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

How to communicate like a Buddhist — mindfully and without judgment

By Cynthia Kane, The Washington Post, September 2, 2015

San Francisco, CA (USA) -- There’s a lot that used to frustrate me about communicating. Well, if I’m honest, it was that I didn’t know how to do it. I knew how to speak and string words together, but no one ever sat me down and taught me the purpose of communication or how to effectively express myself so I was heard and how to listen so I could understand. A lot of times it seemed that because I knew how to talk, that automatically meant I should know how to communicate.
Let’s be honest, communicating effectively is hard to do, especially in heated situations. It’s difficult because rarely do we stop to pay attention to what we’re saying or the purpose of our communication.
What I’ve found to help guide me on my quest is the Buddhist practice of mindfulness, specifically mindful communication.
“Mindfulness means being present with what you are doing, while you are doing it, with a nonjudgmental attitude,” says Sarah McLean, director of McLean Meditation Institute in Sedona, Ariz. “Not only is mindfulness a formal practice of meditation, it can also be the way one is engaged in activity. It is real-time gentle, present-moment, nonjudgmental attention while walking, mindfully eating, mindfully showering, for example.”So how does this apply to communication? Mindful communication is the practice of bringing our attention to our words. It means we are aware of what we’re saying while we’re saying it. It is a practice of observation and not evaluation. It is paying attention to others on purpose with a moment-to-moment awareness. And because it’s a learned skill ,anyone can apply it to his or her life.
Some would say the goal of Buddhism is to reach enlightenment, an elimination of suffering, and mindfulness is a practice used to achieve this goal. “Most of our contemporary mindfulness practices originate from the Buddhist tradition, where the four foundations of mindfulness (of body, feeling, mind and objects of mind) are a basic practice,” says Susan Gillis Chapman,author of “The Five Keys To Mindful Communication.” “In particular, in Buddhism there are precepts for mindful speech that focus on refraining from causing harm,” she says. “In lay Buddhist communities, this is practiced by refraining from harsh speech, gossiping and from dishonesty, which includes being dishonest with ourselves.” To communicate mindfully then shows us that the purpose of our speech is to help others and ourselves suffer less.
How, then, can we start to apply mindfulness to our speech so our words are kind, honest and helpful? By paying attention to our words, releasing judgment, and being in the moment.
1. Pay Attention
We’ve all been in situations where we’ve said something or reacted in a way that later we regretted, whether it was during an argument or fueled by resentment or by letting our attempts at poking fun get out of hand. Not only do we feel bad for what we said or for slamming doors and walking away, but we also see the hurt we’ve caused someone else. It’s in the aftermath of these situations that we see how powerful our words and our actions can be. It’s then that we see how easily we use judgmental or accusatory language or react with a cold shoulder or roll of the eyes.
But if we start to pay attention to our words and reactions, then we can begin to change them. By being conscious, “We learn to identify and clearly articulate what we are concretely wanting in a given situation. The form is simple, yet powerfully transformative,” writes Marshall B. Rosenberg in his book “Nonviolent Communication.” We often forget that at every moment we have the opportunity to choose how we express ourselves. We can choose to use words that encourage a sense of openness, safety and understanding or that create stress, make others and ourselves feel less than, or provoke anxiety.
Along with our words and reactions, it’s important we pay attention to our thoughts and feelings as well, especially in difficult conversations. “Paying attention helps us to not get hooked in a chain reaction that leads to mutual dissatisfaction,” says New York City- based psychotherapist Susan Solomon. “The body knows. We must take the time to acknowledge our bodily reactions, thoughts and feelings. Taking 10 seconds followed by a deep breath leads to communication based on understanding and compassion, not reactivity and disconnection.”
If we slow down the process of interacting, pausing now and again or taking a breath before speaking, we give ourselves more time to maintain awareness and promote painless conversations. If you notice yourself speaking quickly, getting caught up in a reaction, take a breath and slow down; you can always begin again.
2. Release Judgment
There’s a tendency when we start paying attention to judge others and ourselves. Phrases like, “I can’t believe I said that.” “What’s wrong with me?” Or passing thoughts like, “She has no idea how she sounds,” or “He thinks this is funny?” seem like harmless expressions, but there’s a lot of evaluating going on. If the point is to help others and ourselves suffer less, criticizing and judging only makes everyone hurt more.
The wonderful part about mindful communication, and the scariest, is it’s a judgment-free zone. “Mindfulness communication involves listening with a beginner’s mind — without judgment, without interruption, and with total receptivity,” says McLean. This means in conversation with others and ourselves, we’re committing to no longer seeing something as good or bad, right or wrong; we’re no longer seeing from a place of betterness or less than, but as an equal. “When we combine observation with evaluation, people are apt to hear criticism,” writes Rosenberg. “We need to clearly observe what we are seeing, hearing, or touching that is affecting our sense of well-being, without mixing in any evaluation.”
How do we do this? We stop gossiping about others and start reminding ourselves that our wants and needs are the same. “Find a shared goal, and you have both a good reason and a healthy climate for talking,” writes Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, Ron McMillan and Al Switzler in “Crucial Conversations.” When we remind ourselves of our sameness, we learn to understand our differences. If we’re judging our own behavior, we need to let ourselves feel the feeling but not let it consume us. Getting stuck in any emotion forces us off equal footing. Suddenly we’re either horrible people and less than or we’re saintly and better than. Instead of getting stuck, note the thought and say, ‘I forgive you.’ Then gently let the thought go, and start again.
3. Be In The Moment
When we’re with someone, it’s possible we’re thinking of the meeting we just had, what needs to be done for tomorrow, our list of groceries to pick up. Or we’re waiting for the person to finish talking so we can or we’re too excited so we interrupt.
Our attention can drift, but what mindful communication encourages is to refocus. McLean says that “mindfulness cultivates the attention necessary for anyone to become aware of and redirect their thoughts, again and again back to what they are actually engaged in.” When we notice our attention is stuck in a story outside the conversation, that’s the moment we come back to the conversation at hand. Without judging ourselves for not paying attention, we let go of the story we’ve been lost in and come back to where we are.
By drifting and refocusing, we’re constantly coming back to the present moment again and again, keeping us tied to the conversation we’re in and aware of its needs.
There are many reasons why we choose not to be mindful: It takes discipline. It means listening and respecting another person’s reality of a situation even if we don’t agree. It means learning to accept others and ourselves as deserving of the same type of kindness and support. It means having to take responsibility for our words, actions, and reactions and their effects on others and ourselves.
But for all the energy it takes to cultivate a moment-to-moment focus and observe our words and actions without judgment, what mindful communication gives us is a guideline for communicating that is kind, honest, and helpful.
sourse:Buddhist channel

Friday, September 11, 2015

9 Ways to Stop Absorbing Other People’s Negative Emotions

Emotions such as fear, anger, frustration, and immobility are energies. And you can potentially ‘catch’ these energies from people without realizing it.
If you tend to be an emotional sponge, it’s vital to know how to avoid taking on an individual’s negative emotions, or even how to deflect the free-floating negativities in crowds.
stop absorbing negativity to you
Another twist is that chronic anxiety, depression, or stress can turn you into an emotional sponge by wearing down your defenses. Suddenly, you become hyper-attuned to others, especially suffering with similar pain. That’s how empathy works; we zero in on hot-button issues that are unresolved in ourselves.
From an energetic standpoint, negative emotions can originate from several sources: what you’re feeling may be your own; it may be someone else’s; or it may be a combination.
Here is how to tell the difference and strategically bolster your positive emotions so you don’t shoulder negativity that doesn’t belong to you.
Stop Absorbing Other People’s Emotions 
1. Identify whether you’re susceptible. The person most likely to be overwhelmed by negative energies surrounding you is an “empath“, someone who acts as an “emotional sponge”. Signs that you might be an empath include:
  •     People call you “hyper-sensitive”, “overly sensitive”, etc., and they don’t mean it as a            c     Compliment!
  •     You sense fear, anxiety, and stress from other people and drawthis into your body, resolving      them as your own physical pain and symptoms. It doesn’t have to be people you don’t know      or don’t like; you’re also impacted by friends, family, and colleagues.
  •     You quickly feel exhausted, drained, and unhappy in the presence of crowds.
  •     Noise, smells, and excessive talking can set off your nerves and anxiety.
  •     You need to be alone to recharge your energy.
  •     You’re less likely to intellectualize what you’re feeling. Your feelings are easily hurt.
  •     You’re naturally giving, generous, spiritually inclined, and a good listener.
  •     You tend to ensure that you’ve got an escape plan, so that you can get away fast, such as          bringing your own car to events, etc.
  •     The intimacy of close relationships can feel like suffocation or loss of your own self.
2. Seek the source. First, ask yourself whether the feeling is your own or someone else’s. It could be both. If the emotion such as fear or anger is yours, gently confront what’s causing it on your own or with professional help. If not, try to pinpoint the obvious generator.
  •     For instance, if you’ve just watched a comedy, yet you came home from the movie theater         feeling blue, you may have incorporated the depression of the people sitting beside you; in       close proximity, energy fields overlap.
  •     The same is true with going to a mall or a packed concert. If crowded places upset or                 overwhelm you, it may well be because you’re absorbing all the negative energy around you.
3. Distance yourself from the suspected source, where possible. Move at least twenty feet away; see if you feel relief. Don’t err on the side of not wanting to offend strangers. In a public place, don’t hesitate tochange seats if you feel a sense of depression imposing on you.
4. Center yourself by concentrating on your breath. Doing this connects you to your essence. For a few minutes, keep exhaling negativity, inhaling calm. This helps to ground yourself and purify fear or other difficult emotions. Visualize negativity as gray fog lifting from your body, and hope as golden light entering. This can yield quick results.
5. Flush out the harm. Negative emotions such as fear frequently lodge in your emotional center at the solar plexus (celiac plexus).
  •     Place your palm on your solar plexus as you keep sending loving-kindness to that area to         flush stress out.
  •     For longstanding depression or anxiety, use this method daily to strengthen this center. It’s      comforting and it builds a sense of safety and optimism as it becomes a ritual.
the solar chakra negativity and emotions

6. Shield yourself. A handy form of protection many people use, including healers with trying patients, involves visualizing an envelope of white light (or any color you feel imparts power) around your entire body. Think of it as a shield that blocks out negativity or physical discomfort but allows what’s positive to filter in.
7. Manage the emotional overload. You don’t need to be beholden to your ability to absorb other’s emotions; turn the curse into a gift by practicing strategies that can free you:
  •     Learn to recognize people who can bring you down. People who are particularly difficult for       emotional empaths include criticizer, the victim, the narcissist, and the controller. Judith             Orloff terms these people “emotional vampires“. When you know how to spot these                   behaviors, you can protect yourself against them, including removing yourself from their             presence, and telling yourself that “I respect the person you are within even though I don’t         like what you’re doing.”
  •     Eat a high protein meal before entering stressful situations such as being part of a crowd.         When in a crowd, find places of refuge, such as sitting on the edges, or standing apart.
  •     Ensure that you don’t have to rely on other people to get you out of difficult situations. Bring       your own car or know how to get home easily when needed. Have sufficient funds to be able     to make alternate arrangements if you start feeling overwhelmed.
  •     Set time limits. Knowing how much you can stand and obeying that limit is vital to ensure           your mental well-being. Also set kind but meaningful boundaries with others who overwhelm     you; don’t stand around listening to them talking for two hours when you can only cope with       half an hour.
  •     Have your own private place in a home shared with others. Ask others to respect your              downtime during which you can rejuvenate. This is especially important to prevent you from      taking on your partner’s feelings too much. A study, man cave, sewing room, reading nook,        etc., all offer your own space.
  •     Practice meditation and mindfulness.
8. Look for positive people and situations. Call a friend who sees the good in others. Spend time with a colleague who affirms the bright side of things. Listen to hopeful people. Hear the faith they have in themselves and others. Also relish hopeful words, songs, and art forms. Hope is contagious and it will lift your mood.
  •     Cultivate positive emotions that boost your inner strength. If you’re surrounded by peace and     love, you’ll flourish as strongly as negative emotions cause you to wilt. Respecting your own       needs through healthy self love will increase your ability to respect others.
  •     Learn to use compassion as a way to defend yourself against overwhelming emotions.               Compassion allows you to be empathetic to the plight of other people but also requires that       you are compassionate toward yourself. This means that you don’t need to feel guilty about       seeking respite from being overwhelmed; doing so ensures that you can be more engaged       with others in the long run, rather than less so. It also means that you keep yourself whole by     not immersing yourself in the world of negative people.
9. Create and maintain a haven for disengagement. Leave many paths open that lead to communing with the resonance of nature. Returning to your rightful home as a creature of nature switches off your victim mentality and recharges you energetically and spiritually.
  •     Keep a picture of a waterfall or a lush forest with you and look at it when overwhelmed.
  •     Step onto the quiet of a forest path or absorb the coolness of a gently babbling brook from         beneath a weeping willow.
  •     Maintain a your personal space of cozy retreat where you hook into your own personal               power and energy.
  •     Practise Yoga and breathing techniques. These draw upon emotional centering and provide     safe harbor in times of storm.
By Judith Orloff MD, in5d | Via:

Sukara Maddava – The last meal of Buddha

Sukara+Maddava_In the remote edges of the trails in Brindnagar, Dialek and Jumla, when the spring sun shone through the wooded edges, on the slopes of the Himalyan valley, in the midst of moist air, Dr Jayasinghe saw the locals tie their hogs on leashes and hunt for mushrooms. 

These hogs, like dogs have a very strong sense of smell and detects the mushrooms that are beneath the soil digging through with the aid of their snout and their hind legs. The mushrooms harvested with the assistance of pigs were called “Sukara Maddava” in the early Kahrostrian and Magda Pali languages, which literally meant “dug by pigs” .These mushrooms have a very high medicinal value compared to any other vegetable known to mankind. 
It is a fitting act by Chunda Karmara Putta to have offered this variety of mushrooms to the ailing Buddha who was 80 years of age, with the intent of giving some solace to a prevailing health condition he was suffering from. 
Sukara Maddawa” could be interpreted as tender pork. But it could also have a different meaning as food that pig loves, known as “truffle,” a kind of mushroom that grows underground that pigs are drawn to by its fragrance and would dig up with its snout to eat. 
It has been scientifically discovered that truffle makes pheromone, an androgen-analog substance, with its fragrant smell, attracting pigs to hunt for it and luring it with the sex hormone to dig with its snout for food, and spread its spore around in the process. In fact, pigs have been trained for truffle hunting. The only problem is that those mushroom hunters have to compete with the pigs for the truffles which could be eaten instantaneously by the pigs whenever it was found.


Friday, September 4, 2015


Kerala Mahabodhi mission Organised Sravanolsavam @Kerala state

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Amaravati all set to be Mahayana Buddhist centre

by Y. Mallikarjun, The Hindu, Aug 13, 2015

AP planning to attract tourists from China, Japan and Thailand

Andhra Pradesh, India --
The ancient town of Amaravati, which forms part of the upcoming capital region of the State, will be promoted as a cradle of Mahayana Buddhism to attract international tourists, particularly those from China, Japan, Thailand and other Asian countries.
<< The giant Dhyana Buddha complex at Amaravati.— Photo: T. Vijaya Kumar

Acharya Nagarjuna, known as the second Buddha, was the founder of Madhyamika school of Mahayana Buddhism, one of the two main branches of Buddhism. With the Urban Development Ministry already declaring the ancient Amaravati as one of the 12 Heritage Cities in the country under HRIDAY scheme, the Andhra Pradesh government is focussing on developing a major Mahayana Buddhist tourism circuit encompassing Amaravati and Nagarjuna Konda.
Generally tourists visiting Buddhist circuit go to Bodh Gaya, Sarnath, Lumbini and Kushi Nagar.

“We want to market Amaravati and Nagarjuna Konda as part of the Buddhist circuit,” a top official told The Hindu .Following Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu’s tour to China, a team from Chinese Buddhist Association visited Nagarjuna Konda. The Buddhist Association had assured to contribute its mite in the promotion of Nagarjuna Konda and other Buddhist sites among Chinese tourists and it was equally interested in investing in the tourism projects here.

The official said the State government was planning to establish an exclusive stall in Bodh Gaya to disseminate information on the importance of Amaravati, Nagarjuna Konda and other Buddhist sites in Andhra Pradesh. He said Buddhist-related festivals were being organised every year between October and March at Bodh Gaya where Buddhist Monasteries from different countries have been established. “We also want to tie-up with those monasteries,” the official said and setting up of Monasteries Boulevard in the new capital region was a major step in this direction.

Various projects have been planned to develop ancient Amaravati town under HRIDAY scheme and also under PRASAD scheme of the Union Ministry of Tourism by spending about Rs. 90 crore.

Millionaire businessman gives up his possessions to become a Buddhist monk in China after living in isolation for two years

By Sara Malm, MailOnline, 10 August 2015

Guangdong, China -- A Chinese millionaire has given up his fortune and all material possessions in order to become a Buddhist monk. Liu Jingchong, a businessman from Guangdong Province, moved into the mountains to live in total isolation after an epiphany in 2012 made him desire a 'minimalist life'.
<< New life: Millionaire Liu Jingchong, 39,  moved into the mountains to live in total isolation after an epiphany in 2012 made him desire a 'minimalist life'
Two years later, he met a monk and decided to join a temple in east China, and instead of making millions he now works in a communal kitchen.

Mr Liu, 39, swapped big city life - and millions in annual income - for a life without material possessions on Zhongnan Mountain in north-western Shaanxi Province in December 2012.

He said a sudden epiphany had made him realise that people will never stop pursuing bigger houses, better jobs, and more expensive cars if they continue to live in metropolises, failing to focus on their 'inner' life.
He spent two years in total isolation, living in a shed made of straw and spending most of his days meditating, reading, and practising calligraphy.

Mr Liu said of his time in the mountains: 'The living conditions were bad. My bed was made of bricks and there was no electricity during the snowy winter.'
He continued: 'But I didn't feel cold there. Maybe it was because I liked the life there and focused just on what I liked.'

He grew his own vegetables in the mountains and only left his hermit lifestyle to buy rice, flour, and oil.

After meeting a monk, Mr Liu followed him to Baochan Temple in the county of Hanshan, in East China's Anhui Province to take a tonsure - the shaving of a Buddhist monk's head. He has been at the temple for three months now and, instead of managing millions, works as a cook in the communal kitchen.
sourse:Buddhist channel

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Monks, critical thinking and how Theravada Buddhism would benefit the world

by Kooi F. Lim, The Buddhist Channel, Aug 6, 2015

Bangkok, Thailand -- The Buddhist Channel catches up with the manager of the International Association of Buddhist Universities (IABU), Dr. Dion Peoples. The following are his views on saddha (faith, or as he prefers - confidence) vs critical thinking, Asian monks' knowledge in general of the Buddha Dhamma and how Theravada Buddhism would benefit the world.
This is the first of a two part interview. Tomorrow, we will publish Dr People's views on support for the ordination of women as Theravada Bhikkhunis.
Thank you Dr. Peoples for agreeing to this interview. To start off, please tell us when and how did you get in touch with Buddhism.
I first came into contact with Buddhism through Chinese Kung Fu movies, when I was a young boy, perhaps around age 7-8 (1980?).  I remember seeing the Shaw Brothers' Kung Fu movies, in particular the ones featuring Shaolin monks.  I remember seeing the Abbot of the Shaolin Temple (in the movie), and reading the subtitles of the movie, and thinking that the wisdom that he was saying was very profound. 
I was attracted to the wisdom-tradition, and always wondered to be a disciple of a wise master.  Years later, and not coming into contact with Buddhism, the Dalai Lama would win the Nobel Peace Prize.  I joined the US Air Force in January of 1992, and when I arrived at my first duty-station in Germany, I would go to the bookshop sometimes to purchase some books.  Since he was so famous, the only Buddhism books in the shop were those by him.  I bought them, and read them, but felt these texts were not genuine Buddhist texts. 
A few years later, the internet became more widely available, and I did research into Buddhism and Buddhist texts, and discovered Theravada Buddhism.  After attending a Diamond Way Buddhist center in Saarbrucken, Germany on a few occasions, I learned that I was not a Vajrayana Buddhist, but a Theravada Buddhist, and dedicated my life then, to the Theravada Buddhist tradition.  In 1999, or early 2000, I officially converted to Theravada Buddhism - and took the necessary steps to change my identification-card, and dog-tags while in the United States Air Force, while stationed in Germany.   I became a fully-ordained Theravada Buddhist monk, in the Dhammayutika-Nikaya tradition of Thailand, at Wat Patumwanaram in 2002. 
After many deep conversations with my master, who recently died (he had two PhD's from India), we decided that I should disrobe to continue my higher-education in Buddhist Studies.  So after living in a cave, by myself, in a provincial area) for a few months, I disrobed and finish my BA degree in the USA. 
I returned to Thailand in April of 2004, to earn my MA & PhD, with Thai Studies and Buddhist Studies as my higher academic degrees, respectfully.  I have dedicated my life to the pursuit of Buddhist wisdom, since an early age.
Your views on Asian monks in general: about their adherence to the faith (saddha) vs critical thinking.
I don't want to make any racial-stereotypes, and must clarify that I can only speak about either Thai-monks that I have encountered, or those international students from around Southeast Asia that I formerly taught.  So, I have a limited perspective, so whatever I say will not be entirely conclusive. 
"There are monks who possess faith in Buddhism, but are ignorant (of) the texts - and when ... something (is mentioned) about the texts, it challenges their paradigms" - Dr Peoples  >>
I'm around only monks who are either working or studying at the largest Buddhist monastic university in Thailand, and maybe the world: Mahachulalongkornrajavidyalaya University (MCU).  Many monks, despite their nationality, possess faith in Buddhism, but I think this is dangerous.  I disbelieve in the concept of faith.  I know what it means, but I think faith is akin to ignorance; rather, when translating "saddha", I use the word: confidence. 
When I was alone in my cave-temple in rural Thailand, I did a lot of walking meditation.  Rather than resisting the training I was given from my master back in Bangkok, I decided to embrace his methods, and trained earnestly or diligently in his methods, and I became successful with samatha-samadhi.  Therefore, I possess confidence in the Buddha's training system and his Buddhadhamma because I have experienced the truth of his teachings, as momentary as those moments existed, before fading away. 
I endorse confidence in Buddhism.  I cannot endorse faith.  I know people believe in Buddhism, but if they can confirm - which has practical implications - then faith (ignorance) is transformed, and confidence is gained.   This is one aspect of my teachings. 
As far as critical-thinking is concerned, I have written a few textbooks on this, but need a publisher, to get these ideas out to the greater Buddhist public, beyond just posting the documents on my website. 
Monks have the basic knowledge of the doctrine, but most of the monks have not read the entire Tipitaka: either in their own language, or in Pali (not really necessary, in my opinion), or in English.  They do not possess an all-encompassing view of the Buddhadhamma. 
For instance and for a fact, I've read 100% of what is available in English.  This means I have not read the Nidana or the Yamaka - but there are texts or articles that introduce the contents - nevertheless, I possess all of the available texts, and teach these texts. 
I encounter monks who possess faith in Buddhism, but are ignorant to the texts - and when I mention something about the texts, it challenges their paradigms, and they have complained to the department that I am teaching unfamiliar ideas and may possess the wrong views.
Enough ignorant students have taken up their frustrations, despite my citations, and made their protests clear - so through mutual consent, I no longer teach to students who do not want to learn.  If someone wants to learn Buddhism at a higher level, either for their MA, or PhD, I will willingly become their advisor, but my reputation for advanced thinking and higher expectations is unattractive to the general population of students struggling to get through the academic-curriculum in a language that is not their own. 
Currently, I am not teaching at MCU, despite teaching there for the first seven years of the program.  I challenge their faith, and try to encourage how Buddhism has practical applications - but it must be known, before I continue, that my courses that I taught were: World Religions, Sociology, Ecology, Professional Development, History of Buddhism, Abhidhamma, Selected Texts in Buddhist Scriptures, and Research/Literature in Thai Buddhism - so these classes offered very little in terms of critical thinking.

While lecturing at Mahachulalongkornrajavidyalaya University , did you encourage your students to think critically? Any examples? What was their response?
When I was teaching at MCU, and teaching my course on Research/Literature in Thai Buddhism and the class on Selected Topics in Buddhist Scriptures, I had one exercise for the final assignment.  For BA-students, I would pick a random number from the Dhammapada, a different number for each student - and the assignment was to run that verse through the analytical tools provided in the Nettippakaranam.  The Nettippakaranam has the sixteen-haras.  Each hara allows for a different perspective of the Dhammapada verse. 
Therefore, each student would have a different verse, which would not allow for copying assignments.  Each student had to work individually.  For the MA students, I selected a key-term, a famous Buddhist vocabulary term, and they had to scrutinize the term through the sixteen-haras. 
This was my assignment, to encourage the students to think critically.  While the BA students performed it with satisfaction (some better than others), the MA students protested, and proclaimed it was too hard, or different from the pre-existing curriculum that they were expecting to plagiarize. 
My assignments were new or novel, and after teaching that MA course - it was decided that the students were not proficient enough in English to study with me.  I am willing to assist any student willing to learn, but then no students were demanding my supervision! 
I've written two books on Buddhist critical thinking skills, and most recently combined all of this research into a new book that I've entitled: Buddhist Analytical Methodology, but I need a publisher. Inside, I clearly detail the analytical/critical thinking skills that the Buddhist tradition possesses and sanctions.  Buddhists seem more keen to scrutinize something through Western-psychology or Greek-philosophy, and can say nothing beyond the Kalama Sutta for Buddhism, but there is much much more to work with.

What is your current role in IABU? Please share with us some key research which have inspired you.
I am the Manager of the International Association of Buddhist Universities.  Every Buddhist university in the world or every program of Buddhist Studies or a related program is eligible to be a member of our association.
"Our Buddhist tradition is great and should play a greater role in universal affairs."
- Dr Dion Peoples  >>
Currently we have nearly 90 universities in the association, but many are unable to communicate with us, or have personnel who have transferred away from the universities, and our contact has diminished.  We are not legally able to collect membership fees, but do have an account for donations - but donations from universities are basically not forthcoming.  Many universities struggle financially. 
There is no key-research that inspires me, in terms of my duties for the IABU, rather, I am inspired through my love and appreciation for Buddhism, and the confidence that I possess, knowing that our Buddhist tradition is great and should play a greater role in universal affairs. 
If, at all, I am inspired by research which could have inspired me, it would be the work of Karl Marx.  While I was studying Buddhism and Socialism, I came into contact with the writings of the former Prime Minister of Myanmar, U Nu.  U Nu has inspired me greatly, through his utterance: Karl Marx taught only a fraction of a portion of dust, compared to what the Buddha taught. 
This made me reassess Buddhism, after my period as a Marxist, and I discovered that a great textbook for Buddhist Studies is the Sangiti Sutta of the Digha-Nikaya.  My PhD dissertation is on the utilization and application of the Sangiti Sutta.  I've freely contributed my expansion of the Sangiti Sutta to a website, Sutta Central, as well as made it generally available in my first book, published by my university, as Chanting the Sangiti Sutta, which merges my MA thesis on morning and evening monastic chanting, with the Sangiti Sutta for the sake of Buddhist Education. 
Now, with this as the root of my academic-career: Buddhist Education - or how to educate Buddhists to become better and wiser Buddhists, I moved into the realm of teaching Buddhist analytical methodology. 
My peers in Buddhist academia inspire me.  Many of my inspirations write for our annual UNDV conference that I organize through the IABU.  I crave to read and learn the wisdom of my peers. 

You seem to read western philosophy as much as the Suttas. How has this blend help you to understand Buddhism better?
As I just mentioned, I am a student of the writings of Karl Marx, and by extension, the Marxist tradition.  In fact, I left the United States Air Force, because I was a Buddhist-Socialist.  I advocate for Buddhist-Socialism, and am currently working on writing a text on improving Buddhist Socialism. 
I know it is not a popular idea in our capitalistic-globalized society, but my earnestness for compassion in action should not be so categorically rejected by social-antagonists.  I read Marx, yes; but currently I am fascinated by the writings and speeches of Slavoj Zizek. 
I have written a piece on his interpretation of Buddhism, as an attempt to introduce Buddhists to his writings - this piece can be found online.  I know Marxism is unpopular in some circles, so my radicalism has significantly decreased, but I am very much interested in Jurgen Habermas, Derrida, Ricoeur, Haile Selassie I, and basically just anything that I determine that has profound wisdom, deep enough to influence my perspectives. 
Yes, I am careful.  I try to read through Karl Popper, Whitehead, Spinoza, William James, Durkheim, Max Weber, and textbooks on Astronomy, Sociology, Economics, and so forth, but time is limited, and sometimes words just merge into other words, and I have to stop reading.  I read too much. 
Additionally, I read the Noble Qur'an and the Hadiths of the Prophet Muhammad, became aware of the great example of Malcolm X, and follow the lectures of the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan (Nation of Islam).  I know Islam to a good degree.  Now, all of this material assists in my understanding of Buddhism, or Theravada Buddhism, because I learn that discipline, or social-discipline is important. 
I learn that people should follow some laws, and that these laws should be sanctioned by society.  I am bearing witness to the race-crimes in the United States, and I know that America is not based on Buddhist principles, but these unjustified-killings are tragic and painful to witness.  Intelligence and compassion is what Buddhism encourages, and if we behave and think better, our lives can improve. 
I think, as a scholar, I have not written my most profound work yet, so I am still struggling to reveal my most profound utterances or magnum-opus - but I do learn what is Buddhist and what is not Buddhist. 
If I read only Buddhism, I would not be able to translate the ideas across genres.  This leads into my career as the Manager of the IABU, and my organization of the annual United Nations Day of Vesak academic-conference, because I am trained in alternative wisdom-systems. 
I believe that my work enrichens Buddhism and Buddhist Studies.  I continue to read and reread the Tipitaka, and continue to find new things that I may have overlooked or did not focus on previously because of the filtering needed to compose an article pertaining to some strategic theme. 

Your thoughts on Thai Buddhism and how it can help enrich Buddhism worldwide.
I've basically lived in Thailand since the beginning of 2002 (leaving in 2003, and returning in April of 2004).  I've been around the monastic-tradition, either as a bhikkhu or as a professor for bhikkhus (and the occasional bhikkhuni).  I am well aware that in the Western World, the monastic tradition is not too popular, but the immigrant communities strive to maintain their foreign traditions within the United States, for example.
"Buddhism is a come-and-see tradition, and this is the beauty of its simplicity and complexity.  It is for mature people who are ready to undertake the precepts and live with morality." - Dr Dion Peoples  >>
In 2003-2004, I attended Wat Buddha-Oregon, in Turner, Oregon (near Salem), so I could be referring to this localized experience.  In the USA, monks are afraid to leave the temple, or because of their cultural restrictions, do not leave the temple.  Buddhism's missionary-attempts fail. 
The come-and-see attitude doesn't work around people who do not know, and often if these converted-houses, performing as a temple, usually cannot handle large crowds.  Buddhism is not something like a mega-church.  Buddhism does not perform in this way, and nor should it perform in this way. 
Buddhism is a come-and-see tradition, and this is the beauty of its simplicity and complexity.  It is for mature people who are ready to undertake the precepts and live with morality.   A problem with Americans is that they are unable to get on their knees and genuinely bow or prostrate before a Buddha-image in all humbleness, as being before the greatest teacher for humanity and our collective civilizations. 
I endorse the full Buddhist Sangha, the fourfold assembly of Bhikkhus, Bhikkhunis, and the laity (men and women).  A table with three legs is unstable.  Knowing that, but progressing, Thai Buddhists should continue to stress the importance of monasticism. 
Confidently, I proclaim that monasticism will ease global homelessness and poverty.  Some people, if they knew of or are able to come into close-contact with Buddhist monasticism, could alleviate their impoverished condition and do great work for society.  However, many Americans (and Europeans by extension), and Africans (for the lack of resources with the tradition) are unwilling or are ignorant to the benefits of monasticism. 
Sensual over-indulgence and material acquisition is harming global civilization.  In this sense, Buddhism challenges the capitalistic status-quo and serves a revolutionary function in this regard.  Buddhism would be the social utopia that many seek.  In contrast, the might of the government advocates for submission to law, to disarmament, to taking care of self and others - many dictates of our governments are pronouncements similar to Buddhism, but because the governments are improperly motivated, we see this as a violation of our human rights.  We would then have to take up the question of what rights do we genuinely want to express and possess?
Buddhism would genuinely improve our societies, but even within Thailand, rates of alcoholism are high and sexual misconduct pervades - life here in Thailand seems to run against the Buddhist precepts.  To this, I confirm: Buddhism is a renunciation-tradition, a monastic tradition, and it is not for the governance of a free-society.  I formerly taught at a Thai high-school, which neighbored a major brewery, and our own Buddhist university, MCU, also is neighbored by a brewery.
Buddhism advocates for rejecting the intake of intoxicants but the general population ranks highly, globally, for rates of consumption of alcohol.  In one study, Thailand ranked as high as #5 in the world for rates of consumption. 
Buddhists may proclaim to refrain from consuming intoxicants in front of the monk at the temple, but then go home and drink beer or something else with alcohol.  I would like to reclarify the question.  It may not be Thai-Buddhism that would benefit the world, because the Burmese, Cambodian, Lao, Sinhalese, and Bangladeshi-Buddhists have a great tradition as well, but greater respect for the textual tradition of Theravada Buddhism would benefit the world. 
The Dhamma has great teachings, the Jatakas have nice stories, the Abhidhamma has great psychology, and the Vinaya has great social-regulations. 
Our governments could rewrite laws and constitutions, and implement some basic ideas, as we move our civilizations forward through the crises that we are facing - but globally, too many people are attached to their traditions, which were once fine, but are growing more and more obsolete.
Dr. Dion Peoples is the Manager of the International Association of Buddhist Universities, and the General Editor and Conference Organizer for the United Nations Day of Vesak Academic Conference, since 2007.  He additionally serves as an advisor for the Alliance for Bhikkhunis' magazine, Present.  He is also an academic-advisor (curriculum designer) for the Hispanic Institute for Buddhist Studies (IEBH), and for Buddhist Studies programs for ASEAN.  He has written books on the Sangiti Sutta, and on Buddhist Critical Thinking Skills.  He has been working with Mahachulalongkornrajavidyalaya University since 2007.  His collection of writings, Buddhist and others, can be found online, on his website-page.  He also publishes the Journal of the International Association of Buddhist Universities (JIABU), and the Santisuksa Journal for Peace Studies, through MCU's Peace Studies Program.  He can be freely contacted on his Facebook page, or the Facebook page for the IABU Secretariat.