Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Kerala mahabodhi mission celebrated Buddha poornima day on may 4th at Plakkad

Kerala mahabodhi mission celebrated  Buddha poornima day on may 4th at Plakkad town and Kakkyur Buddha temple Near Koduvayur (Palakkad dist).Dr Ajaysekher -a notable historian and Prof. of Kaladi University-Inaugurated the celebration.Dhamma mithra Arun bodh,Bro.Aniruddh raman took classes on varies subjects.Keralamahabodhi mission chairman N.Haridas bodh presided.Mission also conducted spiritual programme at Kakkayur Buddha Temple.
Dr.Ajaysekher Inagurated the Buddha poornima celebration

Buddha poornima celebration at Kakkayur Buddha temple

UPASAKAS at  Buddha temple -Kakkayur


Mission honoring Dr.Ajaysekher

Mission released Buddhist Quotes in Malayalam

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Buddhist Monk Spends Life Saving Rare Bamboo Species

Bernama, Apr 16, 2015

Hanoi, Vietnam -- Buddhist bikku (monk) Thich The Tuong has been working hard to turn his one hectare farm into a bamboo conservatory on the Son Tra Mountain, which is the home for over 110 bamboo species including the four considered on the verge of extinction in Viet Nam.
<< Buddhist bikku Thich The Tuong works at the bamboo conservation garden on Son Tra Mountain. VNS Photos Cong Thanh HA NOI (VNS-BERNAMA)
The garden, located on the Son Tra mountainside, eight kilometres from the city centre is open to all visitors, who wish to see bamboo conservation in a rural setting, along with a fishing pond and a stone installation.
"It has been a long and hard journey since I planted the first bamboo. I loved gardening since I left my native village of Vy Da to enter religious life at a small pagoda in Con Hen in Hue," said Tuong.
"I left the pagoda after my master died and found the Quan The Am Pagoda in Da Nang to continue my religious life."The garden was donated by a farmer in Son Tra after he became too tired to plant any trees. I worked the land and grew different bamboo species that I had collected from different provinces," he recalled.
"I have collected a third of the total 300 bamboo varieties in Viet Nam. Bamboo plantation has grown over the past decade, dotting the sloping hills of the Son Tra Mountain."
He said he had named the garden Son Tra Tinh Vien (Son Tra Tranquil garden).
The 48-year-old monk said he had settled down in the area and started looking after thegarden as he wanted to continue with his religious work and preserve the bamboo gene at the same time. "I studied literature at HCM City's Social Sciences and Humanities College, so I found a connection among bamboo, literature and Buddhism," he explained.
"The Bamboo garden is my effort to preserve nature on the Son Tra Mountain, which has been recognised as a nature reserve. It would help protect the evergreen peninsula in the tourist city in the future," he said.
"Bamboo has inspired me to compose poems and literature, as well as lead a religious life. I have also created a tranquil corner in the garden for religious meditation," he said.
Four bamboo species feared on the verge of extinction are growing well in the garden.
Meanwhile, Le Thi Thoa, an ex-student of biology and environment at the Da Nang's Teachers' Training college, said the garden was literally a bamboo genetic pool.
"I spent two years working on a thesis on bamboo, and the garden was my approach for research. The monk assisted me considerably in my study of bamboo," Thoa said.
"It is a precious garden of bamboo genes in Viet Nam as bamboo forests on the upstream have been over-exploited or destroyed. Bamboo is rare in villages as the local people prefer to grow CASH crops or profitable plants," she said.
Thoa, who is a teacher at a junior secondary school in A Luoi District of Thua Thien-Hue, said she had proposed the idea of growing bamboo in environmentally polluted areas in Da Nang.
"I had read a document saying that bamboo reduces the content of dioxin in soil or air. Other plants cannot grow because of the chemical contaminating the air or land, but bamboo can develop well anywhere," she said.
The 25-year-old teacher said the development of more bamboo conservation centres would help protect valuable sources of flora and their genes in Viet Nam.
"Bamboo also plays a role in biodiversity, along with other plants. It is a source of food for animals in the forest. Bamboo can slow down heavy floods upstream and smooth downstream flows," said Nguyen Thi Tinh, a biologist from the Frankfurt Zoological Society of Germany.
"Land for bamboo in rural villages has been reserved for farming or urban development. So, the ever green plant has gradually disappeared," she said.
She said bamboo was also symbolic of the vitality and power of Vietnamese culture and its people.
The monk said he had brought species from Japan, Thailand, India and Africa, whenever he visited these countries. "Bamboo can be grown as bonsai in a family garden or can be sold in the market. People just think bamboo is for construction of cottages, but it can be a source of craft in rural areas," he explained.
"Bamboo is also used as raw material for production of bamboo charcoal-based toothpaste or tooth brushes in China and Korea," he said.
The monk is worried that he will not be able to preserve the garden as the city plans to convert the farm into a tourist resort.
"I had proposed better alternatives for the bamboo conservatory, but the city's departments or agencies are yet to respond," he said.
"The directorate of the private Duy Tan University had asked me to move the garden to the university village as a field research project for students. However, I am still hesitant as I am waiting for a decision from the city authorities regarding the garden," he said.
"I will devote the garden to Da Nang as it could promote the city as a bamboo conservation centre in Viet Nam," he said.
The garden is a favourite photography spot for young people on the weekends, since it is still rare to find a precious bamboo genetic garden in the central region.

The largest Buddhist settlement in the world is in China

By Becky Pemberton, The Daily Mail, 19 April 2015

Inside the village where 40,000 monks and nuns are segregated and televisions are banned... but iPhones are allowed
Larung Gar, China -- Among the green rolling hills in the Larung Gar Valley in China, the last thing you would expect to see in the countryside are thousands of red wooden huts that have been built in a massive cluster.
<< Larung Gar Buddhist Academy is home to 40,000 monks and nuns, who travel to the settlement of Sertar to study Tibetan Buddhism
Despite its secluded location it is home to the Larung Gar Buddhist Academy, the world's largest Buddhist settlement.
A vibrant splash of red, this colourful settlement has sprung up in the 1980s and is now a haven for over 40,000 monks and nuns. 
The sprawling settlement, Sertar, sits on elevations of 12,500ft, and the religious devotees battle harsh climates to study at the remote dwelling.
The wooden huts are built so closely together, they look like a red sea spreading up the hilly terrain. Conditions are basic, with residents having to share communal toilets, and each unheated hut ranging from one to three rooms in size.
An isolated religious haven, Sertar is located around 370 miles from Chengdu, and those wishing to visit have to travel by coach for a gruelling 20 hours.
TVs are prohibited at the picturesque retreat, with monks and nuns flocking to benefit from the studies, prayers and lectures ran at the academy.
Photographer Wanson Luk journeyed to the secluded location from Chengdu on a 20-hour bumpy coach ride.
The 34-year-old Buddhist said the Larung Area has two small guest houses, but as these were occupied, he had to stay near the entrance.
He stayed two days at the Buddhist centre, taking part in ceremonies.
Luk said that the settlement welcomes everyone, and they maintain their life in the hills from donations and by small businesses like the guest house or small grocery store.
'I was most surprised about how people feel about death,' Luk said.
'I took part in the sky burial ceremony where there were hundreds or thousands of condors waiting quietly. There were 7 corpses on that day...one of them was a child.
'During the ceremony a monk will pray then the "sky burial master" will start cutting the corpses. When he is done, the condors will all fly to the corpses
'They believe the more the condors eat, the better it is and they will not eat bad people's body.'
One encounter which struck a chord for Luk was the meeting of a nun who was on her 'no speech day'.
When the photographer was asking how to get to the top of the hill for night shots she resorted to all forms of gestures to try to assist.
She ended up taking him around the whole monastery, showing him how to spin the prayer wheels and teaching him how to pray.
Although TVs are prohibited in the monastery, iPhones strangely are permitted, with her typing words to instruct him as they went.
Many of the Buddhists own second-hand iPhone 4s.
The incredible academy was established in 1980 in the uninhabited valley by Jigme Phuntsok, an influential lama of the Nyingma tradition.
Despite its remote situation, Larung Gar evolved from a handful of disciples to be the largest Buddhist settlement in the world.
It attracts a mix of students from ethnic Chinese students to pupils from Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore, and Malaysia, who attend separate classes taught in Mandarin, while larger classes are taught in Tibetan.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Kerala Mahabodhi Mission organised Dhamma class

Kerala mahabodhi mission Organised Dhamma class for students and upasakas at Dhamma bodhi hall Palakkad.Topic was 'What is Buddha Dhamma'.Brother Binoj Babu was the Faculty.

Friday, April 10, 2015

13 Buddhist Antidotes to Anger

Source: http://www.peaceful-traveler.com/Buddhism/life/, April 2, 2015

Here is a summary of various approaches to anger. They obviously will be most efficient when used with a calm and concentrated mind, either during meditation or at the moment you realize that something needs to be done about your anger. Obviously, the problem during an actual difficult situation is to have a calm and concentrated mind – a regular meditation practice can be of great help then! One of the best ways to really make progress with understanding and changing the functioning of our own mind is to try out analytical meditation, combined with these clues.
ANTIDOTE 1 – Patience.
Patience is the main antidote to anger. As common wisdom says: just count to 100… During this time, any of the below methods can be effective. The most effective method will depend on the actual situation. Especially in our age of rush and intense change, patience may not be seen as a positive quality, but take a minute to think about it – impatience can easily give rise to a general feeling of anger.
ANTIDOTE 2 – Realisation of the Noble Truth of Suffering.
Once one understands that problems and frustration are a basic fact of life, it can reduce our impatience with our own unrealistic expectations. In other words: nothing is perfect, so don’t expect it. If I believe that things should be perfect, it is almost unavoidable to feel disappointed and hurt.
ANTIDOTE 3 – Understanding Karma.
As explained in the page on Karma, the real reason for our problems are our own actions, which are in turn caused by our own negative states of mind. If someone makes us angry, it can have a sobering effect if we dare to think that the real reasons for this situation are our own past actions, and the person is just a circumstance for our own karma ripening.
ANTIDOTE 4 – Changing or Accepting.
Basically, we can find ourselves in two types of unpleasant situations: ones we can change and ones we cannot change.
– If I can change the situation, I should do something about it instead of getting all worked-up and angry. Not acting in such a situation will cause frustration in the end.
– If I cannot change the situation, I will have to accept it. If I don’t, it will only lead to frustration and a negative and unpleasant state of mind, which will only make the situation worse.
For reasons unclear to me, Westerners (including myself) appear to have big problems with accepting unpleasant situations which we cannot change. Could this be a result of impatience (a form of anger) with imperfection (an unrealistic expectation)?
Do consider the wisdom in the following remarks:
“How does this effect my Buddhist practice?
It doesn’t.
These reported events are like an arrow shot at my heart but it lands at my feet.
I choose not to bend over, pick it up, and stab myself with it.”
ANTIDOTE 5 – Realistic Analysis.
For example: someone accuses me of something.
– If it is true, I apparently made a mistake, so I should listen and learn.
– If it is untrue, the other person makes a mistake. So what? Nobody is perfect. I also make mistakes, and it is all too easy to label the other as “enemy”, in which case a helpful discussion or forgiving becomes difficult.
It may also be worthwhile searching for the real underlying reason of the problem. Of special importance is to evaluate one’s own role in the situation: my own fears, insecurity, being very unfriendly, or not being blameless (like leaving home much too late for an appointment and blaming the 5 minute delay of the train).
ANTIDOTE 7 – Realisation of Emptiness.
See the page on Wisdom. To summarise it briefly, if one deeply realises the emptiness of inherent existence or interdependence of the other person, the situation and oneself, there is nothing to be angry about. The realisation of emptiness is therefore the ultimate means of ridding oneself of unrealistic negative emotions like anger.
ANTIDOTE 8 – Equanimity.
Equanimity means that one realises the basic equality of all sentient beings; others want happiness, just like I do. Others make mistakes just like I do. Others are confused, angry and attached, just like I often am. Is the other person happy in this situation, or just struggling like I am?
ANTIDOTE 9 – Openness
Be prepared to be open for the motivation of others to do what causes you problems. Talking it over and being prepared to listen can suddenly make a problem acceptable. Have you ever noticed the difference when a plane or train is delayed and nobody provides any reason for it? People very quickly become irritated and hostile. Then when the driver or pilot explains there is a technical defect or an accident, suddenly waiting becomes easier.
ANTIDOTE 10 – Relativity.
Ask yourself: is this situation is actually important enough to spoil your own and other people’s mood? Is this problem worth getting upset in a life where death can hit me at any moment?
ANTIDOTE 11 – Change Your Motivation.
In case a situation is really unacceptable, and another person needs to be convinced that something is to be done or changed, there is no need to become upset and angry. It is likely much more efficient if you show understanding and attempt to help the other understand the need for change. If one needs to appear angry for some reason to convince the other person of the seriousness of the situation, one can think like a parent acting wrathful to prevent the child from harming itself.
In general, to be really effective one needs to reflect on quite a number of aspects in one’s own mind like: forgiveness, peace of mind, fears, self-acceptance (no acceptance of others is really possible without self-acceptance), habits, prejudices etc. A list of aspects to start with is given in the page about the mind, under the 26 non-virtuous mental factors.
ANTIDOTE 12 – Watch Your Hands.
An interesting suggestion from Jon Kabat-Zinn, from ‘Wherever You Go, There You Are‘:
“All our hand postures are mudras in that they are associated with subtle or not-so-subtle energies. Take the energy of the fist, for instance. When we get angry, our hands tend to close into fists. Some people unknowingly practice this mudra a lot in their lives. It waters the seeds of anger and violence within you ever time you do it, and they respond by sprouting and growing stronger.
The next time you find yourself making fists out of anger, try to bring mindfulness to the inner attitude embodied in a fist. Feel the tension, the hatred, the anger, the aggression, and the fear which it contains. Then, in the midst of your anger, as an experiment, if the person you are angry at is present, try opening your fists and placing the palms together over your heart in the prayer position right in front of him. (Of course, he won’t have the slightest idea what you are doing.) Notice what happens to the anger and hurt as you hold this position for even a few moments.”
ANTIDOTE 13 – Meditation.
Last, but certainly not least, meditation can be the ultimate cure for completely eliminating anger from your mind. In the beginning, one can do analytical meditations (like this meditation on anger), but meditations on compassion, love and forgiving reduce anger as well. Ultimately, the realization of emptiness eradicates all delusions such as anger.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Buddhist economics: oxymoron or idea whose time has come?

By Kathleen Maclay, UC Berkeley

BERKELEY, CA (USA) -- University of California Berkeley economist Clair Brown acknowledges that “Buddhist economics” may seem like an oxymoron.
Nevertheless, she’s teaching a sophomore seminar on the topic this semester — the campus’s second such offering over the past year.
Professor Clair Brown asked herself, "How would Buddha teach Econ. 1?" (iStock photo)
Brown said she created the one-unit Buddhist Economics course after students in her Introductory Economics (Econ 1) class expressed frustration with the relentless Madison Avenue message that more is better, economic growth paves the path to a better life and “retail therapy” is a quick trip to nirvana.
Nicholas Austin, an economics major from Laguna Beach, Calif., and a student this spring in Brown’s Buddhist Economics class, said he was hungry for some fresh ideas about economics after seeing so many students in the field pursue finance careers and “moving money rather than creating a product that will help the world.”
What would Buddha do?
Brown said she mulled over her students’ unease in light of her experiences as an economics professor for more than 30 years and her research on poverty, the U.S. standard of living over time and today’s high-tech workers. Also taking into consideration her experience as a practicing Buddhist for the past six years, she asked herself, “How would Buddha teach Econ 1?”
The idea of Buddhist economics appears nowhere in standard economic textbooks, and Brown could find no such course offering in other top economics departments in the United States.
So she relied on recent innovative and broader approaches in economics, including models based on human development and freedom and the exploration of the psychological underpinnings of economic choices. She also looked at ecological models based on sustainability to develop her new course, which is being offered separately from Econ 1.
Brown also looked to Columbia University’s Earth Institute, a leader in sustainable development programs headed by economics professor Jeffrey Sachs. In a recent talk at Yale University — titled “Economics and happiness: Can the two reconnect?” — Sachs promoted a process for measuring economic success according to broad-based happiness, rather than the Gross Domestic Product.
‘Economics as if people mattered’
With that in mind, Brown assembled a more holistic undergraduate economics seminar that compares the basic neoclassical economics model to Nobel Prize-winning economist Amartya Sen’s view of an ideal economy as one that promotes individual freedoms and capabilities.
The term Buddhist economics first appeared in E.F. Schumacher’s 1966 essay, “Buddhist Economics,” which is required reading in Brown’s class and is a chapter in Schumacher’s 1973 book Small is Beautiful: Economics as If People Mattered. His writings are required reading in other UC Berkeley courses dealing with technology and poverty, and political economy.
The British economist said that applying Buddhist principles to the way an economy operates would produce an economy designed primarily to meet the needs of people. In accord with the Buddhist concept of “right livelihood,” Schumacher called for jobs that are valued for their psychological and spiritual values, as well as for what they produce.  He wrote that Buddhist economics also would bring sustainability into economics, while helping the neediest and encouraging citizens to be happy with enough, instead of more.
Don’t spend, be happy
 “In the traditional economic model, it makes sense to go shopping if you are feeling pain, because buying things makes you feel better,” Brown wrote in her class syllabus. “Yet, we know from experience that consuming more does not relieve pain. What if we lived in a society that did not put consumption at its center? What if we follow instead the Buddhist mandate to minimize suffering, and are driven by compassion rather than desire?”
Her students are also learning about the Bhutan Gross National Happiness index that measures human wellbeing, and the United Nations’ World Happiness Report, which was influenced by Sen. And they’re being introduced to ecological economics by UC Berkeley agricultural economics professor – and Buddhist – Richard Norgaard.
Brown’s students spend a few minutes in each class session meditating. For several students, meditation is nothing new. Economics major Somin Park, who grew up in England in a Buddhist family, said the only difference from her other meditations has been the classroom setting. Classmate Nicholas Austin said he has practiced meditation since taking karate lessons as a child.
Right livelihood
As part of the course, students have been engaged in conversation with Tibetan Buddhist priest Anam Thubten Rinpoche, who explained Buddhism’s “Eightfold Path” that is based on right livelihood — or a way of making a living that does no harm to others, interdependence and connectedness, and inner contentment. True Buddhist economics, he told the students, recognizes everyone’s interconnectedness.
Rinpoche stressed living a life based on inner values and inner wealth and taking care of those who are suffering or in need. “Wealth is not only your material acquisition,” said Rinpoche,  suggesting rejection of modern society’s “grand delusion” in favor of a middle path based on faith, generosity, integrity, wisdom, conscience and contemplation.
Brown assured her students that Buddhist economics wouldn’t require a vow of poverty. “Buddha tried to live in poverty for seven years,” but “it didn’t work,” she said.

Has Vipassana reached the end of the road?

by Christopher Titmuss, Dharma Inquiry, Sept 2, 2014

A Personal Reflection after 30 years
San Francisco, CA (USA) -- I have had the privilege of teaching Vipassana (Insight) Meditation for 30 years in the West, as well as for 32 years in Bodh Gaya and eight years in Sarnath, India. My first retreat in the West was in northern New South Wales, Australia, organised in the summer of 1976 by a 21 year-old woman named Sue from Northern Rivers who is now Subhana, a fellow Dharma teacher, much loved and respected in the Dharma world.
I’ve long since lost count of the number of Vipassana retreats that I’ve offered, probably somewhere between 500 – 750 ranging from one month to one day. However it is many years since I have described myself as a Vipassana teacher, preferring the much broader term, Dharma teacher. The word Vipassana has become too closely identified with certain methods and techniques, and is thus far removed from its original meaning, namely insight – bearing no connection whatsoever for the Buddha with a meditation technique. That doesn’t disqualify Vipassana as a healthy and challenging practice. There is no telling how many individuals have entered a course or retreat, residential or non-residential, East or West, but the number certainly runs at least into hundreds of thousands or a million or two in the last three decades or so.
A Vipassana retreat continues to be a powerful catalyst in people’s lives, a major stepping stone into the depths of meditation and a transformative experience. People have arrived for a weekend retreat on a Friday evening and left on Sunday afternoon with a different sense of themselves, of the here and now, of life, and of what matters. Vipassana changes lives significantly and sometimes dramatically, and is a powerful resource to dissolve so-called personal problems, open the heart and find clarity of mind. A growing number with regular guidance from a teacher, have also entered into the discipline of a personal retreat with its emphasis on silence and solitude lasting from weeks to a year or more. This is another powerful resource for depths of insight.
But has Vipassana reached the end of the road? Are the teachings and practices on an Insight Meditation retreat exploring the fulfilment of all profound aspirations?
The background to all Vipassana practices relies heavily and appropriately on a discourse of the Buddha called the Satipatthana Sutta, the Discourse on the Applications of Mindfulness, namely body, feelings, states of mind and the Dharma. It is the tenth discourse of the 152 in the Middle Length Discourses. Different Vipassana methods are based on various interpretations of this discourse. Despite the claims to purity of technique, reliance on Theravada commentarial interpretation, or strict following of the breadth and depth of the discourse, every Vipassana teacher has his or her own distinctive flavour even if that teacher has had the same teacher(s).
Teachers use the form of a retreat (or course) to enable dharma students to learn to use the powerful resource of Vipassana to cultivate an authentic depth of calm (samatha) and insight (vipassana) into impermanence, unsatisfactoriness and the impersonal characteristics of existence. The practice is powerful because it emphasises moment to moment attention, that is direct observation of immediate experience.
There is a general principle in the Buddhist tradition of Vipassana that such a Dharma training involves three primary areas of life –
  1. Observing and upholding five precepts.
  2. The practice of mindfulness and formal meditation, especially sitting and walking. Some teachers also include standing and reclining meditation.
  3. Wisdom. In this context, it generally means seeing things clearly, free from projection and obsessive attitudes, with calm and insight into heart, mind and body.
Vipassana meditation includes developing the capacity to sit still, stay steady with the breath, observe the arising and passing of pleasure and pain in the body with equanimity, let go of troublesome meditation states, dissolve the arising of any ego, develop the power of meditative concentration to go to subtle levels of the inner life and abide with a choiceless awareness with all phenomena.
While Vipassana and mindfulness meditations are valuable practices in themselves, it is the task of teachers to show new practitioners outside of retreats as well as within them – without fear of being misunderstood – the breadth and depth of Dharma teachings, ethics and practices. Without this wider context, meditation may be applied with aims that are seriously in contradiction with the Dharma; for example some years ago a senior officer in the US army approached a Vipassana teacher about teaching soldiers to handle pain when unable to move in a battle, and businesses want to use the practices so staff can develop single pointed concentration to improve efficiency and productivity, and Vipassana practice was offered – without the breadth and depth of the Path - as the culmination of dynamic or movement meditations, such as the late Osho directed in Poona, India.
I remember Jon Kabat-Zinn, a seasoned meditator with various Vipassana teachers and founder of the internationally respected MBSR (Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction programme) coming to my room for a one to one interview in 1979 during a retreat with me at the Insight Meditation Society in Barre, Massachusetts, USA. He reported his sudden flash of insight and vision on the retreat to bring mindfulness and insight meditation practices to the lives of people in pain. It was inspiring to listen to him and I could only offer Jon full encouragement. He returned home from that retreat determined to actualise the Dharma for the deep welfare of others without diluting the teachings. He still remains committed to that vision.
The teaching of mindfulness meditation, such as MBSR programmes, to alleviate stress, ill-health and pain is an important application of the Dharma; however it would be a great pity if such mindfulness practice had the same fate as yoga which in the West has often been reduced to a system of healthy physical exercises, extricated from its context as a profound spiritual discipline addressing the whole person.
It would be equally a great pity if Vipassana meditation became another kind of psychotherapy. I remember several years ago writing to Spirit Rock Meditation Centre in Marin County near San Francisco, where perhaps 30% or more are therapists on a retreat, to ask the centre to add a brief footnote to the description of my retreat. I wrote for the footnote: “Please do not bring your inner child. There is no adult supervision on this retreat.” To its credit, Spirit Rock published the footnote.
Calm and insight (samatha and vipassana) are offered in the Buddha’s teachings as a feature of the Way to liberation, not as THE way. Some secular teachers treat mindfulness and daily meditation as an aid to living a well-adjusted life but a well-adjusted life is far from the end of the road. Again, such an attitude effectively takes Vipassana meditation out of its wider vision of total liberation.
Certainly the Truth of things, the Dharma of life, is hard enough to comprehend as it is, as the Buddha said on frequent occasions. Teachers show no service to the Dharma by clinging to a narrow view about the supremacy of Vipassana, nor by inflating the importance of mindfulness and meditation over the immensity of the challenge of the Way, as can be seen by reading and reflecting on all the subtle and deep communications from the Buddha on each link of the Noble Eightfold Path or 12 links of Dependent Arising.
These are teachings to ensure that we bring our life on this earth to complete fulfilment. Sitting on top of a cushion and walking slowly up and down to contemplate our existence is a fine and profound exploration into ‘self’ and ‘non-self’ but what is going on with the rest of our lives?
Diet, exercise, use of resources, moderation in living, livelihood, money, relationships, contact with nature, intentions, place of effort, solitude, Dharma reading, writing, contact with the sangha, contact with realised teachers, insights into truth, dependent arising, non-duality, emptiness and living an awakened life deserve our total attention and interest.
No teacher, no one tradition, no school, no satsang, no therapy can possibly address all these issues and many others. We live in times when it is important that the Dharma investigates daily realities, rather than putting so much effort into the preservation of the religious past or feeding identification with the doer or the non-doer.
I recall being grateful in 1982 that our trustees in South Devon, UK agreed to my suggestion to call our new centre Gaia House (it means Living Earth, a metaphor for our inter-dependent existence) and is pronounced the same as (Bodh) Gaya, the area of the Buddha’s enlightenment. We also worked carefully on our vision statement as part of the process to become a charitable trust – a vision statement that excluded the promotion of Buddhism, in order to keep our Dharma centre free from identification with the religion of Buddhism.
Vipassana teachers need to take stock and beware of any watering down of teachings and the use of such meaningless terms as ‘Western Buddhism’. For example, I’ve heard it said by certain Vipassana teachers that there is nothing wrong with desire, nothing wrong with being open to desire, as long as we are not attached to results. Such statements reject the Buddha’s teachings that:
  • dependent on contact arises feelings,
  • dependent on feelings arises desire,
  • dependent on desire arises attachment
  • dependent on attachment arises what becomes in the present and future, with all the ‘mass of suffering’ associated with this process.
There are many hard truths in the Buddha’s teachings that are uncomfortable for consumers who do not really want the Dharma to disturb their lifestyle. More and more Western Dharma centres have become middle class spiritual hotels with accompanying pressure to market Dharma centres as centres for Buddhism.
It would be lovely to report that the challenges in the Vipassana world end here.
I would suggest that the Vipassana world has other problems that need attention but get neglected. These include:
  • a growing belief that Vipassana is another kind of therapy
  • a narrow view that morality is confined to the five precepts
  • a view on ethics akin to institutional religion where blame, self-righteousness and moralizing ignore understanding of the human condition,
  • belief in meditation, meditation, meditation
  • belief in striving
  • belief that the path of Vipassana meditation leads to enlightenment without attention to the whole of life
  • getting stuck in the same method and technique and going over the same old ground in the mind
  • inability to cope with the wide variety of emotions
  • need to explore openly the energies and place of sexuality in the Sangha
  • rigidity of view and an inability to lighten up
  • rigidness and dryness of the practice,
  • students of one major Vipassana tradition (U Ba Khin tradition) are not permitted to meditate with other Vipassana teacher, other Vipassana students or practices to preserve the ‘purity of the technique’.
Despite the above concerns, the Insight Meditation tradition continues to provide a depth of practice second to none. Vipassana teacher meetings are not exactly a thrill a minute, with a collective hesitancy to say anything remotely politically incorrect. Believe me, this poor wallah is speaking from years of first hand experience at such meetings.
After 30 years as a small servant of the Dharma, I find it a pity to write some aspects of this personal report to Dharma students. Please don’t imagine for a single moment that this response to the state of Vipassana shows disillusionment with the practice. Far from it. Vipassana is a tradition of seeing clearly. It is powerful. It is effective. It is transformative. There is no fluffing around for the dedicated Vipassana meditator. While making allowances for generalised statements, we surely have the capacity to offer an honest reflection of the Dharma and the world of Vipassana. Criticism is nothing to do with getting on the high throne and preaching; on the contrary, a sincere critique of that which is close to our hearts contributes to upholding what is of value and discerning questionable areas.
All of the above pales into insignificance when the question is asked: Has Vipassana reached the end of the road? Yes, it is a double edged question.
  • Can Vipassana practice with its dependency on form and technique reveal the Emptiness of form and technique?
  • Can the construction of the method reveal the Unconstructed?
  • Can the perception that more sitting is the answer be an expression of the Buddha’s warning about grabbing the poisonous snake by the tail?
  • Is there a sense, either conscious or unconscious, among dedicated Vipassana students that there is something limited about their practice?
  • Does Vipassana meditation feed the notion of identification with the doer in the form of continual effort and striving?
  • Does Vipassana meditation feed the notion of the non-doer in the form of a suppressed state of mind masked as equanimity?
  • Does Vipassana meditation reinforce the notion there is a doer, something to be done and something to be gained for the doer?
  • Does the Vipassana meditator settle for a radiant awareness as the end of the road?
  • Where is the resolution of the duality that faces all serious meditators, namely the experience of being in a silent retreat and going back into the so-called ‘real world’? A 30 minute talk on the closing morning of a retreat is clearly not resolving this duality.
Are these concerns being addressed? Some senior Vipassana (Insight Meditation) teachers enter into other teachings and practices such as various forms of psychotherapy, Advaita, Dzogchen, Ridhwan or Zen for varying lengths of time. It would appear that these teachers also find that Vipassana is not completely fulfilling – something they share with a number of senior students. It is not that these other approaches are ultimately any more fulfilling. Yet something is amiss. All these teachers and students share the same dualistic plight:
  • those who feed the notion of the doer and those who feed the notion of the non-doer,
  • those who feed the notion of the self (with a capital S or small self) and those who feed the notion of no-self,
  • those who work on aspects of the personality and those who don’t
  • those who attach to form and those who attach to the formless
If Vipassana has not reached the end of the road, that unshakeable and fulfilling liberation, then where is the end of the path? It is vital that Vipassana teachers speak much more about the end of the Way, as well as the Way. Such teachers need to draw on their experiences, their understanding and insights into freedom of being, liberation from “I” and “my” and the awakening that is close at hand. Students feel inspired to explore deeply when they know that their teachers have the confidence to talk about the Supreme Goal of practice.
Authentic glimpses, as much as profound realisations, are important to share. The Buddha said that the raindrop, the pond and the great lake all share the same taste – the taste of water. Although ordained Buddhist teachers must show great restraint about speaking from personal experience about the ultimate truth, non-ordained teachers can share their ‘personal’ realisations at the deepest level. At one Vipassana teachers meeting, the great majority of teachers reported they had tasted ‘Nirvana.’
The end of the road reveals the dissolution of the construction of the duality of the doer and non-doer, the story around the retreat and going back into daily life. The resolution is not about being in the now and not about not being in the now, nothing to do with the doer or the non-doer, the self or no-self. It’s that simple. The constructions of emotions, mind and personality are small waves in the Ocean.
SOURSE:Buddhist channel

The Sacred Relic of the tooth of Buddha

According to Sri Lankan legends, when the Buddha mahä Parinibbhäna  BC 543, his body was cremated in a sandalwood pyre at Kusinagara in India and his left canine tooth was retrieved from the funeral pyre by Arahat Khema. Khema then gave it to King Brahmadatte for veneration. It became a royal possession in Brahmadatte's country and was kept in the city of Dantapuri (present day Puri in Odisha).
A belief grew that whoever possessed the Sacred Tooth Relic had a divine right to rule that land. Wars were fought to take possession of the relic. 800 years after the Buddha's Parinibbhäna, in the 4th century CE, the tooth came into the possession of King Guhaseeva of Kalinga, which roughly corresponds to the present day state of Odisha.
Kalinga had become Buddhist and begun to worship the Sacred Tooth relic. This caused discontent among some of the citizens, who went to King Paandu and said that King Guhaseeva had stopped believing in god and that he had started to worship a tooth. King Paandu decided to destroy the relic, and ordered it to be brought to the city. It is said that, as the tooth arrived at the city, a miracle occurred, and King Paandu converted to Buddhism.
When King Ksheeradara heard of this, he went with his army to attack Paandu in the city of Palalus. The invaders were defeated before reaching the city, and King Ksheeradara died. A prince from the city of Udeni who had become a Buddhist came to worship the sacred tooth. King Guhaseeva was pleased with him, and let him marry his daughter. The prince was known as Dantha and the princess as Hemamala. When his sons heard that King Ksheeradara had died in the war, they raised a large army to attack King Guhaseeva and destroy the relic. They entered the city, but King Guhaseeva secretly sent away Dantha and Hemamala with the relic.

Buddha's Tooth story in Malayalam .Sourse: Mathru bhoomi daily on 29th March-2015

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 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."