” said Shoon Le, a student from Burma who is studying MSc (Computers) at Osmania University.
However, Buddhist monks are finding it difficult to promote the religion with the very few Bhantejis (monks) in the city.  Head monks like Bhikku Khemachara, chairman of Sidharth Buddha Vihara Trust, are always busy visiting various places across the country. “It will be better if there are more Bhantejis at Viharas,” said Sangeeta, a member of Yuva Buddhist Group.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Mindful Journalism and News Ethics in the Digital Era: A Buddhist Approach

Book review by Dr. Kalinga Seneviratne, The Buddhist Channel, Sept 8, 2015

Singapore -- Although we are in the information age, digitization and globalization have contributed to the pollution of information, particularly news, which has increasingly turned into  a commodity produced and sold for a profit.
Shelton A. Gunaratne, the lead editor and author of this volume, says the aim of the contributing authors was to encourage the emergence of a different breed of journalists “who could bring about amity and sanity in the world community.”Their objective is to lay the foundation for building a new genre of journalism, which they have chosen to call‘Mindful Journalism,’ with a heavy emphasis on principles and concepts contained in the Buddhist middle path (magga).
Thus the authors derived the idea of Mindful Journalism from the Buddha’s Four Noble Truths, with the main emphasis on the fourth truth delineating the three dimensions of the magga - wisdom and compassion (panna), morality and ethics (sila), and concentration and mindfulness (samadhi). The term mindfulness comesfrom‘Right Mindfulness’(samma sati), the second aspect of the samadhi dimension. Because Buddhist phenomenology has no divine origin or inspiration, it encourages mindful insight to seeing things the way they really are, it inspires open debate, discussion, investigation and practice. The authors argue that such inspirationis ideal for developing a new breed of journalist that will work for the public good rather than the commercial needs of the media owners.
The  ‘Four Noble Truths’ address as the first truth that life is suffering (dukkha), which leads to the second truth on the arising of suffering because of desire (tanha) and clinging(upadana) created by ignorance(avijja); the third truth asserts that cessation of suffering is possible by removing its causes, and the fourth truth spells out the path one should follow to cease suffering.The fourth truth is also known as the Noble Eight-fold Path or the Middle Path(magga) towards attaining the state of Nibbana.  The book contains much discussion (some of it may appear too philosophical to a journalist without a basic understanding of Eastern wisdom) about various aspects of the Buddhist phenomenology along with a sprinkling of Hindu and Daoist philosophy. The first three chapters explain and translate the essence of Buddhist teachings on suffering (dukkha), impermanence(anicca) and no-self (anatta) in relevance to the practice of modern journalismthat involves reporting of poverty, social change, economic fluctuations, etc.
Chapter 4 focuseshow a journalist assuming the role of kalyana-mitta (wise adviser) could play a significant role by developing his/her mind to analyse complex issues,  seeing these in the context of interdependent and interactive variables that are ever changing. It is these changing outcomes – anicca – that we call news events. Chapters 5 and 6 go further into the meaning and application of dependent origination (paticca samuppada) model system thinking, to show how journalists could focus on the close connection between nature and human beings, to enable them to understand problem solving to report on the changing nature of  developingnews events.
Chapters 7 to 9 look at the fourth Nobel Truth of the path to eradicating suffering with each path related to journalistic practice. They look especially at how journalists could produce copy that promotes amity and sanity.
Chapter 10 explores the wisdom(panna) aspects of the path from a journalism practitioner’s point of view with examples to show how the Buddhist teachings such as in the Five Precepts (panca sila) and Mindful (vipassana) Meditation concepts could be adopted to journalism practice.
In the concluding chapter the authors point out that one need not become a Buddhist to practice Mindful Journalism, and in fact, the Middle Path espoused in the book  “is a composite of the moral/ethical, mental development, and wisdom principles that none of the contemporary religions of the world could dispute.” They give three reasons for suggesting Buddhism as an appropriate template for a new moral compass for journalism. 
First is that Buddhism gives the tools for the individual to ascertain the “truth” through personal experience (observation and investigation)  rather than through an expert or divine intervention. The second is that in the Kalama Sutta the Buddha has espoused his followers to tackle doubts and uncertainties in their own mind by not listening to repetitive sayings or hanging on to tradition, but to go out explore the truth, ponder, experience it and then analyse it themselves and believe in it. Which is well suited to the practice of investigative journalism.  The third is that the eight-fold path provides a moral compass for the practice of journalism that encourages moral integrity.
Although critics would try to dismiss this book as “utopian,” the authors argue that it may be the time to de-Westernise journalism to enable the restoration of news as a social good rather than letting it plunge further into the realm of a profit-motivated commodity signifying greed and clinging, a major cause of unhappiness in the world.
Mindful Journalism and News Ethics in the Digital Era: A Buddhist ApproachEdited by Shelton A. Gunaratne, Mark Pearson and Sugath Senarath
Published by Routledge, 2015