Friday, November 27, 2015

Buddhism and the Climate-Energy Emergency

Statue of Buddha Sakyamuni, Bodh Gaya, India

It is in this way that we must train ourselves: by liberation of the self through love. We will develop love, we will practice it, we will make it both a way and a basis, take our stand upon it, store it up, and thoroughly set it going.
The Buddha, Samyutta Nikaya
Environmental and social breakdown is now vast and global in scale.   Technological advances have provided the basis for a new kind of social evolution, beyond cultural, religious or spiritual boundaries.  Technology, however, is not ultimately directed by reason, but by internal forces of sociobiology and psychology. Human instincts have destructive as well as benign aspects. As much as we may celebrate our art, scientific knowledge or altruism, we can no longer ignore the truth that we are also ‘the most dangerous animal’. [1]
Humans are opportunistic, as are all higher animals, and characteristically greedy. Our high intelligence confers the capacity to manipulate others to accumulate power or resources. We are quite easily trained into violent forms of aggression. Now that we have ‘accidentally’ acquired the capacity to destroy the climate of this planet, what will we call upon to restrain ourselves in time?
Technological prowess alone cannot confer contentment or happiness on us: in ‘advanced’ societies, the rates of anxiety, stress and mental illness are greater than ever previously recorded. [2] On a physical level too, cancer, cardiovascular disease, inflammatory and auto-immune disease as well as diverse ‘functional illnesses’ have become epidemic. [3] What will our governments, corporations and politicians now do with the power of life or death over the biosphere from which our species evolved?
Do politicians even understand the scientific facts? Are they as attentive to their citizens and future human generations as they are to the most profitable corporate special interest in commercial history, the fossil fuel industry?  The answer to these questions will determine the course of the Sixth Great Extinction in Earth history, which is now unfolding. It could even provoke the end of an era of geological time [4]—or as Buddhists would say, the end of an aeon:
The poison of global warming due to the harnessing of machines in all places and times,
Is causing the existing snow mountains to melt,
And the oceans will consequently bring the world within reach of the aeon’s end.
Grant your blessings that the world may be protected from these conditions!
Kyabje Sakya Trizin Rinpoche

For a Future to Be Possible

Sustainable development meets the requirements of the present, without damaging the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. A long-term view is essential, in the words of Thich Nhat Hanh, for a future to be possible [5]. Human beings are very much more than economic units.  The assumption that progress is the creation of ever more wealth and possessions is a documented cause of anxiety and mental illness. [2]
For a consumer society, having rather than well-being is the raison d’etre. It is powered by polluting energy sources and guided by a pseudo-scientific principle of limitless economic growth.  Both these factors are antipathetic to basic laws of biology.  We imagine our society as an environment above and beyond the rest of the living world. The truth, as former senior economist at the World Bank, Professor Herman Daly states, is otherwise:
The larger system is the biosphere and the subsystem is the economy. The economy is geared for growth, whereas the parent system doesn’t grow. It remains the same size. So as the economy grows, it encroaches upon the biosphere, and this is its fundamental cost.
Scientists consider that a ‘top predator’ like Homo sapiens relies on the whole pyramid of biological life beneath it. Therefore the destruction of whole ecosystems is suicidal for our species. For Mahayana Buddhism, which sees all life as interdependent, driving other species to extinction is unmistakably harming ourselves and our own destiny.
If we ask why our social evolution has become so maladaptive, we come immediately upon the key influence of mass advertising.  From an early age, we are bombarded by powerful imagery, deployed through a hypnotic medium, television, that bypasses conscious filters to directly influence our subconscious mind. The vivid imagery of television and movies create a seamless virtual reality that programs our collective nervous system. From America to China, consumerism has become an organizing principle for billions of peoples’ lives. Zen Buddhist philosopher David R. Loy states:
Consumerism requires and develops a sense of our own impoverishment. By manipulating the gnawing sense of lack that haunts our insecure sense of self, the attention economy insinuates its basic message deep into our awareness: the solution to any discomfort we might have is consumption.  Needless to say, this all-pervasive conditioning is incompatible with the liberative path of Buddhism. [6]
Consumption has replaced religion and citizenship as the way we participate in society.  It is one of 4 Megaphenomena that have ‘spiked’ in intensity over the last century, combining to create unprecedented danger for the biosphere. Population growth, carbon gas emissions and species extinctions are the other three megaphenomena.
Fossil fuels will be exhausted within this century. The production of oil, the most valuable and versatile fossil fuel, seems already to have peaked.  This is happening just as increased summer melting of the Arctic pack-ice moves us towards the first predicted 'tipping point' in a climate crisis. We have entered upon the period of climate-energy emergency.

How can Buddhism help?

One day during meditation, I was contemplating global warming….
With some anguish, I asked Nature this question: ‘Nature, do you think we can rely on you?’  I asked the question because I know that Nature is intelligent, she knows how to react, sometimes violently, to re-establish balance.  And I heard the answer in the form of another question: ‘Can I rely on you?’  The question was being put back to me: can Nature rely on humans? And after long, deep breathing, I said ‘Yes, you can mostly rely on me.’  And then I heard Nature’s answer, ‘Yes, you can also mostly rely on me.’  That was a very deep conversation I had with Nature.
This should not be a mere verbal declaration. It should be a deep commitment from everyone, so that Nature can respond in kind.  With collective insight we can reconcile with and heal our planet.  Each of us can do something in our own daily lives to contribute, to ensure that a future is possible for the next generation.
Thich Nhat Hanh [5]
Buddhism has powerful cultural assets. It has long-established contemplative methods and ethical teachings, the weight of traditional religious communities, moral authority and the potential political power of millions of adherents. Altogether, the world’s 376 million Buddhists comprise 6% of religious adherents.  Above all, Buddhism is based on the recognition of interdependence.
Interdependence is the spiritual truth that biologists have have independently discovered through the scientific discipline of ecology. Whether we like it or not, we have entered the century of the environment, of ecological reality. In this century, then, Buddhism has a special destiny.  
In the 10 countries where Buddhists are a majority, they can exert a major influence on government policy. In Bhutan, for example, Buddhist principles have replaced the limiting economic concept of GDP by that of ‘gross national happiness’. Exemplary forest protection laws have been put in place. In the ‘advanced’ societies of Europe and the U.S., Buddhism has been embraced by many people searching for effective spiritual practice in an environment of consumerism and nihilism. Nobel Peace Awards to the Dalai Lama (1989) and Aung San Suu Kyi (1991) have brought about widespread recognition of Buddhist leadership in non-violent progressive values.
There has never been a more important time in history to organize all Buddhist resources systematically, on behalf of sentient beings. There has never been a time when communication systems make this as possible as they do now. Buddhist spiritual power could create examples of change that influence the whole world. 
Unleashing that power, however, requires religious people to bring their values to the public square… to leave one’s values at home is to assent to the status quo of excessive individualism, consumerism, commodification of myriad aspects of life, environmental decline, and the absence of strong communities. The religious community’s gift—to articulate the ethical and spiritual dimensions of modern issues—is indispensable to full public discussion of the pressing challenges of our day, and to developing a new understanding of human progress in the 21st century. [7]
Many Buddhist public events, rituals and projects are dedicated to world peace.  However, environmental catastrophes, climate destruction, and struggles over fossil fuels are making world peace impossible. According to the U.N., 60 nations, mainly in the Third World, will see tensions amplified by ever-scarcer resources. Global warming could flood the great rice-growing deltas of Asia through rising sea levels, and bring about the disappearance of Himalayan glaciers in Tibet, abolishing the water supply of hundreds of millions of people. Even countries not directly affected by environmental disasters could be flooded by millions of refugees.  These are very practical matters for the survival of Buddhism in Asia, as well as for world peace.
In summary, the climate-energy emergency is so consequential as to be a moral and ethical matter of the first order. The case can be made that a pan-Buddhist Council should be convened to address it.  One aim would be to discuss the full facts with scientists and consider the multi-dimensional implications of the crisis. We should arrive at an unambiguous common position on protection of the climate and the living world, an inspiration to all people of good heart.
If it is reasonable action which is by nature beneficial to truth and justice, then by abandoning procrastination and discouragement, the more you encounter obstruction, the more you should strengthen your courage and make effort. That is the conduct of a wise and good person.
Dalai Lama XIV [8]
By the end of this century, the Earth could lose up to half its species. These extinctions will alter not only biological diversity but also the evolutionary process itself. General ignorance, indifference or deceit about this mass extinction endangers our own species too.  Modern man emerged from archaic human species about 200,000 years ago. We were initially one of three human species on Earth—the others, Homo erectus and Homo neanderthalensis became extinct. We have survived and come to dominate the whole planet. Ninety nine percent of all the species that have ever lived have become extinct, and we too could make ourselves extinct through runaway global warming.
You see, one day we might find all living things on this planet—including human beings—are doomed.
Dalai Lama XIV [9]
We still have a brief window of opportunity to ensure the continuity of many varied and beautiful forms of life on Earth, including our own. So we find ourselves living through the most momentous of times. In this section you can find the views, advice and aspirations of noted and authentic Buddhist teachers—A Buddhist Response to Global Warming.  The many species that constitute the living world have no voice to ask for our compassion, wisdom and leadership. Please participate in ‘breaking the silence’:
There comes a time in all of our lives when silence is a betrayal. [10]

[1]  D. Livingstone Smith [2007] The Most Dangerous Animal
[2]  O. James [2008] The Selfish Capitalist
[3]  W. Meggs [2003] The Inflammation Cure
[4]  M. Lynas [2007] Six Degrees—Our Future on a Hotter Planet
[5]  Thich Nhat Hanh [2007] The Art of Power
[6]  D. R. Loy [2008] Consciousness Commodified: The Attention-Deficit Society (Tikkun)
[7]  G. Gardner [2006] Inspiring Progress
[8]  T. Laird [2006] The Story of Tibet – Conversations with the Dalai Lama
[9]  Dalai Lama XIV [1992] Address at the Rio Earth Summit
[10]Statement by Martin Luther King

Monday, November 23, 2015





Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Early Buddhist Paths that Lead to Liberation

by Josh Korda, The Huffington Post, Oct 20, 2015

San Francisco, CA (USA) -- In the Buddhist practice awakening, or sambodhi (in pali), is the achievement of inner peace that sustains itself regardless of conditions beyond our control. In verse 154 of the great dhammapada, when the Buddha announces his awakening, he refers to lasting happiness as 'the unconditioned.'
Transcendence is a a state of witnessing as experiences unfold in a state of constant flux and upheaval without taking the universal events of life personally; we are all subject to the ravages of aging and sickness, the grief of separation from loved ones, financial instability, frustrations, loss.
Additionally, our peace of mind is sabotaged by our default settings: remaining constantly vigilant for threats even while we are perfectly safe, dwelling obsessively on negative experiences while overlooking the positive,, our predilection for addictive, short-term sensual pleasures (consumerism, escapist entertainment, meaningless hook ups and on). Alas, no matter how much we accumulate, we feel that underlying awareness that the sugary sweetness of sensory pleasures will end and we'll once again realize how exposed we are to inevitable losses and separation.
While the lures of money, objects, sex and privilege lose their luster, liberation through spiritual practice provides a complete form of happiness; awakening means becoming aware of a calmness and ease that doesn't require chasing fleeting sensual pleasures, all of which are too quickly found wanting. The lasting contentments of awakening can be maintained, as they are produced by that resources entirely within our control: the skill of focusing the mind, relinquishing unskillful thoughts and sustaining the proper attitudes of kindness, appreciation, equanimity, focus. In short, spiritual practice aims for a liberation from imprisonment, a freedom from seeking happiness in all the wrong places, a true peace in the sustainable and endlessly renewable.
Liberation: A cooler head
The etymology of the word nibbana (pali) is derived from the verb to extinguish or snuff out, for example using our breath to blow out a candle. Just as extinguishing a fire results in a cooling down, siitibhuuta in pali, the tranquil state achieved after quenching the devouring heat of greed, hatred, and self-righteousness, results in a 'cool head.' In using common words--such as nibbana and siitibhhutta-- the Buddha was purposely expressing to his followers that the liberating goal of spiritual practice is attainable, a real possibility not reserved solely for people in robes sitting in solitude in jungles or remote mountains. Hatred, greed, self-centered obsession are uncomfortable states in which to reside, we can be relieved of these conditions.
When we drop the idea of liberation being a place or lasting state, we can open to the possibility of incremental liberation. Rather than being trapped in comparing our states of ease to "complete liberation from all suffering" we can rest in states of ease as they arise, enjoying release without judging or criticizing it in absolute terms. In other words, liberation is available; it's an active state, a verb that requires a degree of effort, not a noun suggesting a place one arrives at; being freed from needless suffering requires continuous mental awareness; it requires discipline and practice to cultivate and maintain a state of contentment throughout the inevitable pains and frustrations of life. What follows is a list of some early Buddhist paths that lead to real and reliable serenity. Awakening through ConcentrationThe oldest paths to liberation, such as those described in the Anapanasati sutta, arrive via the meditative practices of concentration (samadhi in pali). The ease born of focusing awareness on a single meditative object--perhaps the breath, the phrases of metta, body awareness, consciousness itself--allows a state of relaxed ease to suffuse the body; we're no longer armored, muscles in a habitual state of contraction. The ease derives from releasing our attention from that which we have no real control. In letting go of attending to all that is arising and passing in the background, we're freed to attend to that which we can influence: for example, we work with the breath, extending the exhalations to calm the mind, exploring the sensations of respiration to center awareness. From a present-time perspective of a relaxed body and mind, the thoughts that disturb us--invariably based on past memories or future projections--lose their appeal. Instead the mind floats in awareness of a sensations, eventually dropping into the profound absorption states (jhanas).
Awakening via Atammayata
Another practice that leads to liberation can described as 'resting in a mind like a vast sky,' a practice that stands in some ways as an opposite to concentration. Instead of following any specific thoughts, moods, perceptions or sensations flowing through awareness, we keep the mind open and spacious, floating in the fullness of the present moment that is singular and never repeating. This results in a state known as atammayata (pali): in contrast to the mind's tendency to contract around possible threats or opportunities, resulting in a rollercoaster ride of perceptions that leave us rattled, shaken and stirred, we keep the mind aware of our complete present experience allows us to remain unattached, releasing our fixation on worries that can quickly darken the mind. A spacious awareness always has a wide enough array of sensations to balance out the disturbances; a narrow mind becomes poisoned by fleeting fears and insecurities.
Awakening Through InsightThere are many that seek a path to liberation via insight (vipassana in pali) practice of noting the impermanence and impersonality of conditioned experience. This practice found its greatest expression in the path elucidated by the Venerable Mahasi Sayadaw. The process involves freeing awareness from adherence to the constant narratives and ideas that run through the mind, paying attention instead to the actual experiences themselves, which are comprised of a series of sensations. In bare attention--awareness free of ideas or concepts--we experience only a flow of body sensations, feeling states, ephemeral moods and on. As we attend to this ceaseless parade, we arrive at a profound state wherein we become keenly aware of existing in a state that's constantly in flux, situations breaking apart, known as the dissolution awareness (bhanganupassana-nana pali). Even the sensations and perceptions we associate with our core identity or self are observed to be impermanent and unreliable.
Many practitioners will find this experience to be pleasant, while some will experience dissolution awareness as profoundly unsettling, a kind of dark night of the soul so to speak. For direct knowledge of the constant dissolution of life's moments leaves us without any familiar sense of stability; this is a path that commonly leads through states of terror, disgust, and eventually a desperate yearning for deliverance. Only when a profound equanimity towards all phenomena is arrived at, a perception of identity-less awareness. This path requires seeing non-self in all experience, abandoning the clinging to the mind and body processes is the requirement for any relief. Not a path for the faint hearted or the easily deterred.
Finally, Don't claim enlightenmentIt is worth noting that the Buddha did not announce himself to be enlightened; but rather he said "I am awake." (Buddha is a title that means 'he who has awakened.) The Buddha spent his time answering questions, not proselytizing the disenclined or practitioners of other faiths. When asked what to believe he encouraged practitioners to investigate the mind for themselves, seeing which kind of mental and physical activities lead to peace and which to suffering. Whatever degree of liberation we seek or attain, seeking a soap box and bullhorn to persuade others is the surest sign we're nowhere near any liberation, and that's truly a shame if ever there was one.


Friday, November 13, 2015

Why the Buddha Touched the Earth

by John Stanley & David Loy

The entire cosmos is a cooperative. The sun, the moon, and the stars live together as a cooperative. The same is true for humans and animals, trees, and the Earth. When we realize that the world is a mutual, interdependent, cooperative enterprise -- then we can build a noble environment. If our lives are not based on this truth, then we shall perish. --Buddhadasa Bhikkhu

The term 'engaged Buddhism' was created to restore the true meaning of Buddhism. Engaged Buddhism is simply Buddhism applied in our daily lives. If it's not engaged, it can't be called Buddhism. Buddhist practice takes place not only in monasteries, meditation halls and Buddhist institutes, but in whatever situation we find ourselves. Engaged Buddhism means the activities of daily life combined with the practice of mindfulness. --Thich Nhat Hanh

In one of Buddhism's iconic images, Gautama Buddha sits in meditation with his left palm upright on his lap, while his right hand touches the earth. Demonic forces have tried to unseat him, because their king, Mara, claims that place under the bodhi tree. As they proclaim their leader's powers, Mara demands that Gautama produce a witness to confirm his spiritual awakening. The Buddha simply touches the earth with his right hand, and the Earth itself immediately responds: "I am your witness." Mara and his minions vanish. The morning star appears in the sky. This moment of supreme enlightenment is the central experience from which the whole of the Buddhist tradition unfolds.

The great 20th-century Vedantin sage, Ramana Maharshi said that the Earth is in a constant state of dhyana (meditative absorption). The Buddha's earth-witness mudra (hand position) is a beautiful example of "embodied cognition." His posture and gesture embody unshakeable self-realization. He does not ask heavenly beings for assistance. Instead, without using any words, the Buddha calls on the Earth to bear witness.

The Earth has observed much more than the Buddha's awakening. For the last 3 billion years the Earth has borne witness to the evolution of its innumerable life-forms, from unicellular creatures to the extraordinary diversity and complexity of plant and animal life that flourishes today. We not only observe this multiplicity, we are part of it -- even as our species continues to damage it. Many biologists predict that half the Earth's plant and animal species could disappear by the end of this century, on the current growth trajectories of human population, economy and pollution. This sobering fact reminds us that global warming is the primary, but not the only, extraordinary ecological crisis confronting us today.

Has Mara taken a new form today -- as our own species? Just as Mara claimed the Buddha's sitting-place as his own, Homo sapiens today claims, in effect, that the only really important species is itself. All other species have meaning and value only insofar as they serve our purposes. Indeed, powerful elements of our economic system (notably Big Oil and its enablers) seem to have relocated to the state of "zero empathy," a characteristic of psychopathic or narcissistic personalities.

The Earth community has a self-emergent, interdependent, cooperative nature. We humans have no substance or reality that is separate from this community. Thich Nhat Hanh refers to this as our "inter-being": we and other species "inter-are." If we base our life and conduct on this truth, we transcend the notion that Buddhist practice takes place within a religious framework that promotes only our own individual awakening. We realize the importance of integrating the practice of mindfulness into the activities of daily life. And if we really consider Mother Earth as an integral community and a witness of enlightenment, don't we have a responsibility to protect her through mindful "sacred activism"?

This year the U.S. president will determine whether or not to approve a proposed pipeline, which will extend from the "great American carbon bomb" of the Alberta Tar Sands to the Texas oil refineries. The implications are enormous. The devastation that would result from processing and burning even half the Tar Sands oil is literally incalculable: the resulting increase in atmospheric carbon would trigger "tipping points" for runaway global warming. Our most insightful climate scientist, NASA's James Hansen, states that if this project alone goes ahead, it will be "game over" for the Earth's climate. This is a challenge we cannot evade. It is crucial for Buddhists to join forces with other concerned people in creative and resolute opposition to this potentially fatal new folly.

As the Buddha's enlightenment reminds us, our awakening too is linked to the Earth. The Earth bore witness to the Buddha, and now the Earth needs us to bear witness -- to its dhyana, its steadfastness, the matrix of support it continually provides for living beings. New types of bodhisattvas -- "ecosattvas" -- are needed, who combine the practice of self-transformation with devotion to social and ecological transformation. Yes, we need to write letters and emails to the President, hopefully to influence his decision. But we may also need to consider other strategies if such appeals are ignored, such as nonviolent civil disobedience. That's because this decision isn't just about a financial debt ceiling. This is about the Earth's carbon ceiling. This is about humanity's survival ceiling. As the Earth is our witness.

John Stanley & David Loy direct & advise the Ecobuddhism Project.


Air India flights from Varanasi to boost Buddhist tourism

BHUBANESWAR: In a boost to Buddhist tourism in the state, Air India on Sunday started operations between Varanasi and Bhubaneswar. The flight will be available on Tuesdays, Thursdays, Fridays and Sundays.

With 32 passengers, including two foreign tourists onboard, the AI-419 landed at Biju Patnaik International Airport at 2 pm. The flight has 180 seats.

Tourism minister Ashok Panda and secretary L N Gupta gave a warm welcome to the passengers upon their arrival at the airport. The duration of the flight will be 90 minutes. The flight will take off from Varanasi at 12.30 pm and land here at 2 pm. The return flight will leave Bhubaneswar at 2.45 pm and reach Varanasi at 4.15 pm. Fares start from Rs 2,500."A large number of Buddhist tourists from south-east Asian countries visit Varanasi every year. The air connectivity between Varanasi and Bhubaneswar will bring in more tourists from Varanasi to Odisha, which is home to Buddhist destinations such as Ratnagiri-Udaygiri-Lalitgiri, Dhauli Peace Pagoda and Langudi," said Gupta. "We will shortly organize road shows in Varanasi to promote our Buddhist sites. Tour operators in Varanasi will be sensitized about our tourism potential," Gupta said.

Biju Patnaik International Airport director Sharad Kumar said the state government should launch vibrant marketing of the air connectivity between the two cities. "November is peak tourist season in Odisha. Launch of the flight operation at this time is the right moment to promote the state's tourism. Both Air India and the state government advertise the flight schedules," Kumar told TOI.

The question remains whether or not the state government will be able to woo tourists from Varanasi, as it squarely failed to promote the state's Buddhist circuit during the extension of Mahaparinirvan Express, aka Buddhist train in 2013. The interstate special train, which promotes Buddhist tourism and runs through famous Buddhist destinations in Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and Delhi, was extended till Odisha in January 2013. The train, jointly promoted by the Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC) and Odisha tourism department, had come to Odisha only once on January 22. The service was discontinued due to poor response from tourists.

"The state government lacks marketing strategies. The Mahaparinirvan Express stopped coming to Odisha as the department failed to promote its potential. We apprehend that the Varanasi-Bhubaneswar flight will also go the same way," said a tour operator.

Nip unholy hate speech in the bud

by Sanitsuda Ekachai, The Bangkok Post, Nov 4, 2015

Bangkok, Thailand -- For a Buddhist monk killed in the deep South, a mosque should be burned down in retaliation. This violent proposal from a Buddhist monk stirred a heated debate on social media last week. Is it merely a storm in a tea cup? The answer is no.
<< Phra Apichart Punnajanto, an instructor at Wat Benchamabophit in Bangkok, started the controversy when he demanded a mosque be razed every time a Buddhist monk is killed
Rather, his call for violence is just the tip of the iceberg. If not nipped in the bud, Thailand may soon follow the bloody paths of religious violence in Myanmar and Sri Lanka.
The monk at the centre of the controversy is Phra Apichart Punnajanto, head of monk preachers at the prestigious Wat Benchamabopit (the Marble Temple).

We learned about his fierce hatred for Muslims last week through his Facebook post, but he must have long shared his violent views with other monk preachers.
When I read his Facebook post, I felt the same way many did. Appalled. Everything he said is against Buddhism. But to my dismay, his violence was welcomed by many like minds.
 How should we respond to this monk's unmonkly violent extremism? Many believe we should not give him the attention he seeks. It is also just one monk's view. Furthermore, more discussions will most likely trigger resentment and anger from Muslims, many of whom - like this monk - operate with ethnic and racial chauvinism, not their prophet's peaceful teachings. So why let ourselves be this monk's tool to intensify religious division? Just ignore him and let his ugly proposal die a natural death in social media.
I disagree.
Phra Apichart's mosque-burning idea may be just his personal one. But fear and prejudice against Islam and Muslims in the Buddhist clergy are certainly not.
The clergy is now campaigning to make Buddhism the national religion in the new constitution.
The attempt is not new. It comes up every time the country is writing a new constitution, which is quite often. And every time, the reason is to give Thai Buddhism better protection from external threats, read other religions.
When I was covering the clergy's previous national religion attempts, pamphlets about threats from Islam and Christianity were distributed openly. This could not be possible without support from higher-ups.
There was once an attempt to create an inter-faith commission to set policies on religious matters. Again, the clergy attacked it as a ploy which would allow other faiths to have a say on policies governing Thai Buddhism. The plan was eventually aborted.
During the past decade, fear of Islam has been fanned up by the southern insurgency. While Buddhism encourages attempts to transcend all layers of prejudice - religious, racial, ideological, or gender-based -  to generate compassion from an understanding that all is one and the same, most Thai Buddhist monks are locked into ultra-nationalism.
For them, southern Muslims are outsiders because they are not ethnic Thais. As outsiders, they should not ask too much from the host country. And should they turn to violence to get what they want, they should get violence in return.
"It's time to arm Thai Buddhists," urged Phra Apichart. "Time for compassion has run out. If a monk is killed in the deep South, a mosque must be burned down in exchange.
"Starting from the North, we must chase away this cult from every area until there is no one in that cult left. We will oppose its attempt to enter our area through all means," he said in his post.
This thinking, which echoes other right-wing monks, makes me think they should leave the monkhood right away. 
But if we find the ultra-nationalistic views from the likes of Phra Apichart appalling, what should concern us more is the total silence from the elders to his call to arms. Such silence can only be interpreted as tacit support.
In August this year, the Sangha Council issued an order prohibiting monks from posting on social media anything that is damaging to Buddhism. The elders are obviously unhappy about the widely shared pictures of monks drinking or engaging in sexual or other unmonkly acts and want to protect the clergy's image.
Those monks who wrongly use social media will be punished, threatened the elders.
Phra Apichart's Facebook post is hate speech pure and simple. It incites hate, violence, leading to killings. It betrays Buddhist teachings on every count. Yet the cleric elders did not say a word.
The threat to Thai Buddhism is not external. The monks are their own enemies. When they are taken over by racist nationalism and become cheerleaders for violence, they cannot expect to retain public trust and respect.
Sanitsuda Ekachai is editorial pages editor, Bangkok Post.
sourse: Buddhist Channel

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Buddhist Circuit Special Train begins season's first trip

One India, October 31, 2015

New Delhi, India -- With eight Indians and 44 foreigners on board, the Buddhist Circuit Special Train, operated by Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC), embarked on its first journey of the season on Saturday.
<< Buddhist Circuit special train begins
The train steamed out from Safdarjung station here and it would take the travellers on a spiritual trail of some of the most famous landmarks associated with Lord Buddha.
The eight-day itinerary would cover places like Bodh Gaya, Rajgir, Nalanda, Sarnath, Kushinagar, Lumbini and Shravasti. Agra has also been included in the final leg of the journey to facilitate a visit to the Taj Mahal.
"The package allows the travellers from abroad to explore, experience and rekindle their civilisational linkages with India. The itinerary has been hammered out in a way that makes it all-inclusive and extremely convenient for our patrons," said A.K. Manocha, chairman and managing director, IRCTC.
"The travellers can visit most of the landmarks associated with Lord Buddha in a single journey," he added. The other departure dates of the train are December 26, 2015 and January 9, February 13 and March 12 next year.
"The Buddhist Circuit Train has been gaining popularity in international markets and it attracts clientele from China, Taiwan, Japan, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia and Sri Lanka, among others.
The train fits into the scheme of those who are looking to undertake a Buddhist pilgrimage in India," said Manocha. IRCTC had launched the Buddhist Circuit Special Train in 2007.
The all-inclusive tour package includes confirmed rail ticket, hotel accommodation, road transport, tour guide services, tour manager services, all meals, Wi-Fi, CCTV surveillance, travel insurance, security and monument admission fees. The train has attracted pilgrims, tourists, travel agents and tour operators from more than 35 countries during the last eight seasons, said officials.
sourse: Buddhist channel