Sunday, March 29, 2015

Buddhist economics: oxymoron or idea whose time has come?

By Kathleen Maclay, UC Berkeley

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

Has Vipassana reached the end of the road?

by Christopher Titmuss, Dharma Inquiry, Sept 2, 2014

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

The Sacred Relic of the tooth of Buddha

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

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

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Thinking clearly towards Buddhist enlightenment

by Cynthia Karena

Perth, Australia -- I first went to Buddhist teachings because I was interested in meditation. My mind seemed unsettled and my thoughts were wandering all over the place. I didn’t want to take drugs to get calm, but the calmest person I knew meditated, so meditation it was.
Breathe in; breathe out. Yeah, I can do this. Feeling good; but I must remember to weed the garden, and I definitely have to send an email to, woops, back to breathing in, breathing out, breathing in, breathing - actually I have to ring a friend, and what did she mean when she said….. What rubbish is going on in my head? I thought meditation was supposed to settle the mind, not make it an uncontrollable swirling mess.
But that’s what meditation does - because my mind is calming down, it is revealing all my wandering thoughts. Meditation is giving me the space to see my already undisciplined mind. The idea is to not follow the thread of each thought, but get back to focusing on the breath.
My Buddhist teacher says that meditating regularly will eventually settle and calm the mind by preventing it from becoming distracted and scattered by thoughts. When our mind is not overwhelmed with wandering thoughts, we are more at ease with the world.He says our distress and anxiety is caused by allowing our minds to be completely immersed in distractions and focused externally, and that our inner turmoil will continue if we allow our minds to be distracted in this way.
Meditation will calm our mind, but it is so much more than that. According to Buddhism, the goal of meditation is to liberate the mind from ignorance and suffering. Once the mind is calm, we can more efficiently cultivate positive qualities such as patience, love, compassion, and wisdom.
Just as exercise is used to train the body, meditation can be used to train the mind to be in a more positive state. We work on our bodies, why not work on our mind to make it the best it can be?
The idea of meditating regularly is to transform the mind on a subtle level so we have increased concentration and clarity.
My teacher says to meditate every day, no matter how briefly, so it becomes a habit. But as soon as I open my email I’m gone for the day. He told me the other week to just meditate first thing, before breakfast, before having a shower. I’m OK most mornings now, but sometimes I cheat and check my emails on my phone first. Maybe I should just get up 15 minutes earlier. Now there’s a thought worth following.
Cynthia Karena is a freelance journalist and Buddhist.

Buddhist Union – Spiritual Confluence or Geo-Politics?

by Claude Arpi, Niti Central, March 23, 2015

New Delhi, India -- On March 19, an unusual event happened in Delhi. The Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama met with a delegation of Sri Lankan Theros (senior monks), to discuss about Vinaya, the Buddhist monastic discipline. It is a rather rare occurrence, as the followers of the Buddha rarely ‘exchange’ their views on their respective interpretations of the Buddha’s words.
The Dalai Lama told his Sri Lankan colleagues:
“We are all followers of the same Buddha. At a time when scientific minded people are expressing some doubts about religion, many of them are expressing an interest in aspects of the Buddha’s teachings.”
The Tibetan leader added:
“To think of yourself as different from them, as someone special, is to create distance and a barrier between yourself and others, which can lead to isolation and loneliness.”
Unfortunately this is what has happened between the different Buddhist schools over the years (or perhaps centuries). The Sri Lankan monks who attended the meet, were the heads of the three principal traditions of Sri Lanka: the Ramanya, Shiyam and Amarapura Nikayas; the President of the Mahabodhi Society was also present. The spokesman of the Sri Lankans later explained their presence in Delhi:“We discussed the Vinaya all day. We compared the Theravada and Mulasarvastivada traditions, which are the Vinaya traditions of Sri Lanka and Tibet respectively, and found no significant differences between them.”
During their meeting with the Dalai Lama, the Theros expressed the unanimous wish to see him in Sri Lanka soon.
This religious happening has however some strong political connotation and it is a direct outcome of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s recent visit to Sri Lanka.
In Colombo, Mr. Modi affirmed:
“Sri Lanka is where Buddhism has truly flourished.”
Later, he paid a visit to Sri Lanka’s ancient capital Anuradhapura and offered prayers at the sacred Mahabodhi tree. It was a strong gesture, especially as he was accompanied by the Sri Lankan President, Maithripala Sirisena. Both spent 30 minutes at the Mahabodhi tree temple and performed some special Buddhist rituals.
Already during his official visit to Japan, the Prime Minister had reminded his hosts:
“Buddhism from India has inspired Japan for over a millennium.”
This is important at a time when China tries hard to take the leadership of the Buddhism movement in Asia.
On October 27, 2014, The Buddhist Channel, a global news platform which provides news on Buddhism, reported ‘China lays claims to Leadership of the Buddhist World’.
Xinhua elaborated:
“Hundreds of the world’s Buddhists gathered at an ancient temple in northwest China’s Shaanxi Province to open the World Fellowship of Buddhists’ 27th general conference. Congregating around a relic said to contain one of the Buddha’s finger bones at the Famen Temple in Baoji City, more than 600 representatives from 30 nations and regions were in attendance.”
When it is convenient, Communist China believes in the Buddha (and in the reincarnation of Buddhist masters); already in 1957, on the occasion of the 2500th anniversary of Gautam Siddharth’s birth, Zhou Enlai, the Chinese Premier (and hardcore Communist), brought ‘back to India’ some relics of the Great Monk.
Dr Kalinga Seneviratne, who, in October, attended the WFB in Shaanxi on behalf of the German Dharmadutta Society delegation from Sri Lanka, praised China:
“Though not officially acknowledged, China is today home to between 200-300 million Buddhists thus making it the country with the world’s largest Buddhist population. The restored grand Buddhist temples in Baoji and in close by Xian, and the impressive Buddhist cultural display at the opening ceremony of the WFB meeting if is anything to go by, it indicates that Chinese Buddhism has undergone a remarkable revival.”
Beijing always finds sycophants to support its claims and eulogise China’s ‘correct’ attitude.
The highlight of the conference was the speech of the Chinese-selected Panchen Lama, Gyalsten Norbu who urged Buddhists worldwide to jointly strive for deepened exchange and cooperation and work together to boost environmental protection and safeguard world peace. Norbu told the international gathering:
“Buddhism has already integrated into the Chinese culture and it is recognised by the Chinese government. For over thousand years Tibetan Buddhism has become the precious gem of the Chinese nation.”
Of course, there is another side to the coin: while Buddhism is promoted for ‘political reasons’ outside China, it is banned for entire sections of the society inside the country.
One can understand: 200 or 300 million ‘official’ Buddhists could be very subversive for the regime. Today, the membership of the Communist party is a small percentage of these figures, how could Buddha be more popular than Karl Marx in the Middle Kingdom?
Till the recent meet between the Sri Lankan monks and the Dalai Lama, the Tibetan Buddhist tradition (known as the Nalanda tradition) has had very few contacts with the Theravada School or Hinayana, which is prevalent in Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Thailand or Laos. It is quite regrettable.
For political reasons (Beijing’s pressure), the Dalai Lama has never been able to visit Nepal, Bhutan, Sri Lanka, Myanmar or even Bangladesh where a tiny Buddhist minority lives.
Sri Lanka’s Modi initiative is most welcome; the time has indeed come for Dharamsala to create a South Asian Bureau for Buddhists Affairs to facilitate a Buddhist Union. A delegation of respected (Tibetan or Indian) Buddhist figures should at the earliest visit the South Asian capitals and start establishing contacts with local Buddhists.
With the strong support of the Modi Sarkar, it should not be impossible.
In this perspective, it was refreshing that New Delhi took the initiative to host a dialogue between Theravada Theros and Tibetan/Himalayan monks of Nalanda tradition on some aspects of the Vinaya. It was a first exchange since decades.
The Vinaya dialogue was organised by the International Buddhist Confederation (IBC). It was a long way since November 2011, when before the Global Buddhist Congregation (GBC), organised by the Ashoka Mission in New Delhi (with an attendance of some 900 monks and nuns from over 40 countries), Beijing objected to the presence of the Dalai Lama in one of the functions. After China threatened to call off the 15th round of the border talks between the Special Representatives, the then Indian government backed out: both the Prime Minister and President were suddenly too ‘busy’.
Interestingly, the Sri Lankan and ‘Nalanda’ delegations informally met over tea at the residence of Minister of State for Home Kiren Rijiju, a native of Arunachal Pradesh. The most respected Prof. Samdhong Rinpoche, a former prime minister of the Central Tibetan Organisation was present for the occasion.
This current dialogue should definitely be extended to other Buddhist countries of the region.
And there is no reason why a country which treats its religious minorities so badly, should take the leadership of the Buddhist movement in Asia. The problem is that Beijing has a lot of money to invest in ‘soft’ diplomacy and many are tempted.
Tail End: It is regrettable that Amartya Sen could not understand that it was one of roles of the Nalanda University to organise such fruitful dialogues.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Rahul Gandhi In Vipasana meditation centre at Myanmar -Reported by Malayala Manorama Daily

Indian natioanl congress leader Rahul Gandi In Vipasana meditation centre at Myanmar -Reported by Malayala Manorama Daily   dated 23-03-2015

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Security lapses at Nalanda ruins irk Buddhist council



by Pranav Chaudhary, TNN, Mar 4, 2015

PATNA, India -- Buddhist Monuments Development Council (BMDC), a national body dedicated to the preservation and promotion of Buddhist heritage, has expressed its deep concern over security lapses at various Buddhist sites in the state, including the famous ancient ruins of Nalanda university.
Council chairman Arvind Alok, who is currently visiting various Buddhist sites in Bihar, said he has communicated this to Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) DG and sought his immediate intervention. He said a large number of visitors visiting these sites are also causing damage to the world heritage site. "There is also an apprehension that some people may take away the scattered bricks and valuable artefacts to sell them to smugglers," Alok said, while talking to TOI over the phone.

He demanded immediate deployment of monument attendants and security people to protect the antiquities at the ancient site in Nalanda. "Most of the attendants hired for the security of the site have already retired and private security guards do not pay much attention. Such a huge complex of ancientuniversity must be on the top priorities," he said, adding, "I have also requested the ASI DG to post a senior archaeologist at the Nalanda site immediately as only one junior officer is posted at all the nearby sites."

'Swarn Bhandar', 'Saptarni cave', 'Maniyar Math', Venuvan monastery are important archaeological sites which are directly related to Buddha and his disciples, need immediate renovation for the preservation.

'Venuvan Vihar' is the place where Buddha resided during his stay at Rajgir. The ancient Vihar is presently being looked after by forest department. It should be handed over to the ASI or state archaeology. Recently a new construction has come up inside the Vihar which may affect the archaeological glory of the place, he said.

Meanwhile, the council will start Buddhist information centres at important Buddhist places of Bihar to facilitate services to the pilgrims from September this year. It will also soon start documentation of the Buddhist remains in rural parts of Bihar, Alok said.

The council will train youth of rural areas of Buddhist places in Bihar as tourist guides with the help of Indian institute of tourism and travel management to generate employment.


Monday, March 2, 2015

Buddhist Women As Agents of Change: Case Studies from Thailand and Indonesia

by Lai Suat Yan, Kyoto Review, Issue 16, Sept 2014

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia -- While in Thailand the majority of its population are adherents of the Theravada Buddhist ‘tradition’, in Indonesia, Buddhism is a minority religion with the Theravada Buddhist ‘tradition’ embraced by the majority of Buddhists. However, the development of the Theravada tradition in Indonesia is much influenced by its counterparts in Thailand.
Consisting only of men, the Theravada Buddhist ecclesiastical authorities in both Thailand and Indonesia do not recognize bhikkhunis (a fully ordained female monastic). In this context, the aspiration and determination of Buddhist women to be female monastics in the Theravada Buddhist tradition in the 21st century reflect their role as agents of change to bring renewal to their faith. Their convictions and actions affirm women’s spirituality and gender inclusiveness as envisioned by the Buddha in establishing the female monastic order. They are able to survive and even grow due to their ability to attract their own supporters and followers. Furthermore, those who aspired to be female monastic are able to travel outside of their countries to be ordained due to the transnational dimension of Buddhism. These Buddhist women thus reclaim their identities and roles from only being supporters of Buddhism to that of spiritual leaders, religious innovators and ritual specialists. The Theravada Buddhist ‘tradition’ is a changing one as the female adherents stake their claim to their rightful heritage as female monastic. Similarly, the identity and roles of Buddhist women are fluid.
Changing Identity of Buddhist Women
In Thailand, Ven. Dhammananda, and in Indonesia, Ven. Santini both reference the Buddhist scripture for a usable past 1 to posit that where bhikkhunis are not in existence, it is possible for them to be ordained by bhikkhus (fully ordained male monastic) only (Lai 2014, 3, 6). They thus became religious innovators by leading the way in becoming ordained and legitimized, deeds based upon the ‘original’, ‘pure’ message of the Buddha. Detractors of bhikkhuni ordination claim that the proper procedure and requirement for bhikkhuni ordination is to require both bhikkhus and bhikkhunis (dual ordination) as the ‘original’, ‘pure’ message of the Buddha (Lai 2011, 147-48). Ven. Dhammananda received her full ordination as a bhikkhuni in 2003 in Sri Lanka and Ven. Santini with three other Indonesian Buddhist women did so in 2000 in Taiwan. Their ordination subsequently paved the way for other Thai and Indonesian Buddhist women to be ordained and to defend their ordination as being based on the Buddha’s ‘tradition’. However, none of them are recognized by the religious authorities of the Theravada ‘tradition’ in their home countries. Despite this, Ven. Dhammananda and Ven. Santini introduced samaneri (novice female monastic) temporary ordination which is based upon the samanera (novice male monastic) temporary ordinations in their respective countries.
Nevertheless, both Ven. Dhammananda, and Ven. Santini are able to attract their own followers and are invited for ritual blessings of new homes and donated lands for schools. When they go for pindapata (almsround), a ritual symbolic of being a monastic in the Theravada tradition, laypeople give them dana (offerings of food, drink and flowers) indicating their support. Significantly, monastic — in this case, bhikkhunis — who practice well and purify their minds as they observe 311 precepts are sources of merits. Conventionally, women are perceived as only receivers of merits or as supporters of Buddhism (Terwiel 1994, 243). However, as female monastic they become “conveyor of blessings” (Harvey 1990, 241) in their role as ritual specialists whether it is going for pindapata (almsround) or in ceremonies conveying blessings for healing, protection or to ward off evil spirits. In ordaining and practicing well, women become synonymous with sources of merit and conveyers of blessings and symbolically represent sacred and positive power (Lai 2011, 203-17), a role conventionally identified with male monastic.
Both bhikkhunis are regarded as a spiritual leaders in their respective countries with their own followers and are well known for being socially engaged Buddhists. The female monastic at Songdhammakalyani Temple where Ven Dhammananda is abbess have worked with female prison inmates since 2011 (Dhammananda 2013, 16-20) and run an environmentally friendly project. Ven. Dhammananda has contributed to training and strengthening the Indian Bhikkhuni Sangha (Yasodhara 2013, 8-11) as well as facilitating the ordination of male monastic from Sankissa, India in Thailand (Thakur 2013, 5-7) and became involved in interfaith dialogue with Muslims in southern Thailand.
Furthermore, Ven. Santini and her followers are known for their work with the disadvantaged that transcends religious lines whether it is donating basic necessities such as rice, oil and sugar or monetary contribution in the aftermath of a fire to rebuild homes of the villagers nearby Wisma Kusalayani, Lembang where she is abbess or coming to the aid of the victims of the recent Mt Kelud eruption who are predominantly Muslims (Lai 2014, 5-6). The Wisma Kusalayani is run in an environmentally sustainable manner with a policy of reduce, reuse and recycle whether it is with regards to water or other household products and a separation of organic and non-organic waste.
Buddhist Women As Agents of Change
The research conducted indicates that these Buddhist women are agents of change as they bring renewal to their faith by ordaining as female monastic in spite of the obstacles encountered. They refer to the Buddhist scripture to reclaim their heritage as female monastic. As educated persons knowledgeable about Buddhist history and teachings of their tradition, they are able to withstand the opposition encountered and defend their ordination. As female monastic, they become more visible publicly, be it as a spiritual leader, a ritual specialist or a religious innovator. Both Ven. Santini and Ven. Dhammananda are religious innovators as they tap local culture and sentiments by introducing the samaneri temporary ordination in their respective countries, an innovation based on the existing samanera temporary ordination.
… And Growing Support
Support for the female monastic is growing as they find a niche in attending to the needs of female Buddhists due to the prohibition of close contact between a monastic and the opposite sex and in meeting the needs of the more disadvantaged sections of society. The socially engaged Buddhist practice that transcends religious lines bodes well for the future and can serve as a stepping stone towards religious harmony. In both the Thai and Indonesian case, networking at the international dimension enables them to be ordained. Furthermore, international networking offers a pathway for female monastic to share their experiences and ideas on a broader stage as well as learning from each other.
Dr Lai Suat Yan 2 is API Fellow 2013/14, Gender Studies Program, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, University Malaya, Malaysia.