Monday, September 22, 2014

Archaeologists Unearth Remains of Buddhist Stupa at Bhimeswara Temple

By P Laxma Reddy, New Indian Express, August 23, 2014

VIJAYAWADA, India -- In an important excavation executed by the Archaeology Department after finding a wall at Bhimeswara temple at Chebrolu village in Guntur district, the officials have unearthed six railing posts of the Buddhist Stupa and several other precious remains.
<< Bhimeswara Temple where the excavation was carried out at Chebrolu in Guntur district | EXPRESS PHOTO
It may be recalled that the a brick alignment (wall) was unearthed on August 12 while digging on the southern side of the Bhimeswara Temple premises as a part of the temple renovation works taken up by the Archaeology Department. Following this, a team of officials of the Archaeology Department including assistant director K Chitti Babu, deputy executive engineer Koteswaran and technical assistant B Deepak Joe visited the place on August 16 and decided to explore the site further, anticipating some valuable remains there.After the excavation, they have found the railing posts depicting Lotus Medallions and a row of animals. They also found a sculpture in which Bodhisattva is seen worshipped by a group of devotees,  an image of a mystical animal and a ‘Yaksha’ on these posts.
“We have also found a sculpture in which the devotees are seen worshipping a Stupa by garlanding it, and large bricks (52 x 27 x 8cm size) at the site,” said Chitti Babu and added that an inscription of temple in Telugu-Kannada language has also been found.
“But this inscription belongs to medieval times when Telugu and Kannada languages had one script. A Buddhist pillar has been flattened to make this inscription,” he said.
Chebrolu was a territorial capital at that time. The remains found at the temple might belong to 1st or 2nd century AD, according to the officials.
When asked about taking up further excavation at the site, the officials said that they do not have any such plans right now.
Buddhism flourished during the Satavahana and Ikshvaku dynasties as they have patronised the religion. But the rise of Vishunkundinis (Vaishnavaites), Pallavas (Shaivites) and Eastern Gangas (Shaivites) has helped Hinduism revive itself and so Buddhism disappeared in these areas. The Buddhist sites have turned into Hindu temples.
Meanwhile, the Union government has sanctioned `1.48 crore grants from the 13th Finance Commission for the renovation of  Bhimeswara temple, Adikeswara  temple, Nageswara temple and Chaturmukha Brahma temple.
A Crucible of Buddhism
Chebrolu is an ancient village located about 17 km from Guntur. It is situated on a large mound, the excavation of which revealed several terracotta figures and Roman coins. Its ancient name was Sambhole (from which ‘Chebrolu’ is derived).
The Brahmalingeswara Chaturmuka Brahma temple has a small shrine situated in the middle of the temple tank. The main deity is a Siva Lingam, which has four images of ‘Brahma’ carved on its sides.
As many as six Stupa posts have been unearthed at the site.
The officials say that they may not take up further excavation at the site.
Remnants of a Buddhist monastery, dating back to pre-Satavahana period, unearthed atop the Bhairavakonda hillock at Vaikuntapuram village in Thullur mandal of Guntur district in March, 2013.
Another Buddhist site, belonging to the 2nd Century AD, unearthed near Pondugula village in March 2013.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Buddhist-Muslim Dialogue at House of Lords

by Tissa Madawela, Sri Express, 6 Sep 2014

London, UK -- Wednesday 30th July 14 at 6.30pm, initiated by the conservative Muslim Forum, the British House of Lords committee room 3 witnessed an important gathering of Buddhists and Muslims to have a friendly dialogue to overcome some of the differences that have arisen between the two communities due to unfortunate events that have been unfolding in some parts of Sri Lanka in recent times.
Outpouring of people from all walks of life from all parts of the country dressed in formal suits and ties displayed a rare occasion of Sri Lankans from all communities, Sinhala, Tamil, Muslim and their British friends and well-wishers eagerly waiting to hear a distinguished panel of speakers chaired by the Lord Sheikh the president of the Conservative Muslim Forum and organised by his staff.
The initiator of this event Mrs Ajantha Tennakoon, an Executive member of the Conservative Muslim Forum conducting the meeting welcomed everyone and spelled out the aim and objective of the meeting. “Whole purpose of the meeting is to highlight the long history of harmonious relations between Muslims and Buddhists that has existed for centuries and also    the religious commitment to justice, peace and humanity shared by both religions” she said. She dedicated this event to her late parents especially her father (Mr. Lional Sarath Edirisinghe) from whom she learnt how to serve the people, how to respect every religion and race and how to face injustice in a non violent, calm manner.
Lord Sheikh a long standing friend of Sri Lanka who has visited the country many times and impressed with the achievement of peace in the country and a great supporter of both communities said “Muslims who have been contributing to social, political and economic life of the country from 7th century onwards have always been and continue to be friends of all communities and recent developments are therefore unfortunate and unnecessary.” Lord Sheikh commended all peace building efforts of Sri Lankan government and hoped Sri Lanka prosper with all its richness of diversity.
Dr Chris Nonis, the Sri Lanka High Commissioner in London made a lengthy analysis of post war Sri Lanka and said he is yet to meet a single communally minded Sri Lankan. He attributed recent unrest to misunderstandings and hoped we can soon make up for all the lost trust and continue as members of united Sri Lanka. Situated between the East and the West, however small the island is one must not underestimate its potential to be one of the leading nations of Asia he said. Dr Desmond Biddulph the president of the Buddhist Society said Buddhist must set an example to the peaceful teachings of the Buddha and learn to co-exist with all communities. The Buddhist society is committed to help support all communities in the spirit of friendship and brotherhood.
Mr Ahmed Zimar Sivardeen, President/Chairman the British Sri Lanka Association reflected on the long standing friendship between Buddhists and Muslims and said it is unfortunate to see that it has been affected in recent times but it is never too late to rebuild it.
Dr Sunil Kariyakarawana Buddhist Chaplain to British Armed Forces said people of faith should be able to reconcile any differences we have. Both Buddhists and Muslims are strongly committed their respective faiths and reflect on the great teachings of both religions. When we genuinely value and appreciate each other’s friendship we can learn to respect each other and overcome any hurdles. Buddhists have been admiring the contributions that the Muslim community makes in different spheres of Sri Lankan life and Muslims have always valued their Sri Lankan identity and friendship with Buddhists. The best Buddhist vocalist singer is a devout Muslim father and Son: Mohedeen and Ishaq Beg who are admired by all Buddhists and they flock to listen to them. So, we must learn to talk from heart to heart than from intellect to intellect. The only way to respond to extremism in any society is to strengthen the relations between peace-loving moderate Buddhists and Muslims. Most atrocities in the world are happening today mot because a small minority of people who perpetrate them but a vast majority of moderates silently endure them he said.
Mr. Amal Abeywardene Conservative friend of Sri Lanka also emphasised the need to strengthen relations between moderate forces and conservative forums like this could facilitate that dialogue.
Very active Q&A session followed by vote of thank by Mrs Ajantha Tennakoon who thanked all the speakers  and all participants for their support given in attending this successful event. She also thanked CMF particularly Lady Sheikh and CMF Administrator, Shaheen Mahmood for their tireless engagement in organising the event.
The event was concluded after prayers by the Imam Ali Omar the Muslim Chaplain from the UK Ministry of Defence and the Seth Pirith Chanting by the Most Venerable Daranagama Kusaladhamma Thero, the Director General of the Sri Lankan Buddhist TV and the Abbot of the Plaistow Sri Sambodhi Buddhist Meditation Centre.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Meditation is fine, but what about the Buddhism behind it?

by Jessica Brown, The Independent, 29 August 2014

Closing your eyes and being mindful isn't the only way to achieve inner wellbeing
London, UK -- Just when you thought it was safe to close your eyes, there has been recent warnings from psychiatrists on the adverse effects of mindfulness meditation. As well as evidence of underqualified teachers, there have been rare cases of depersonalisation, where people feel an out-of-body experience.
There has also been questions raised over the vulnerability of some of those who seek meditation as a form of treatment, regarding the increase in awareness and the emotions this can conjure.
Meditation has fast become synonymous with the improvement of mental wellbeing. With its incredibly generous praises sang from a range of experts, it’s no wonder we expect amazing results quickly and easily.
But these concerns highlight just how quickly and intensely a Buddhist tradition has become an unquestioned convenience in the UK. Lunchbreak meditation classes with quickly qualified teachers, short mindfulness courses – we’ve successfully westernised Buddhism to fit into our lifestyles.
And with more and more of us suffering with depression, anxiety and stress, we certainly have an appetite for anything that promises to help. These problems are far from enough to bring the practice of Western meditation into question – but they do serve as a good opportunity to explore it.
Our busy, loud lives aren’t particularly conducive to regular meditation. It isn’t an easy thing to master, and the friction this causes can end up stressing us out more. We’ve marketed an ancient Indian tradition as an antidote to stress, but traditional Buddhist meditation has two objectives: to become more compassionate, and gain insight into the true nature of reality. But meditating to gain compassion seems to have got lost in translation.
We’ve separated meditation and mindfulness from the tenets of Buddhism, and we could be starving ourselves of the best bits. The underlying beliefs of Buddhism could help us with stress and anxiety – without the risk of underqualified teachers.
They can help identify and quash the habitual patterns of thinking that keep us unsatisfied, by gaining realistic expectations of others, but also by not expecting material gain to make us any happier, and accepting that everything in life is transient.
The principles of Buddhism can't be applied to all aspects of our lives, but they can be molded around our problem areas.
I become interested in meditation about three years ago, during a bad patch of anxiety. Although, I found learning about the Buddhism behind it to be even more helpful.
Since then, it has helped me to stop indulging in prolonged periods of rumination over things I can’t control. It’s made me aware that I’m responsible for my own suffering, and lack thereof.
Working in fashion and having a penchant for pretty things, Buddhism allows me to derive pleasure from aesthetics designed for mass, meaningless consumption, while remembering what’s really important.
Buddhism is closer to a science than a religion. It’s a modern way of thinking, and perfectly suited to tackle the problems of Western culture. So next time you’re staring at an apple, being mindful of its every molecule, and wondering how this will bring happiness to your life, pick up a book on Buddhism instead. Pick and choose what works for you and apply it to your thinking.
Meditation and mindfulness are great, but learning the thinking behind them could help in the long-term, without giving you a stiff back.

Dalai Lama says he might not be born again

by Andrew Buncombe, The Independent, 11 September 2014

14th Dalai Lama looking for ways to prevent China exerting more control over Tibetan Buddhism
Dharmsala, India -- China has criticised the Dalai Lama and called on him to “respect” the tradition of reincarnation after the Tibetan Buddhist leader repeated his claim that he may not choose to be reborn.
In a recent interview with a German newspaper, Welt am Sonntag, the Dalai Lama underscored his belief that the tradition of the post he holds could end with him. He said Tibetan Buddhism was not dependent on a single person.
On Wednesday, a spokesman for China’s Foreign Ministry, Hua Chunying told reporters that China had a “set religious procedure and historic custom” when it came to the reincarnation of living Buddhist lamas, including the position of Dalai Lama.
“China follows a policy of freedom of religion and belief, and this naturally includes having to respect and protect the ways of passing on Tibetan Buddhism,” said Mr Hua, according to the Reuters news agency.
“The title of Dalai Lama is conferred by the central government, which has hundreds of years of history. The 14th Dalai Lama has ulterior motives, and is seeking to distort and negate history, which is damaging to the normal order of Tibetan Buddhism.”
The 14th Dalai Lama, whose real name is Tenzin Gyatso, has long been in a battle with China, having fled Tibet in 1959 after China invaded the then independent nation and establishing a government-in-exile in Dharamshala, India.
The Dalai Lama, who heads the Gelug, or “yellow hat” school of Tibetan Buddhism, believes one of the ways Beijing seeks to control Tibetan Buddhists is by getting involved in the reincarnation selection process of senior Buddhist monks.
In 1995, for example, the Dalai Lama named a boy in Tibet, Gedhun Choekyi Nyima, as the reincarnation of the previous Panchen Lama, the second highest figure in Tibetan Buddhism. But the Chinese put that boy under house arrest and installed another, Gyancain Norbu, in his place.
Today, while China insists that Gyancain Norbu is the legitimate Panchen Lama, many Tibetan Buddhists do not recognise him. Of Gedhun Choekyi Nyima, the boy chosen by the Dalai Lama, there has been no word. He was last seen in public on 17 May 1995
Many Tibetans fear that China will try and use the issue of the succession of the current Dalai Lama, who is aged 79, to create another split among Tibetan Buddhists as a means of exerting further control on Tibet.
As a result of this, the Dalai Lama has been thinking of alternatives to the traditional procedures of succession.
While China has said it is traditional for the Dalai Lama’s successor to be a male child born in Tibet, he has floated a series of other options, including the idea that his successor be born when he is still alive and that his successor could even be a woman.
He has also said there might not need to be any successor and that he could be the last of his line. What was most important, he said in 2011 after giving up his formal political role within the Tibetan exile government, was that the succession should not be used for political ends.
“Bear in mind that, apart from the reincarnation recognised through such legitimate methods, no recognition or acceptance should be given to a candidate chosen for political ends by anyone, including those in the People’s Republic of China,” he said. In 2007, he suggested a referendum could be held to decide whether or not he required a successor.