Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Love Religion, but Hate Intolerance? Try Buddhism

by Tom Jacobs, Pacific Standard, Feb 19, 2015

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

Thursday, February 19, 2015

A people’s temple for the Buddha

K. A. Shaji

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

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

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

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

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

The Rakyat Post, Feb 12, 2015

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

The Later Buddhist Logic on Causation (Pratityasamutpada)

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

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

Copper mining threatens Afghan site of ancient Buddhist past

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

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

Monday, February 9, 2015

China's super-rich communist Buddhists

By John Sudworth, BBC, 29 January 2015

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

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

By Kate Baklitskaya, The Siberian Times, 2 February 2015

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

Monday, February 2, 2015

What is Theravada Buddhism?

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

Buddhism by country

Russian Buddhist monks to restore giant 19th Century Buddha statue

TASS News Agency, November 26, 2014

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